Featured group&writer: Orchil Writers/Monika Mackenzie

We are delighted to welcome the Ochil Writers’ Group, based near Stirling, as our featured writing group, having been alerted to the publication of their new anthology by Mary McLuskey.

About the group

Members of Ochil Writers’ Group mostly hail from Menstrie and the surrounding area. Menstrie is an ancient village nestling at the foot of Dumyat and the Ochil mountain range, which provides much of the inspiration and the distinctive voice of the Group.  Indeed, this beautiful setting has inspired the title of both anthology volumes published in recent years. The anthology cover was produced by Denise Macdonald and reflects the eclectic mix of writing styles the Group is fortunate to host. From dark to light, scary to humorous the Group’s members cover all genres and challenge each other to improve with each stroke of the pen – or keyboard!

The first anthology was published in 2011 with the latest edition hot off the press in April 2017. The last summer recess lasted longer than expected due to many personal issues. The Group are planning to return to monthly meetings after the later June event at Resonate Arts Studio, where their latest anthology is put on public display with a few selected readings over nibbles and drinks. The anthology: Beneath the Hills Volume II, is available to purchase on Amazon.

For more info contact Monika Mackenzie at runglee@btinternet.com

Featured writer

Contrary to our usual practice the featured writer whose work (an extract from her travelogue Snow in Early Fall) is reproduced below is not a Federation member but the chair of Ochil Writers, Monika E Mackenzie. This vivid and at the same time thoughtful account of a holiday in New England is included in the Ochil Writers’ new anthology. Enjoy!

This is an extract from the Travelogue ‘Snow in early Fall’ by Monika E. Mackenzie

Dressed in sturdy, thick-soled shoes, raincoat with warm lining, a woolly, totally inelegant hat and a small rucksack on my back, I was met by crisp fresh air, bright sunshine and the bluest sky I had seen for days when I stepped through the ornate portal of the hostel. It was early, the churchbells were ringing and apart from church-goers few people were about. I turned left – northwards – as a matter of course in order to commence the walk along the red-brick line set into the sidewalks, which started at Boston Common and ended at Bunker Hill in the North of the city.

That Sunday turned out to be memorable in all sorts of ways, but one or two occurrences keep cropping up in my mind’s eye: the meeting with an old, rugged-looking man sitting at the corner of Park Street Church, the 3rd stage of the Freedom Trail, where in 1829 the first speech in condemnation of slavery was made. This down-and-out vagrant, perched on an old upturned red plastic bucket, was playing the violin and – as I recall – rather beautifully. As I bent down to place a dollar in the hat in front of him I noticed a small cardboard sign on the sidewalk beside him which said, in uneven shaky letters: ‘Smile – it’s the Law!’ It touched me more than I realized at the time, because it kept coming back to me for the rest of the day. The other thing that left a lasting impression on me was stage 13 of the Trail – the Old North Church, which had played such an important part in American history in 1775, when Paul Revere used its steeple, on which he had hung lanterns, to warn his fellow revolutionaries of the imminent approach of the British troops – one lantern if by land, two if by sea!

The next day saw me on a train to Concord, Mass., which Henry James once called the ‘biggest little place in America’, because this small New England town had brought forth more literary greats than any other place in the US. I went to visit the homes-turned-museums of Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne as well as Thoreau’s ‘Walden Pond’ and the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, which is the final resting place of these literary greats. It was a strange sensation to stand in rooms where authors of favourite books and novels had done their work more than one or two centuries ago.

© Monika Mackenzie 2017

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