The past year looks a quiet one from the account in the Minutes. This appearance is deceptive, for plenty has taken place: chiefly perhaps the work on our poetry anthology. Alongside that, novels grew longer, some have finished, while others got started and are still being spun. Our year’s output of shorter works might fill another collection. And, in other creative fields, some members have made significant contributions. But it’s also clear from our minutes that we’ve not yet recovered from the pandemic years. This shows in the zoom format of our meetings, and in the desire of many of us to have meetings in person where practicable.

One of our exploits as a group is the production of our new poetry anthology, which Dawn has been masterminding, until it’s now almost ready for the press. A new member as of our last AGM, Dawn has proven a dedicated and skilled editor and designer. She undertook to write applications for funding, and to search for potential funding bodies. However, there seems to be nothing forthcoming, even if we stretched the book’s scope to include more of the public. Whilst it will include poems form previous years Brian Nisbet competition winners, it is mainly our own work. For funding, we plan to save up what we need from various members’ contributions. Plus there’s a bequest from Tricia McParland, who died in the summer of 2019. We’ve included some of her poems in the book. It has a title now: Speaking Back, and will be published by our old friend Duncan Lockerbie of Lumphanan Press.

As for our other publications, we now have to consider reprinting Young at Hert (Margaret Grant) and Over the Hills from Huntly (Ron Brander). They sell steadily, and besides, by keeping them in print we help to perpetuate local culture.

Collaborations with other bodies have been fewer than in most years. A Deveron Projects artist in residence, Petra Pennington, asked us to join in her project entitled ‘In the Wink of a Daisy’, which explored novel ways of imagining time. The bookshop collaborated too by being the drop-off point for pieces of writing on this theme.

Another of Deveron Projects’ residents, Irineu Destourelles, asked Maureen to do the voice-over for his film Monster’s Walk in Ten Chapters. The film was screened in January at the Brander Library.

Turning to individual members and their work:

When Kerin joined us, she’d already finished writing Pure Shadows, the story of shape-shifting warriors in a Scotland from another, imagined time. The next thing was to prepare it for press, while reading it to us a chapter at a time. When it comes out, it will be fine to read this tale again.

Leon has been working on his second ‘Murdo & Moira’ book. This sequel to the witchy first volume, replaces actual magic with the enchantment of human relationships. But still, there are some uncanny turns. And now the conclusion isn’t far away.

Cara’s novel Aspen Ridge paced along during the year, and we probably thought we could guess the outcome—which proves that you never can tell. Cara’s entry for the Brian Nisbet poetry competition was highly commended. She also took part in Petra’s ‘In the Wink of a Daisy’. This project ended in a workshop that gathered all the writings on Time into a booklet created by screen print: no mean feat for innocent writers trying this technique for the first time.

Maureen carries on with the story of Tommy, a narrative grounded in experience, with characters we’ve begun to know well. And in most cases, we love them. For ‘In the Wink of a Daisy’ she contributed a poem, ‘Once upon a Time Ago’, and helped to screen-print the collection.

Anne has been writing busily this year. She’s turned out two radio plays, The Lost Child and Return to Me, and begun a novel, Beader’s Gift. She also wrote poems for the anthology, and a flash fiction piece, The Swap, which has appeared online on ‘Friday Flash Fiction’.

Anne had written The Swap for a guest appearance by our friend, the crime writer Barbara Speake, who recently published a book of 99 pieces of 99-word fiction. The theme of her visit: making stuff shorter! She’s on to ten-word stories now.

Caroline tells us she hasn’t written much. But her year’s work makes a long list. At the Platinum Jubilee celebrations last summer, she gave a public reading. She had two entries in the Keith Traditional Music and Song Festival, winning the Aultgowrie Trophy for her Jubilee poem to the Queen; and she gained second prize with a tribute to a friend, the fiddler James Alexander. At the Deskford Flower Show, one of her poems won the Howe Trophy. She also wrote a birthday tribute for Keith Community Radio (25 years old), and has now broadcast 18 ‘Ramblins o a Buckie Quine’ on the station. This year she put together a book of her verses, Fa Ya’s Ye, in memory of her sister. The proceeds go to a cancer charity and to her church, and the wee book has sold well.

Emily has toured and recorded this year with her orchestra Sackbut Frenzy. They brought out an album A Cry Was Heard (Deux-Elles) on which two of Brian (Nisbet’s) poems are set to music: ‘Haiku’ and ‘Spring in an Unreal World’. In July, she’ll perform her poem ‘Pulchra Es’ at the Dartington International Music Festival. She has also had her poem ‘Where Will the Owls Go?’ published in the online poetry magazine The Phare.

Carol continues to add new items and members to our website on a regular basis. Early this year, she finalised the content for her own website, ‘Dances with Dragons’, which completed her account of seeking and finding twelve energy pumping stations around the world. She then embarked on a new novel, MacGregor Island, which is a combined pirate story and family saga based on her privateer ancestor. There may also be a new ‘Rifka’ book soon, with dragons.

Annie has been adding short scenes to her novel Long Bones, a speculative tale about what’s under our feet. In between scenes she made a story-inspired pottery piece entitled ‘Characters from “Tam o’ Shanter”’, which was shown at an exhibition of ceramic work at The Barony in West Kilbride.

Dawn had many non-fiction books for children in print before she joined us. Last spring, she began to write a novel, which deals with a mobile library and some curious characters. Recently, Macmillan Books asked her to contribute to Gods and Monsters, a new collection of children’s verse, and they have accepted two poems she wrote for it. She also took part in the project ‘In the Wink of a Daisy’. She’s been working all year on our new anthology, and we owe her our thanks. The book should be a source of pride for her.

This round-up of our year doesn’t cover all the folk who’ve been part of it. But thanks to them all, the story is full of splashes of light, and these may grow. In a time when lots of long-standing institutions became extinct, we’ve maintained our creative life. We may shape-shift a bit, grow new parts to our brains, or learn to burrow in the subsoil. Who knows what may happen? Thank you, everyone, for what you’ve given us this year.