Due to work being carried out on our regular venue at Knight’s Court, we had our February formal meeting at Newark Bowls club, tucked away behind Iceland (the store rather than the country, but perhaps we should have paid heed to the geographical link and worn our Arctic clothing). Once we had groped our way down the driveway, investigated the dark recesses at the end, discovered the bowls club and gained entry, we pretty quickly became aware that the heating was off – not great for the start of February. It was decided that we’d start the meeting with hot tea, rather than waiting for the half-time break. With some warming beverages inside us and a man rebooting the heating, we settled down to listen to Megan’s workshop on short stories.
Megan has three novels under her belt and in 2014 produced a collection of short stories, “The Woman Under the Ground and Other Stories”. She began the evening by covering the art of submitting material to competitions and magazines, referencing Duotrope, Submissions Grinder, The Fiction Desk and Submittable.
Megan had kindly brought along some hand-outs on expected standards (such as ensuring your work is in double-spaced 12 pt and so on), the art of cover letters, and information relating to competitions (including costs and prize money). This led on to the subject of themes as competitions are usually based around given topics, some of which are very predictable and open-ended whilst others are incredibly specific.
And at this point Megan produced The Bag. We had to dig into The Bag and extract an object and pass it along. By the time it had looped around the table and returned to Megan we were in possession of a plastic menagerie of assorted animals. The first exercise was to describe our creatures which set us up for the second: an experiment in converting a person we knew into an animal. We had around fifteen minutes to produce a short piece and then several of them were read out. The variety of animals that had been used was very interesting (as were the people used as the basis for the story) – an example can be found here (Animalistic by Nick Rowe).
As the evening drew to a close and we realised that we were now being very nicely warmed by functioning heating, we thanked Megan for a great insight into the submissions process and for opening our eyes to some very interesting writing techniques.
The next informal meeting is due to be back at Knight’s Court but we’ll confirm that closer to the date (Thursday 16th February). The topics for a piece of writing are either “Losing The Plot” or “Taking Sides“.