Minute of our AGM – 11th January 2017

Nethergate Writers – Annual General Meeting – 11th January 2017

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Present: David Carson (Chair), Tom Jennis, Abby Lyons, Aileen Cook, Colin Donald, Richard Gillies, Ray Kinsman, Craig Mudie, David Frances and Rosie Baillie.

Apologies: Sue Baxter, Susan Proctor, Roddie McKenzie and Fiona Pretswell.

1. DC welcomed everybody to the meeting. RB volunteered to take the minute in FP’s absence. DC proposed that the minutes of the previous AGM were adopted with no corrections, this was seconded by CM.

2. Matters Arising:

DC questioned the quorum for the group which was previously set at 10%. The group agreed that this was quite low and after discussion agreed to reset the quorum at a third of the membership. This was proposed by CM and seconded by AC.

DC reminded the group that at the previous AGM they had decided to plan a social event for the group. The event had not taken place and DC wondered if the group should try again. The group
agreed to hold an annual social event going forward and AC agreed to organise it.

ACTION: AC to arrange social event to take place in Jan-Feb 2017.

3. Treasurers Report:

RB circulated an account summary to the group. RB had gained access to the bank account in June 2016 and had recorded all income and expenditure since then.

RB highlighted main expenditure as being on web hosting and the Scottish Association of Writers membership. She forecast that these costs would recur on an annual basis. RB also highlighted the small but regular income from Amazon. RB explained the situation with the Amazon account which was still held under our former tutor’s personal Amazon account. It was agreed that RB would contact both her and Amazon to try and transfer management of the Nethergate Writers account to herself. The group agreed that it was worth maintaining the Amazon account.

Once in control of the account it was agreed that the remaining stock would be added as another mechanism to sell it.

ACTION: RB to arrange transfer of Amazon sellers account, and add physical stock to be sold alongside the e-books.

RB also presented the stock list to the group and asked for a decision on what to do with it all. The group discussed various options, but agreed for the moment to keep the stick with the hope of selling it via Amazon. The group also agreed that free ‘marketing’ copies could be given to local hotels or cafés. It was agreed that contact details etc would be updated.

ACTION: All members to ask RB for a ‘marketing’ copy if they identify a suitable venue.

ACTION: CM to publicise the various books on the website, e.g. spotlight on a different book each month.

The group also discussed how the money might be used to further support the work of Nethergate Writers. It was agreed that it could be used to support a future publication(s), with the possibility of a pamphlet to coincide with 2017 Dundee Literary Festival. AL also reminded the group that there was a final ISBN available to the group for use on a future publication. It was also agreed that we may need to use the funds in future to pay for a venue to meet in, if the link to Dundee University was lost.

DC suggested that, going forward, members of the group could pay £2 each time they attended a Nethergate Writers meeting; and that this was a method to bring in a regular income. The group
agreed and further clarified that new members would attend their first meeting for free, but that on becoming a member they would be asked to contribute. The group also agreed that members would not be expected to pay the sum if they did not attend a meeting.

ACTION: RB to arrange receipt of payments going forward.

ACTION: Group to review this arrangement at next AGM.

4. Webmaster’s report:

CM confirmed that the website had been running since June 2016 and that since then it had received 494 unique visitors and had a bounce rate of 48%. (Bounce rate is defined as where visitors to the website land on the front page and then do not peruse the sight any further.) There are on average, 6 posts per month, and to date there had been 2 comments in response to posts. (184 spam comments had been removed).

The group thanked CM for his continued work in support of the website. They went on to discuss how the website could be further developed. The following suggestions were made:

i) add ‘call to action’ points at the bottom of each post, e.g. ‘if you like this, you might like…’

ii) requirement for more prose posts (as opposed to poetry)

iii) serialise longer prose pieces

iv) members on Facebook should like and share all Nethergate Writers posts which will increase coverage, and encourage their friends and family to follow the site

v) at the end of each meeting, the group should agree what pieces could be added to the site to assist CM in populating the site.

vi) remove the ‘new’ from the opening banner as the website was essentially no longer new

vii) delete ‘next meeting’ posts each time a new one is added to remove confusion

viii) for Facebook posts, always add a striking image as this will encourage readers to stop and engage

ix) on a monthly basis, a different member of the group to answer 4-5 standard questions about themselves and their writing – a ‘spotlight on’ series.

ACTION: CM to take forward the suggestions mentioned above.

5. Chair’s Review of the Year:

2016 had been a successful and busy year for the group, with 19 meetings (average attendance = 8).

The meetings had been enjoyable and varied, with never a shortage of writing to discuss. The group agreed that the recording an informal minute of the meetings should continue and it was unanimously agreed that DC would continue to do so.

DC congratulated Roddie McKenzie and Rosie Baillie on their successes in 2016 (Roddie with publications in Lallans, Seagate and the Irvine Museum; and Rosie in the Breathing Space Competition).

6. Election of Office Bearers:

The existing office bearers were all happy to continue in their roles and the group unanimously agreed. There were no objections and no other volunteers. Office bearers for 2017 as follows:

Chair: David Carson

Secretary: Fiona Pretswell

Treasurer: Rosie Baillie

Webmaster: Craig Mudie

7. Membership

It was agreed that FP would email those members who had not attended (or rarely attended) in 2016 to ask if they would like to continue on the mailing list.

[Post meeting note: DC to take on this task in Fiona’s absence]

ACTION: DC to email members and ask for confirmation that they wish to remain on email list.

8. Future meetings

The group agreed to hold monthly meetings during term time, and fortnightly outwith term time. FP to request booking from February onwards.

[Post meeting note: RB to take on this task in Fiona’s absence]

ACTION: RB to make room bookings.

The group discussed future plans, on the basis that the University may not continue the evening classes beyond Spring 2017. Suggestions for new venues were discussed, and also the option of the group paying a tutor in a private arrangement. The group were open to all suggestions and agreed to revisit as and when required.

The group also agreed that they should consider inviting speakers to their meetings going forward.

ACTION: All members are invited to consider possible speakers and seek to make arrangements for their attendance at future meetings in liaison with the secretary.

At forthcoming meetings, the group will discuss engagement with the Literary Festival and possibilities for an accompanying publication; alongside plans for possible Pecha Kucha appearance.

ACTION: Roddie to make contact with Dundee Literary Festival to ask about possibility of some sort of involvement in 2017.

ACTION: AL and RB to make plans for Pecha Kucha having volunteered to present at the event if chosen.

[Post-meeting note: slot at next Pecha Kucha confirmed (28th Feb).

9. Meeting concludes: CM thanked DC for his chairmanship of the meeting and his ongoing input to the group.

A Pair From Roddie

One of our members, Roddie McKenzie, has been busy over the last few weeks.

Firstly, he has had a poem ‘The Gairdener’s Lousin Time’ published in the most recent issue of ‘Lalans’, (#89) the journal of the Scots Languge society. Further details (including how to order copies) can be found on their website here – http://www.lallans.co.uk/index.php/lallans

And on top of that, Roddie’s poem ‘Cumbrae’ is on display in the current exhibition at the Harbour Arts Centre in Irvine. Further information, including opening times for the exhibition, can be found here – http://www.whatsonayrshire.com/harbourartscentre.html

Chattering From The Chair – Monday 12th December

David Carson, the Chair of Nethergate Writers, give his rundown of events at our final meeting of 2016.

The three R’s were highly visible at this meeting – Ray, Richard, Roddie, along with David. The four of us passed a stimulating ninety minutes. Our first discussion centred on some computer problem solving. One of the R’s hopes soon to be creating online, and will be keen to share!

Four pieces of writing had been circulated. First up, from Roddie, Rescue Dive. We all enjoyed and appreciated the extended metaphor that ran through the verses, in particular:

These thoughts
I hold like my breath
and follow them down
on a barely illuminated
rope of theory.
Free diving.

Suggestions for minimal improvement included the removal of one or two words, and a small re-ordering.

Perhaps as valuable as commenting on the poem was the discussion that followed about depression, and its causes and treatments.

Then followed Richard’s Walk, an account of the attempts by a host to go for a stroll with guests who had stayed on after a wedding. The characters were strongly drawn, the setting vivid and real, and the dialogue completely natural and believable. We thought that sentence length should be more varied to reflect the different aspects of the narrative. We all thoroughly enjoyed it.

David’s piece, Broken Journeys tried to describe a specific phenomenon that had been classed as anti-social but could be taken as applying to anyone who steps outside society’s norms. Some interesting comments on justice ensued.

Finally, we looked at The Wasteland, another piece from Roddie. This received instant approbation, and bar a few suggestions for minor changes we thought it an excellent description of and reflection on urban decay.

The evening finished with mutual good wishes for the Season, and reminders of the AGM on Wednesday 11 January 2017.

Chattering from the Chair – Thursday 17th November

David Carson presents another look at the events of our last meeting.

We were nine members who gathered to discuss some writing and to welcome Jen Butler from the Scottish Association of Writers. As very recent affiliates to the Association, we were keen to learn more of its work, and of how we might participate in, and benefit from, its activities.

Jen introduced herself with a fascinating autobiographical account of where she started from and how she arrived where she is now. The “message” – that her main motivating drive throughout has been to write and to continue writing – was not lost on us.

Jen then highlighted some of SAW’s main work. This included the annual conference in September each year, with various options for attendance, some of the next swathe of competitions, focussing on drama and 5 Minute Sketches. She also indicated that the crime novel and science fiction, were on the horizon.

A feature of SAW’s competitions that appealed to us was the possibility of a club taking on an adjudication role in 2018 if it has entered the competition of the previous year. And a further reward is that SAW could sponsor a competition for us.

Jen also described the workshops in the Write Down South, Write Up North that can aid club and individual development. In the context of how SAW is financially supported, Jen gave details of the 100 club (£1 per month) and, naturally, encouraged us to join.

Jen ended her presentation by encouraging us to read and contribute to the Writers’ Umbrella, and online magazine of which she is the editor.

The evening ended by Jen delivering a workshop on the art of writing articles – non-fiction – for newspapers or magazines.

She emphasised the role and importance of hooks and grabbers, both of which we attempted to exemplify in way we wrote, then and there, our articles. Topics ranged from ice-hockey to therapy to assisted dying to serial killers, and all of life in between! It was an entertaining but above all informative session.

All agreed it had been a very worthwhile evening as we thanked Jen warmly for her attendance and expertise.

We’ll look again at what was covered when we discuss our programme at the upcoming AGM.

The next meeting of NW is on Monday 12 December at 7pm in R2F10 of the Dalhousie Building

Prize Winner

One of our members, Rosie Baillie, has won the ‘Year of Listening’ short story competition organised by the charity Breathing Space.

Breathing Space is a free, confidential, phone service for anyone in Scotland experiencing low mood, depression or anxiety.

Further details, including Rosie’s winning entry on the subject ‘What Does Listening Mean To You?’, can be found on the Breathing Space website here – http://breathingspace.scot/news/2016/competition-winners/


Next Meeting – Thursday 17th November

Our next meeting is this Thursday 17 November.

We’re getting a visit from representatives of the Scottish Association of Writers (SAW), of which we have become members.  They’ll be telling us more about the organisation, and about the events and competitions they organise, and will answer any questions we have.

We hope to see you on Thursday 17 November at 7pm in Room 2F10 of the Dalhousie Building.


Travellers’ Inn

David Carson, chair of the Nethergate Writers, has written this moving and highly topical piece.

Mohsen leaned against the tent pole.  It was cold and hard.  He looked inside at the crush of women rummaging through boxes.   Hands stretched out and seized tins of soup, jars of spices and bottles of water.  A tall figure in European dress came towards him.  She wore a sympathetic but firm expression.  She spoke slowly in English.
“You know how it works.  If you don’t have a time ticket, you can’t come in.”

Mohsen held out his hands, palms up.

The woman shook her head. “So you have to go away.  You can’t hang around here.”

The boy paused a moment, then turned and walked along the muddy makeshift street.  Time tickets were like currency in the camp, better even.  With a time ticket you got fifteen minutes inside the warehouse, the inn as it was called, to help yourself to food and drink, enough to last a week.  With a time ticket you could relax, look forward to a full belly.  With a time ticket you didn’t need to rely on Ashram’s kitchen where they served up rubbish twice a day cooked by people like Kurds and Eritreans who didn’t understand the needs of Somalian stomachs.

He’d had a time ticket recently, a few days ago, given to him by one of the volunteers.  But the gang took it from him.  Three of them surrounded him, pushed him, emptied his pockets, speaking a language he didn’t understand.  Their eyes, dark and green,  glowed when they found the ticket.  In his village, everybody knew that if you had green eyes, you were possessed of evil spirits.

Mohsen thought about his home, a hut on the outskirts of the village, the wooden walls warm and inviting, the door always ajar.  Inside, his mother,  and aunts and cousins, preparing food for the evening meal.  They would look up at him, gently mocking.

“There’s Mohsen, always hanging about.  How tall he’s getting, too big for his boots – if he had any.  We need water, Mohsen, off you go.  Bring it to us in the buckets, you’re strong enough to carry them by yourself.”

And he would go to the edge of the field, with its gleaming standpipe and shining tap.  Sometimes he regretted that he no longer had to splash into the stream, standing between rocks made smooth by the gliding water, flexing his toes and feeling it swirl over his ankles, then stooping to hold the pails against the flow until they grew heavy, judging when he had filled them to the maximum.  But the pipe was easier, and when he bent down he could rub his cheek against the cool metal.

He was there the day the soldiers came. They arrived when his father and the other men were at work, at the canning factory.

They came in lorries, guns swinging and pointing,  and took the women from their houses,  His mother shouted at Mohsen to run, run, then screamed as she was dragged along the ground, the men pulling at her clothes. She was silenced by the butt of a rifle.

And Mohsen ran, and journeyed through the wilderness of the world to arrive at this den, this collection of tents draped with carpets, muddy and smelling of excrement.

“Mohsen, where have you been?  I was worried.”  The woman came towards him, carrying a bag, his bag. A volunteer, a house mother who looked after boys like Mohsen.  At least, tried.

“They’re coming!  They’re going to move everyone out.  They’re going to knock the place down.  There are buses to take you…somewhere else.”

Mohsen looked around and saw lorries, police, soldiers approaching.  He snatched his bag.  Once again he would run.  But he knew that hell would follow him wherever he went.

David Carson.  November 2016