Nethergate Writers Meeting – 29th November 2017 – Minutes


Present: Roddie, Richard, Craig, Ray, David F. and David C.

1. Business.

1. Fifty Shades…

The idea of hiring students to give layout proposals is still seen as a good one. It was agreed that we (NW) should make direct contact with an appropriate class, and ask for entries to a pictorial competition, and that we would select the one that best reflected our ideas. We agreed a payment of up to £150.

Craig will make contact and report back.

Layout. Craig made suggestions as to how the pieces might be ordered. He had divided them into 5 categories;
– areas outside Dundee
– specific to river and bridges
– transport
– old Dundee
– modern Dundee

Craig said that he would send round to all members his suggested ordering and get reactions

Roddie will contact Dundee Literary Festival to seek a slot in the next Festival.

Deadline. We hoped that April might be a realistic aim.

Outlets for selling: Discovery Point, Tourist Office, Watermill Aberfeldy, and others.

2. City of Culture bid.

General regret expressed at the decision to suspend participation (although feeling was pessimistic about a positive outcome to the review).
We will look again at our project to see if there is any mileage in going it alone. David C. to do this with another volunteer (any takers?)

3. AGM.

This needs to be held by 11April at the latest (ie 15 months maximum since the last one.) D.C. will email the committee to set up a meeting in January to finalise date and agenda.

2. Writing.

Roddie had circulated two pieces.

(a) Polarity of Horizons.

A powerful poem dealing with bi-polar and related issues. The sustained metaphor was particularly appreciated., and we had a good discussion about an image late in the second verse about musical chairs.

(b) Carpe Diem.

This is an elegiac eulogy, and a very effective one. Many recognisable human failings are alluded to:
“We would catch up , eventually,
No worries”

And of course it doesn’t happen. The last line is also a summary of the themes:
“Time makes fools of us all.”

David C. 2 December 2017

Whatever The Weather

Here’s a short piece by one of our members, Fiona Pretswell, taken from a writing exercise we did in one of our recent classes.

Whatever The Weather

It’s a Wednesday morning. 10.13 am. Not quite tea break time and I’m bored. No customers since we opened. I look up from my spreadsheet. Angie is filing her nails as per usual. Neil has his head buried in his desk. Could there be an more obvious way to use your phone at work. I really hope it isn’t porn again and if it is that he’s got the sound turned down. Unlike the last time.

I stifle a yawn behind a smile and rearrange my business cards.

The shop darkens. I look up to check the lights but the darkness has come in from the window. The sky is now almost black and huge hailstones are bouncing off the pavement. I stand up and walk over to watch. It’s like the world has changed to monochrome. The high street is deserted, shoppers scurrying for the nearest shelter. Our bell rings, I turn towards the noise and an elderly couple enter, scattering hail as they shake themselves off.

“We’d like to book a holiday” he says.

“A cruise” she adds “a long one”.

I smile again.

“Yes of course. Please, take a seat. A window cabin, a balcony?”

The commission is clocking up in my head. This global warming is good for us – sometimes.


Ah I think. Where fools rush in.

Meet the Nethergate Writers – David Carson

Here’s the third part of our occasional series of Q&As, where we get to know a little about the members of the Nethergate Writers.

This time, it’s our Chair, David Carson.

1. How long have you been a writer?
Most pen-to-paper activities are writing in its broadest sense. I’ve been doing that from an early age – letters, memos, papers on subjects connected with my work in education. But I’ve only been attempting serious imaginative writing since I retired a number of years ago.

2. Have you had anything published?
When I was about ten years old, I entered a competition run by a Glasgow newspaper. The task was to write a story about “my pet dog”. To my surprise, I won, and my wee story duly appeared in the paper. The thing is, I didn’t have a dog, or indeed a pet of any kind at that time. So maybe that’s where my interest in fiction began!

I’ve had stories in seven of the Nethergate Writers books, but since these are to all intents and purposes self-published, by the group, I’m not sure that they count.

3. Do you have a writing routine?
No, but I have a thinking one. I often drop off to sleep in bed going over possible plots and characters that could become stories. The problem is that I’ve usually forgotten them come the morning.

4. Who is your literary hero or heroine?
I particularly admire Alice Munro. I think she’s unsurpassed as a short story writer. I also enjoy any book about the outdoors – Robert McFarlane is a fantastic writer – and especially about Scotland and its mountains. Mountaineering in Scotland by W. H. Murray, and The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd are particular favourites that I read at least once a year.

I recently came across a trilogy of novels by Kent Haruf, and was bowled over. And I very much enjoy the novels of Helen Dunmore and Sebastian Barry.

David, hard at work.

5. Do you prefer working in a particular genre?
Apart from the occasional stab at poetry (usually with a blunt instrument!), I have only written short stories and, more often, bits of short stories.

6. Do you have any writing ambitions?
I keep hoping that practice will make, if not perfect, at least for an improving ability to create some memorable characters in interesting and unusual situations.

7. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
To give advice implies a degree of expertise – so I will limit myself to suggesting two things – to take notes of what you hear and see (and read) in your daily life and routine; and to not be intimidated by the blank sheet of paper in front of you. Write, then revise.

8. What are you reading at the moment?
Now that I have more time, I’m becoming a bit of a profligate reader. Apart from an almost daily dose of Ralph Storer’s many guides to the Scottish Munros, I’m enjoying The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry, Herring Tales by Donald S. Murray, Ali Smith’s Girl Meets Boy and collected short stories entitled Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami. And also a memoir by the Australian author Tim Winton.

Chattering From The Chair – 4th October 2017

Our chair, David Carson, is back with his round-up of our jam-packed last meeting.

1. Present:

10 regulars Ray, Abby, Craig, David F., Sue, Roddie, Colin, Rosie, Aileen, David C. And we welcomed two new faces – Scott and Linden.
Apologies from Richard.

Abby in the chair

2. Business:
– venue for Zoe’s classes – Abby will email her for details.
– David C. to email Scott’s and Linden’s email addresses to group.
– we will meet next Wednesday 11 October, and Rosie will find a room and inform.
– congratulations to Roddie on his latest successes. In the Broughty Ferry poetry competition he gained joint second and a highly commended; he has also had a poem accepted by Lallans; and in Open Mouse.

3. Discussion of writing:
This was almost entirely devoted to 50 Shades pieces. It consisted of review of new pieces submitted in
the past fortnight. Authors will make the appropriate revisions.

4. Preparation for next week‘s meeting:
– members who have not produced much for 50 Shades are invited to submit some by next week.
– members who have produced 5 or 5 plus pieces to self select favourites
– Abbey will bring together all of the 50 worders to facilitate selection and editing (55 at the latest count, so bravo Abby!).
– subsequently, all members to review for balance, breadth and any obvious omissions.

5. Agenda for 11/10 to include:
– starting to identify the definites for publication.
– identifying gaps and suggesting remedial action.
– working out next steps and agreeing meetings as necessary.

Finally, there was time for David C’s graveyard story part 3 to get a brief outing, but no time for discussion.

Wittering From The Webmaster – 20th Sept 2017

Craig, our webmaster, gives us an update on our last meeting.

Eight of our members braved the downpour to make it along to our last meeting, and we had a very productive evening.

Firstly, we discussed the upcoming re-start of Zoe’s classes. We had been contacted by e-mail a couple of days prior to the meeting, and David C had replied on behalf of the group, discussing possible venue options. We are now awaiting a further response from Zoe.

Roddie also mentioned a class being held at the University on ‘The Business of Writing“. He has signed up for the first term, and thought it may be of interest to other group members, too.

The rest of the evening was almost entirely taken up with discussion of our proposed ‘Fifty Shades of Tay‘ publication. Abby had helpfully provided collated copies of all the submissions we have so far, and this included a number of new pieces – one from Fiona, two each from Abby, Craig, Susan and David C, three from David F and a whopping six from Roddie! Most were well received, with only minor amendments suggested, but a couple are likely to undergo greater revisions ahead of our next meeting. Abby agreed to collect together any changes or new pieces. We also all agreed to read back through the submissions we’ve had and try to identify any topics that we think should be covered but haven’t been so far. We also discussed the word count criteria, and agreed that a manual count should be carried out for all pieces, and that hyphenated words, words containing apostrophes and acronyms and initialisms will all be considered as single words.

Having covered all the short pieces, we rounded off the meeting by looking at the next part of David C’s story ‘You Told Me‘, which has taken a twist that even David said he hadn’t anticipated when he’d started out. We all look forward to seeing the completed work soon.

It was another packed evening, enjoyed by all who came along.

Notes from a Nethergator – 6th September 2017

This week’s notes on our last meeting have been provided by Roddie.

Present: Tom, Craig, Abby, Ray, David F, Sue and Roddie.
Apologies: Aileen, Rosie, David C, Colin.

Agenda Items Agreed
1) Venue for Zoe`s classes and other NW meetings.
2) Format and content of Fifty Shades of Tay
4) Writing pieces submitted.

Craig chaired the meeting and Roddie recorded these minutes.

Business Meeting

1) There was concern voiced that it was still not clear where we would be holding Zoe`s writing classes in October and whether Zoe would be happy holding them in the university. Abby agreed to contact her to seek her position on this. It was hoped that if it was acceptable to her, we would attempt to extend the current room use. Roddie had circulated a list of classes that was being run in the uni on a non-profit basis and were apparently getting accommodation for free. This was said to be ones to replace the DUCAS classes. However the university was also planning to operate its own classes. Craig felt that the Uni might look upon as unfavourably as competition. A discussion ensued and it was generally agreed that there seemed to be little evidence of a conflict of interest between NW and other classes. It was suggested that perhaps Rosie could try to extend our room booking both for the NW meetings and Zoe`s classes. Other possibilities were discussed: Waterstones, The Butterfly cafe and The University of Abertay library study rooms.

Action: Abby to contact Zoe about uni room use.
Rosie to be contacted about extending the current booking for NW and/or for Zoe`s classes.
Tom to explore the feasibility of accessing and booking rooms in University of Abertay.

2) The last meeting decided that guidelines for Fifty Shades of Tay (FSOT) would be helpful. Roddie and David C (comment by email) felt that photos may enhance/complement the story. Abby made the point that what we were trying to create was a vision and story of a locale that may be undermined by an accompanying photo. Also, in discussion, the added complexity that photos would add to production of FSOT was underlined and the unanimous view was that in the interests of urgency, we should keep the production tasks as simple as possible so as to facilitate an earlier publication, ergo no photos, or concrete poems. Out with that, the line structure of each piece should be decided by the author. Abby reckoned that we had 23 pieces already. Roddie suggested a deadline soon for submissions to conclude that phase of the project. Craig suggested that we go for a deadline of October second. An email to members would be circulated to encourage them to get their 50-worders in. Members were encouraged to submit as many as they can so that there was more material to choose a short list from.
Submissions could be in Scots, English or Dundonian, as long as there was a connection to the local area and /or river. It was resolved that a group decision would be made about what went into the pamphlet.

Action: Craig to email the membership for submissions of 50–worders.


Roddie reminded all about the tragic death of Sarah Isaacs, a former Nethergate Writer. Craig notified the group about the imminent Sunday Times short story competition with a prize of £30 K. Get writing! Roddie noted the 404ink free competition submission date of 11/9/17 for poems and poetry.

Action: none required.

4) Submitted Pieces

There were nine pieces to read, of the 50 – word stories: three from Sue, one from Tom, one from Craig and two from Roddie. Roddie also had a 2500 word extract from his children`s novel “The Isle and the Amulet” to read. This was set in the 1980s.

The longer piece was read first. It was agreed that it had improved from the previously seen draft. The balance of the omniscient view was questioned and this provided useful suggestions for revision. The second big question was whether one of the characters needed to be Aspergic (Abby, Craig). Pros and cons were discussed. A need to prune some of the extraneous detail was noted and attention to detail as
regards to some words used needing to be terms used in the 1980s was raised. David F noted that the Viking Horrible Histories book did not appear till the 90s, Sue agreed that “swots” was a more timely insult than “nerds”. Roddie agreed that the criticism was valid and constructive.

We then moved to the fifty worders. First up was Sue with three. All were liked, but the show-stealer was “The Wintry Tay”, a sensitive evocation of viewing the river by the railway bridge in winter. The wintry theme continued with “Lost Souls” and “No Mercy”, both about the Tay Railway Bridge disaster. The view was split on which was best, but it was agreed that the former was more ethereal. There was a suggestion about combining the two, but views divided on that.

Tom came next with a black humour piece called “An Overheard Conversation.” This was liked by all apart from one phrase “lost his rag” in the piece that we felt could be improved.

David F read his “Tay Whales Lament” a humorous piece from the novel viewpoint of a whale who holidays in the Tay and reports on his holiday. Universally liked by the group, it was suggested to mention “TripAdvisor”in the title.

Craig`s piece “Glebe Street” was next- a quintessentially Dundonian subject- “The Broons”. Liked by all, it must be an elemental piece for FSOT. The meaning of, and use of, the word “chichi” also raised great debate.

For the closing minutes, we had two of Roddies recent 50-worders in Dundonian: “Efter Jimmie Morrison`s visit to Speed Street” and “Efter Ray Davies sees an Invergowrie Sunset”. Revised versions were read at the meeting, different slightly to what had been circulated. Both were found to be amusing parodies of “Love Street” by the Doors and “Waterloo Sunset” by the Kinks. Pictures illuminated the versified venues. It was agreed that given the similar tack, only one (Sunset) would be used. This author was impressed by Abby`s ability to correctly count a disparity between the read out and the written” La-la” word count in “Speed St” (you had to be there).

We had another fun night out, featuring some good pieces, and great patter.

Tales From The Treasurer – 23rd August 2017

Our treasurer, Rosie Baillie, provides this week’s write up from our last meeting.

The group began by discussing current opportunities for writing competitions and further learning opportunities.  We heard about a new writing class available in Longforgan on Monday evenings, and reminded ourselves of The Law poetry competition, the Botanic Gardens writing project, New Writing Scotland submission deadline (end of September); and Scottish Book Trust’s ‘Next Chapter’ award for new writers over the age of 40 (deadline also end September).

Craig and Roddie confirmed that bids had been successfully submitted to the 2023 City of Culture process.

Members of the group were reminded to complete the writing questionnaire to enable Craig to add some more content to the website.

Then it was time to look at some writing!

First, we had a continuation of David C’s “You Told Me…” tale about a chance meeting in a graveyard of an ex-lover and the ex-lover’s son. The group had a lively discussion about how the work might go forward and talked through various narrator/viewpoint options.

Next was a return to Roddie’s mythical Icelandic saga. The group enjoyed this re-work of a short story they’d seen before and gave Roddie some excellent suggestions in relation to language and also the female character and viewpoint. As with the first time the descriptions of Iceland were wonderful and made us all want to visit there – although perhaps not in the context of the story itself – I won’t say any more – we wish Roddie luck with his competition entry with this story and you may see it in print sometime soon!

We then looked at a number of 50 word stories with potential for inclusion in our proposed “Fifty Shades of Tay” anthology.  Rosie had provided three options, one in relation to a child’s first day at school, the second was a play on words inspired by the Don Michele restaurant; and the third was inspired by her recent experience of the 25 mile kilt walk from St Andrews to Monifieth.  Rosie was grateful for the comments and suggestions and agreed to work on them some more.

The discussions also provoked conversation about what the criteria will be for the 50 shades pamphlet, both in terms of content and format. It was agreed to discuss this in more detail at our next meeting.

Craig and David C had also submitted a couple of 50 worders, Craig’s about the Dundonian obsession with weather watching; and David’s a Francophile take on McGonagall’s Silvery Tay. Both were very well received and definite includees for the anthology!

It was another enjoyable meeting with varied  and encouraging discussion as always.

Meet the Nethergate Writers – Richard Gillies

Welcome to second of an occasional series of Q&As, where we will get to know a little bit more about the people who make up the Nethergate Writers.

This time, it’s Richard Gillies.

1. How long have you been a writer?
I only started writing seriously in my late forties, but have written on an off all my life.

2. Have you had anything published?
I have not had anything published though little bits of this and that have appeared about the place.

3. Do you have a writing routine?
Not recently, but I find you are at your most creative in the morning and leave the afternoon for editing.

4. Who is your literary hero or heroine (real or fictional) and why?
Doctor Johnson once said to admit someone else’s greatness is to admit your own littleness, so I don’t have any heroes, though I admire wordsmiths like Rabbie Burns, Sir Walter Scott, Charles Dickens, Samuel Beckett and others.

5. Do you prefer working in a particular genre?
I have had a go at most of them but find sticking to a particular genre restrictive.

6. Do you have any writing ambitions?
I would like to get a book published.

7. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

8. What are you reading at the moment?
I am reading five books at a time and making very little progress with any of them at the moment. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens; The Political Unconscious by Fredric Jameson; Selected Writings on Art and Literature of Charles Baudelaire translated by P.E. Charvet; Frankenstein by Mary Shelley; and  finally, Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism by Larry Siedentop.


Dundee 2023


Dundee is bidding to be named European Capital of Culture 2023 and the Nethergate Writers are proud to be supporting the bid. We have submitted a project idea as part of the general call for proposals to be included in the bid document, and are eagerly waiting a response to our suggestion.

You can find out more about the bid, and what you can do to become involved, at the Dundee 2023 website here –