Author: Marianne Wheelaghan

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Friday, November 20th, 2015 at 12:00 am
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Book Reviews

A Way With Words

The Gilmerton Writing Group’s successful launch of their first collection of prose and poetry, ‘A Way With Words: A Journey of Poetry and Prose’ was previously reported on Lothian Life by member, Marie Campbell. Here, local author, Marianne Wheelaghan, reviews the anthology itself. 

A Way With Words is a collection of stories and poems by Elizabeth Nallon, Shelia Corrigan, Coreen Connell, Marie Campbell, R Briden, and George Chalmers otherwise known as the Gilmerton Writing Group. The compact publication is inspired and developed from ideas sparked off during writing workshops based at the Gilmerton Community Centre and is proof, if proof were needed, that grass roots writing is alive and kicking. The variety and breadth of the writing means there is something for everyone, including some downright helpful writing tips and exercises. It is the perfect way to discover the work of some new and very exciting emerging authors and will be a welcome addition to any reader’s bookshelf.

Elizabeth Nallon writes stories about seemingly ordinary events, from observing a crisp autumn day to a meeting with the in-laws-to-be, to preparing lunch, to sitting in the garden, but which have very unordinary endings. Her writing is succinct and full of fresh, alluring details which make the reader want to keep reading. While each piece is, of course, individual, all her pieces share a theme to do with the changing nature of life generally and the unpredictability of relationships in particular.

Reading Coreen Connell’s pieces is like enjoying a hot bowl of broth on a winter’s day, they fill you with warmth. Never sentimental, Connell writes about different kinds of love: from the love of nature and bagging a Munro with a loved one, to the love between a granddaughter and grandmother and the love between a wife and a husband on a trip when things go terrifyingly wrong. Connell’s writing is rich in sensory details and all her pieces share a theme to do with the wonderfully enduring nature of love in all its forms.

Variety is said to be the spice of life and Shelia Corrigan’s pieces have variety in spades, from a past secret which has come back to haunt the protagonist, to sibling rivalry, to World War 1, to a garden shed. And while some of Corrigan’s work, such as Ed and Friends, is delightfully whimsical, the other pieces are serious and make for captivating reading. It is no mean feat to write such different pieces and to keep the reader equally engaged in each, but Corrigan pulls this off expertly.

George Chalmers dazzling short first piece is set in a sunny San Benito and is about a beguine who flagellates herself. It is full of exquisite details which hint at a tortuous suppression of love. Chalmers’ two other pieces, Nobody’s Up There and The Kid On The Stairs, are autobiographical. Set in working class Dundee in the 1950s, Chalmers gloriously brings the time and place and his very violent relationship with his father to life. The writing is fresh and original and the stories ooze vitality and are utterly irresistible. Both are examples of life writing at its very best.

Marie Campbell has wonderfully crafted three very contrasting stories, each with a different female protagonist with a very distinct narrative voice. Campbell brings the women’s individual stories to life with concise, clear details and confounds the reader’s expectations with unexpected endings, which are believable and very satisfying. Her stories are captivating and impossible to put down. It is not any writer who can make you sympathise with a murderer and stalker, but Marie Campbell is not just any writer, she is one to watch out for.

R Briden’s two charming pieces are apparently very different: Freedom is a delightful, light hearted nature poem, whereas Neam is an extract from a fantastical Young Adult novel with strange chickens and a gate in a wall that leads to a magical world. However, at closer read both pieces share an underlying theme to do with trust. Freedom is a beautiful dance to do with the connectedness of life, while Neam is a richly detailed, incredibly imaginative novel extract which is both beguiling and entertaining.

 

A Way With Words is published by Pilrig Press. Copies are available for a suggested donation of £3.00 from Gilmerton Community Centre, or contact anne@lothianlife.co.uk for more information.

 

Marianne Wheelaghan is the author of the Scottish Lady Detective Series and The Blue Suitcase. Find her on Twitter @solovewriting and at www.mariannewheeleghan.co.uk

 

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