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Scilly writing group publishes anthology

A creative writing group on St Mary's has released a book of its work.

Members of the islands' U3A (University of the Third Age) have been meeting every other Friday to hone their writing skills since February 2014.

Maureen Stuttaford told This is Scilly: "Some friends from East Sussex sent me an anthology that they had composed with their own creative writing group. I showed it to our group and we thought about it but we weren't ready, we needed a bit more experience. But it sowed the seed and we came back to it much later and thought perhaps we're ready now to give it a go."

In December 2017 they applied for grant funding from Radio Scilly to cover the cost of publishing their own anthology, having felt that they had gathered sufficient stories and poems over the four years to justify a book.

The six-strong group put in three or four stories each and "then a couple of us added in the poems", Maureen said. Subjects include 'A day in Jericho', 'Skeletons in the Cupboard', 'A life-changing second' and much more.

The group decided not to make clear who authored each piece, a decision Maureen said she now regrets. "I think it was a mistake personally. A lot of people, especially locals, like to know who has written certain pieces. I have to confess if I'm sending one away to a friend on the mainland, if it's not anyone from the islands, I have initialed the pieces I've done because my friends want to see what I've written. But we learned from the decision we made, that's the point. And I think if we did something like this again we'd realise it's important to acknowledge it."

Initial sales of the anthology have gone very well. "We're hoping that's its not expensive, it's just a little keepsake. The cover photo, by Danni Hudson, does a good job of drawing people in."

Maureen emphasised that the U3A is fun, despite the studious image conveyed by the word 'University'. "We laugh a lot. We sit here, have tea, chat. We try have a short exercise where someone plonks something, an ornament for example, on the table and we have ten minutes to write about it, which is always challenging. Then we set some homework to be written and read out the next week. So it's all fairly organised but we also have a lot of fun. We try to combine poetry, haiku and writing stories.

"Nobody is forced to read their work if they don't want to, there's no pressure. If someone doesn't feel like reading, it's fine, they just say I'll pass on this one. It doesn't matter how good or not you are at writing, nobody is going to judge. Recently I decided I'd write a blank verse instead of a story and when I'd finished reading it out, I just tore out the piece of paper, screwed it up and threw it on the floor!"

Writings by Islanders with Broad Horizons features work by Maureen Carter, Danni Hudson, Rose Lambourn, Richard Larn, Mary Ratcliffe and Maureen Stuttaford. It is available at the TIC, Bordeaux and Mumford's Paper Shop for £3.50 and the group plans to make a donation to the Cornwall Air Ambulance from sales.

Maureen, who also takes part in Music Appreciation and Art Appreciation with the U3A, added that people are welcome to join any of the Scilly groups, which also include French Conversation, German conversation, Italian conversation/food, Playreading, Tai Chi, Walking, Bookworms and Walk & Sketch.

The U3A is a global movement described as a 'friendly, informal, co-operative organisation that draws on the strengths and enthusiasm of all members who share their knowledge and skills with one another so there is no curriculum, no entrance qualifications, examinations or certificates'.

Scilly's U3A started in 2011 and now has 37 members. Contact the organisation via its website here .


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