I dropped by Paisley Central Library yesterday, armed with a copy of ‘Fire and Sword’ which I’d brought along to donate to the library’s collections.
As I waited there in the queue, it felt like things had come full circle. I was a regular attendee of the Paisley Writers’ Group for many years when it was based at the library. I was in the early stages of writing the novel when I first joined them, and it was there that I really learned how to write: I hung out with a number of talented local writers who weren’t afraid to offer an honest critique of my work, and much of the time we were mentored by professional writers-in-residence – Ajay Close and Paul Houghton were at the helm in the years I attended.
Numerous photocopied extracts of the novel were circulated for critique, and through that process I learned to edit. And I learned, too, the advantages of carrying out a major slash-and-burn on the manuscript before it finally gets sent off to a publisher. I don’t personally believe that pace is everything, and I don’t enjoy reading books that carry you along at a relentless breakneck gallop from beginning to end, but moving along at a brisk trot is helpful, and hearing the views of other writers certainly taught me to evaluate pace and pick up the speed as necessary.
Yes, a donated copy of a completed novel seems a small price to pay for the years I spent honing my craft there.
And on the subject of nostalgia (and this is really a long shot, I know!) I still owe a free copy of the book to a now-retired Conservation Officer attached to the Planning Department of Renfrewshire Council. We once met up to discuss all things Semple-related when I was an impoverished out-of-work archaeologist: he very kindly bought me lunch, the arrangement being that I would pay him back by giving him a copy of the book once it was published.
Duncan, it’s been years, I know, but the arrangement still stands. If you should stumble across this post, then please get in touch so I can get you your signed copy, would you?