Time moves at different speeds for different folk. But most of us probably see the AGM of 2020 as happening long ago. We held it that May by email, having ceased to meet in person in March: not because we were in lockdown, yet, but just to be safe. And here we still are, nimbly using Zoom for our meetings each fortnight.

But meeting on Zoom isn’t the same as getting together in person. A lot of us miss that. Think of the newsing that used to go on, for a start! So here’s the special thing about this year: we had a party. Folk who had never met in the flesh were finally able to see one another in full.

Notably, we had gathered to celebrate another significant fact. This is the publication of a nice thick wad of our poems, with other folks’, in our latest collection, Speaking Back—the fruit of many months of work for Dawn, as designer and editor, as well as for us poets. Poems don’t just make themselves: they get made. And that brings us naturally to the exploits of our members.

It’s been a poetical year. For example, Caroline is constantly making new Doric verses and has won prizes for ‘Hame’ (a Brian Nisbet competition winner, Doric section), ‘The Apprentice’, and ‘Passin Fit-Steps’, as well as for spoken Doric with her poem ‘The Buckie Blethers’. She’s bringing out a book of her poems, to be called Aye Tyauvin Awa. And she’s been in demand for public readings and for the radio. She was in a podcast of Magic Roundabout in Doric, and still has her own show on KCR. Also she’s still active with the Buckie Blethers. Among other things they’ve teamed up with local schools to promote the Doric with the children.

Dawn won the Brian Nisbet competition adult section in 2023. In published work, she was invited to contribute poems to a collection, Heroes and Villains, which will feature two poems of hers. The book is a sequel to Gods and Monsters in which her work also appears; she read one poem from this book at the Gartly Gaitherin in September. Then, the Scottish Poetry Library sponsored her to write poems for the meeting of the Scottish Ecological Design Association over at Knock and she had the pleasure of reading them outdoors in a fresh breeze. More outdoor work came along in May when she read to the market day crowd in Huntly. She’s planning a poetry cafe for the town, to be opened with an event in the autumn.

At nearly every meeting we hear poems from the rest of us. It’s not possible to pick out examples without omitting something else worth noting. Emily’s poetry largely arises from her music. Lucia has been writing about education and finds she can express her ideas in verse. Andrew has been inspired by a skein of geese. And some good work has come from occasional writing tasks, such as making our what3words location the basis of a poem.

Some of us are writing novels. In response to her editor’s comments, Kerin has been rewriting Pure Shadows, sharpening the action and characters. Anne has read us intriguing excerpts from Beaden’s Gift. Dawn is writing a novel, Ashes, that links the second world war with the sixties. This year Cara finished Aspen Ridge, and has now embarked on the story of her father—it’s all true, but she doubts that folk will believe it. Leon’s ‘Murdo and Moira’ books ended this year and he went on to write about his long and awesome walk on the Camino. And we have news of Linda’s collaboration with Sheena Blackhall on the Wutherin Heichts translation: it will be published soon.

Carol has been writing the ‘pirate story’ MacGregor Island (though MacGregor was a privateer). This has led to her appearing at a Pirate Weekend at Leith Hall, where she read from MacGregor Island to parents and children. This event will be held again this spring when Carol will take part in storytelling, as well as giving an evening talk on The Golden Age of Piracy.

We’ve heard many impressive short prose pieces. Jenny’s stories, mostly non-fiction, come from her time teaching at a school for British army families in Germany: a setting that lends itself to creepy, unsettling tales. Andrew has entertained us with well-wrought plots and recognisable characters. But there have been strong stories from many folk, mostly thanks to the odd writing task, and if they’re not mentioned here you will find them immortalised in the minutes.

Non-fiction is fruitful too. Ruth researches the lives of real people, and writes about the Bible. Carol has written of her experiences in Australia: she empathises with aboriginal people, who share her strong bond with the earth. Mark is a writer of academic books, brought out by himself as Fast Track Impact—although his latest book is for Routledge and the others are to migrate to them. His subjects are the impact of research on policy, and, more earthily, peatlands. Ruth, too, helps people to publish books. Among Huntly Writers’ own publications, we’ve reprinted Margaret Grant’s Young at Hert and we hope to re-issue Patrick Scott’s books. Ron Brander’s Over the Hills from Huntly also needs to be kept in print.

Finally, recalling what was first said, last October’s Poetry Post was fun. Practically everyone had a go at poems ranging from serious to silly. This year Carol printed and laminated the poems, making them very easy to handle. In fact the post went so smoothly that our rare face-to-face gathering ended too soon. However, our book launch was the next evening and there we were together again. And thanks again to Dawn for her work on the book and for the launch party.

It’s time to wind up this long account, with apologies for all that I’m sure to have left out. A couple of landmarks remain to be noted. Our Treasurer, Mary, will hand over her role to Lucia: we thank them both— Mary for ten years of impeccable work and Lucia for taking the job on. And Maureen, a founder member, has had to drop out in order to focus on other things. She is a poet of stature and we miss her greatly. But we can look back with pride on her time with us.

Meanwhile, new members, Lucia, Mark, Andrew and Ruth, have joined us this year. We welcome them and hope they’ll enjoy being with us. Each of them adds an element to the mix, and each will, we hope, also gain something of value.