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Pushing Out the Boat: Our Blog

Welcome to the POTB Blog where we post articles about our activities and the people involved, including extracts from our magazines, author profiles, commentaries and more. If you have ideas for the Blog, do get in touch.

older posts

Pushing Out the Boat in the time of corona

By Roger White
posted on 19 August 2020

 

17th March 2020, and the Pushing Out the Boat crew sail into new territory – a virtual team meeting.

Only the most hermit-like reader wouldn’t be able to guess why: the corona lockdown of course.

We embarked on this latest stage of our voyage with some apprehension.

The immediate question was could the team manage the vagaries of Zoom between us so we could continue to ‘meet’? Well, three meetings, a few unintended sightings of passing pets, one member’s exotic (electronic) background of sea and sun and a dropped laptop or two later, the answer’s a definite yes. Of course, we miss the social aspect of a face-to-face encounter but on the plus side our meetings are at least half an hour shorter.

The bigger question was did we have the resource to produce a next issue under potentially extended lockdown conditions? Even here, technology came to our aid. At the time, we lacked a magazine designer. Luckily, the online recruitment resources of Aberdeen Council of Voluntary Organisations/Volunteer Scotland and Creative Scotland identified a number of promising volunteers and after a Zoom getting-to-know-you session, we were pleased to welcome Claire Martin as our new magazine designer. We decided it was all systems go for our 16th issue

The prescience of other team members (not this one) means that authors, poets and artists submitting work to Pushing Out the Boat no longer have to wrestle with paper or canvas, packaging, getting to a Post Office during lockdown, and the tender mercies of the Royal Mail to deliver their precious cargo to us. Submissions have been completely online for a while now: registering an interest and uploading text and graphic files couldn’t be easier. If you’re tempted to try your hand at submitting work, just go to our Submissions page before 30th September and take it from there.

Less positively, corona has had an impact on the steady stream of sales we usually enjoy between issue launches. Most of our wonderful vendors have been closed or operating under severe restrictions for some months now. If you need a magazine fix but can’t visit them, you can still order a copy of Issue 15 online, as well as earlier issues available at a discounted price.

Finally, those of you in the North-East of Scotland may have attended one of our reading events in the past. Frustratingly, these have had to be put on hold at a time when physical gatherings have not been possible. But technology and Aberdeen University have come to our aid: we are sharing an online platform with Leopard Arts for an hour’s online performance at the WayWORD Festival at 7 p.m. on Sunday 27th September. You can register here to view the session. It may be a precursor of other online events to come …

Footnote. Before this article went to press, a further local lockdown was introduced in our hometown of Aberdeen as there was a spike in corona cases associated with the hospitality industry (pubs, clubs and restaurants). All at Pushing Out the Boat hope you’re safe from the virus wherever you are in the world.


Martin Walsh and Freda Hasler – a tribute

By Judy Taylor and Lily Greenall
posted on 30 May 2020

 

March saw a major change to the crew and complement of the Boat with the retirement of Martin Walsh and Freda Hasler, who have been core members of the Pushing Out The Boat team since Issue 5. Between them, they have filled just about every one of the vital roles that keep the Boat sailing on.

Martin Walsh

They first came aboard (sorry, but Awful Nautical Puns are one of the traditions they established, and that we have a responsibility to continue) for Issue 5 of the magazine. POTB was founded and first edited by Magi Gibson, who at that time (2000) was Writer in Residence with Aberdeenshire Council. She was later succeeded in both roles by Mindy Grewar. However, in 2005 the Council found it necessary to end direct support for the magazine and Mindy, anxious to see it continue, put out a call for volunteers to take over its running.

Freda Hasler

Martin and Freda were among the first to step forward, and the work they have put in during the 15 years and 10 issues since has been pivotal to the magazine’s continued success. Martin was very much the public face of the magazine for much of this period, serving two spells as Managing Editor, as well as helming launches and fundraisers, and filling vital roles in Sales and Outreach. Freda meanwhile took a leading role on the production side as Coordinator, steering the internal and external communications, the teams handling layout, copyediting and proofing, and the multifarious organisational and administrative questions that arise in putting together a magazine.

The finished magazine is of course… well, it would be a pun too far to say “the tip of the iceberg”, but perhaps we can say it’s the grand entertainment on deck, band playing, whistles tooting, and flags fluttering, that can’t go ahead without huge efforts of organisation, expertise, and engine-power below decks. Submissions have to be attracted, then received, anonymised and distributed to panels evaluating prose, poetry and art submissions. The panels sift the daunting catch of hopeful works and make their selections, and then the work of layout and copyediting begins. Meanwhile, discussions will have been under way with a printer, deadlines set or revised, acceptances and rejections sent out, and editorial queries made, and the answers relayed. And, after the whole lot is finally ready and sent off to the printer, the arrangements for the launch need to be finalised. Post-launch there are only the small matters of publicity and sales, fundraising applications and events, annual reports…. before planning starts for the next issue.

There must have been times when both Martin and Freda pondered actually running away to sea for an easier life: but they have stuck with the Boat through 11 issues, literally thousands of submissions, uncertain financial times, a shift of gear to full charitable status, and an expanding profile both locally and internationally. Their contribution to its current standing is immeasurable. To be entering its 21st year is an enviable record for any literary/arts magazine; to have published the work of writers and artists both new and experienced, to have maintained a strong local presence while showcasing work from , and to have held to such high standards of quality throughout, is an achievement everyone involved can be proud of, and Martin and Freda most of all of us.

We will miss them both as we pipe them ashore (though we won’t be surprised if we see some contributions from them, now they have more time for their own creativity), but we wish them happiness in their hard-earned retirement, and above all, calm sea and prosperous voyage.

POTB Covers 5-15
Footnote. The Pushing Out The Boat team intend to hold a celebratory event of readings for Martin and Freda by magazine contributors and friends once we are past corona lockdown restrictions. Watch this space.
well, we don’t think we’ve had anyone from Antarctica yet, but we could be wrong

Introducing Lily Greenall, the new POTB Editor

By Martin Walsh
posted on 5 March 2020

 

The following is a Q&A with incoming Editor Lily Greenall by retiring Editor Martin Walsh.
Note from the POTB team: we are delighted that Lily has joined us, and we wish her every success in her new role.

I know I speak for everyone in the team when I say how pleased and honoured we are to welcome you aboard. Could you tell us when and how you first heard of POTB and what were your initial impressions?

I first heard about POTB from my PhD supervisor, Wayne Price. He recommended it as a good place to submit some of my work and, following his advice, I sent in my short story ‘Frank,’ which was accepted. I came to a POTB event at the Aberdeen University May Festival and was really impressed by the quality of the work read out and the friendly atmosphere among the team; this encouraged me to apply when I heard that the Editor’s position was available.

I believe that, like me, there is a little bit of Kent in you? If so what brought you to Aberdeen?

Yes, my mum’s side of the family are from Kent – I’m going on holiday there in March to visit them. I grew up on the Isle of Lewis though. We used to visit friends in Stonehaven a lot and come to Aberdeen to do our Christmas shopping, so I have nice childhood memories of the place. I came to live in Aberdeen ten years ago to start my Undergraduate Degree. After this I stayed on to do an MLitt at the uni and this led into doing my PhD here. I’ve always liked living in Aberdeen – I’ve lived in flats all over the city now! I think it’s a nice size of town for someone from a small place and I like being near the sea.

You are amazingly well qualified for this job, with your experience of editing Causeway, your PhD in Creative Writing and your own story-writing skills. Does it concern you that in generously taking on this (voluntary) job you will be reducing the number of hours you can devote to writing and/or earning a wage?

Thank you! I think it’s going to be a challenge at times, but I’m not overly concerned. I got used to doing Causeway – where the responsibilities for every stage of production were often shared between just two of us – alongside my PhD and the other responsibilities I had while I was studying, so I’m used to juggling my time. I’m also currently working as a freelance writer and, although I have lots of deadlines to meet, my schedule is very flexible because I can set my own hours. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep doing this and POTB will fit in well. In terms of my own writing, I think its always inspiring to read good fiction submissions and it keeps you motivated to write. Overall, I see POTB as a great opportunity to broaden my skillset in a way that I think will be very helpful to my future career, no matter what I end up doing.

What/who was the subject of your PhD?

I did my PhD on the figure of the Devil in Scottish fiction and folklore. Originally I planned to do it on folk tales from the Isle of Lewis but, as I discovered, there aren’t a huge amount of written tales about the Devil from there (although there is a very lively oral tradition), so I broadened my topic out and it ended up being a lot to do with Borders folktales and with Walter Scott and James Hogg.

Alongside this I wrote a collection of short stories that featured different takes on ideas about the Devil and the supernatural in Scotland. I was quite open-minded writing the stories so not all of them ended up featuring a Devil character, or even really fitting this theme. I think it was a cohesive enough collection overall, though, and it was great experience writing it.

When did you first develop a love of literature, which writers have most influenced you and do you have a favourite genre?

I always wrote stories and loved reading, but I didn’t really take it seriously until I was finishing school and deciding whether I wanted to go to university or not. What really made up my mind was, when I was about sixteen, I got really into a series of books called The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice, which are these very Gothic historical novels set in the 1700s in New Orleans. I loved reading them so much that it set me off reading all sorts of other things and I started seriously working on my own fiction. I decided to study English at university and, once I started, I just wanted to keep doing it. Even one of the freelance jobs I’ve got just now is writing literature study guides.

I feel like I’m influenced by whoever I’m reading at the time, but I definitely have writers who always make me want to write and whose style really resonates with me. I really like Angela Carter and Shirley Jackson. At the moment I’m reading a lot of Doris Lessing. I love the way she writes, it’s very precise and observational – she makes you feel that there’s loads going on under the surface even when, seemingly, not much is happening.

My favourite genre is definitely Gothic fiction, even when it’s a bit silly and melodramatic. I just think it’s so fun. I love classic Gothic novels, like The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Wuthering Heights, but I like a bit of modern horror as well. Stephen King is good – his novels are very vivid. James Hogg’s Confessions of a Justified Sinner is probably my favourite Gothic novel.

You had a story, ‘Frank’, in the last edition of POTB. The writing was spare and so beautifully observed. How on earth do you manage to get inside peoples’ heads, both sexes, so convincingly?

Thank you very much! I actually really like writing from the perspective of a man, although I haven’t been doing it so much recently. I used to write almost exclusively from the point of view of men. Partly, I think its fun just to imagine an experience which isn’t your own. I think men and women sometimes have a very different social experience and it can be fun to play at being someone who can do certain things that you wouldn’t do, or to imagine being someone that people would react very differently to or expect different things from.

I think a lot of it comes from the writers I’m reading as well. I think, just by accident, I used to read more male writers (or women writers who wrote from the perspective of men) and, recently, I’ve been reading more female writers so maybe that makes a difference in how I write.

How would you like to see POTB develop?

For the moment I’d like to focus on keeping the quality of the submissions accepted at the same high level and, given my own connection with the university, perhaps build some more links there. I think it would be great to see more submissions from young writers or student writers as they’re often looking for places to send their work and get their first publication. It would be great to emphasize that POTB is a friendly place where young writers can send their work.

And finally, tell us something surprising about yourself, literary or otherwise?

I quite often listen to terrible electronic club music when I write. Something about the rhythm of it gets me energized to keep writing. The only problem I find is that, because I’m listening to this, I always end up writing scenes set in nightclubs. It wasn’t so bad when I used to go to nightclubs a lot, because I’d write about things I saw there or things that happened on nights out, but now I hardly ever go to nightclubs so it doesn’t really work as well.

Many thanks Lily: so good to learn a little more about you. I’m sure our readers will feel the same.

 


An Appreciation of Gerard Rochford

By Judith Taylor
posted on 6 February 2020

 

Distinguished local poet Gerard Rochford died late 2019. He will be much missed. Indeed, as a key member of the original team of volunteers who kept POTB alive when Aberdeenshire council discontinued publication in 2005, we are proud to acknowledge his contribution with this Appreciation by poet Judith Taylor.

Gerard Rochford
Gerard reading his work at a POTB Retrospective in the Blue Lamp in 2016.

It would be difficult – maybe impossible – to write a full appreciation of Gerard Rochford: life led him into so many spheres. He was an academic psychologist and a therapist; a beloved husband, partner and family man; a lover of music and the countryside; a man of deep thought and of wicked, deadpan humour. And he was not only a poet but someone who opened doors into poetry for many others, myself among them. This is the Gerard I want to speak of here.

I first met Gerard, as I first met so many poets, in Books and Beans on Belmont Street. In 2003 he, Doug Gray, and Eddie Gibbons began to look for a place to perform their work to the public. Books and Beans had newly opened and owner Craig Willox invited them to start a monthly poetry night there. And so Dead Good Poets (as it was then called) started, on the last Thursday of the month, with an invited guest or guests headlining and an Open Mic space for all who wished to get up and read.

Initially all three founders shared MC duties: but with Doug and Eddie working outside town the traffic was often a problem for them, and Gerard gradually assumed the mantle by himself. He was a courteous encourager of all comers – I was one of very many poets to take their first public steps in Aberdeen when I took a deep breath and put my name down for Open Mic – and the atmosphere of listening and support he fostered still endures, while his moving but unshowy readings of his own work set a standard to which we all aspired.

Encouraging poets into print was also part of the Dead Good Poets’ ambition. In 2004 they brought out a joint collection, Three Way Street, with Doug Gray’s Koo Press (which he had founded in 2002), and also became more involved in the running of the press, with Gerard editing or co-editing many of the collections, and Eddie contributing artwork and design. Koo Press gradually broadened out its operations, showcasing the work of new poets from the local scene and beyond: in its 10 year existence, it published some 38 chapbooks, many of them first collections, as well as anthologies and even collections of poetry and recipes. All of them were meticulously edited (Gerard’s motto “Delete, delete, delete!” still whispers in my ear when I come to revise my work) and beautifully produced. It’s a record to stand beside that of any small press in the country, and a roster I’m proud to have been part of.

While this was going on, Pushing Out the Boat sent up a flare. An important showcase for North-East writing and art, it had been published by Aberdeenshire Council since its foundation by then Writer-in-Residence Magi Gibson; but the Council was ceasing to support publication, and Magi’s successor, Mindy Grewar, wanted to ensure it continued. Gerard knew its value (he had a poem in the very first issue, as did Eddie and Doug) and was one of those who stepped forward, chairing the poetry selection panel for Issues 5 to 7 under the editorship of Martin Walsh, and contributing his painstaking skills to the copyediting process. As part of that early team he helped to set the high standards that the magazine has sought to maintain ever since.

Gerard’s own poetry very much reflects the man himself: meticulous and spare in its choice of words, but rich with feeling; curious, probing, and open-hearted; light in touch even with tough subjects; and always leaving the reader wanting more. He was a poet above all of the human heart – of love, of loss; of those he knew and those he wished to know better. His work of bringing poets forward into the world continues. And although we have lost Gerard the man, his voice remains with us in his poems, and his work will endure.

Links to poems:

A Poem About Li Po (Li Bai)
https://taichination.com/latest.php?id=64&start=60

Ironing a Sari
http://www.deadgoodpoets.hh0.uk/gerardrochford/IroningASari.aspx

My Father’s Hand
https://www.scottishpoetrylibrary.org.uk/poem/my-fathers-hand/

Poems by Gerard Rochford can also be found in issues 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 9 and 10 of Pushing Out the Boat. Those in issues 9 and 10 can be read in the online versions of the magazine.


Coordinator/Project Manager opportunity

By POTB Team
posted on 13 November 2019

 

Following on from our post of 19th September, we’re delighted to report that Lily Greenall has joined the POTB team as Incoming Editor. Lily is an accomplished writer with experience of editing a literary magazine and will be a great new addition to the team.

But we are still looking for a new Coordinator/Project Manager. Might you be interested?

We are a team of volunteers based in and around Aberdeen responsible for Pushing Out the Boat, North-East Scotland’s magazine of new writing and the visual arts.

This role involves project management of both team and the tasks needed to produce our regular magazine.

You would be joining us along with our new editor in time to help manage an entire production cycle from the commitment to go ahead through to publication and launch of a new edition.

Our coordinator/project manager assigns and coordinates tasks with team members, compiling a schedule of tasks critical to the agreed timetable, and ensuring those tasks are completed timeously.

While an interest in the arts would be a bonus, experience in coordination and project management are more important to fulfil this role successfully. We are a friendly group and the work of the editor and coordinator/project manager is supported by a wider team at and between regular committee meetings.

You can read more about us on our website, especially the About us page. If you’re interested and would like to learn more, please contact info@pushingoutheboat.co.uk. After a first chat, the next step would be for you to meet our current coordinator, who can brief you about what the role involves in more detail. She will also be available to help hand over the work to you in a phased way.


FROM THE ARABIAN NIGHT PATROL TO POTB

By Ian Thewlis (aka Peter Sheal)
posted on 14 October 2019

 

The opening chapter of my political thriller, Arabian Night Patrol, was published in Pushing Out the Boat 14 in April 2017. I’d been researching and writing the novel for several years, but it was still only partially complete, still a rather tender sapling. I’d previously had textbooks and business books published by Longman and Kogan Page, but fiction is even more competitive and with less assurance of publication, can be a dispiriting enterprise. Publication in POTB therefore was encouraging and I’m grateful for the confidence it gave me to carry on and complete the novel.

The POTB extract, The Candlelight Patrol, introduced my setting, a desert oil camp in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War and the genesis of what became known as the War on Terror. It also introduced the main protagonist, Rob, a middle-aged engineer, who’s volunteered for the night patrol guarding the camp perimeter. As fighter jets screech overhead, air raid sirens blare over the call of the muezzin, and duels between Scud and Patriot missiles illuminate the night sky, he wonders what to do next with his life. His wife wants him to come home, but he’s tempted by a more exciting future when he falls for June, a free-spirited American artist. Yet her husband, Rick, is the camp’s powerful security boss, armed and dangerous. As the battle for Kuwait and terrorist attacks intensify, Rob must fight for his own survival.

Patriot Missiles intercepting Iraqi Scuds during the 1991 Gulf War

Arabian Night Patrol, published under the pseudonym of Ian Thewlis, is based on my experience of working in the Saudi oil industry during the 1980s and 90s. Although I had that ‘lived experience’ to go on, as a Western expat, mine was inevitably a partial view and I wanted to give a fuller picture of the Gulf War. Consequently, I explored the conflicting perspectives and loyalties of a variety of Arab characters – including a Saudi detective, a young Islamist technician, an Egyptian manager – under the pressures of war and the threat of terrorism. In a sense the war puts everyone and their relationships to the test.

Reviewers on Amazon have commented on the contemporary relevance of the Arabian Night Patrol. One writes that ‘the novel deals with themes which continue to haunt the Middle East today.’ Another suggests that the novel is, ‘required reading after the recent drone strike against oil facilities in Saudi Arabia.’ Certainly, the geo-political issues haven’t gone away, and the power struggles continue for control of the Arabian/ Persian Gulf and the Middle East oilfields which still power much of the world’s economy.

Arabian Night Patrol was published by SilverWood Books earlier this year and is available in Kindle and paperback editions from Amazon.


POTB needs your help!

By POTB Team
posted on 19 September 2019

 

Volunteers sought to keep us afloat

POTB has recently lost or are losing some key team members, and we’re busy trying to find folk to take their places. Two of these [Martin Walsh and Freda Hasler] have been with POTB since it became a voluntary operation in 2005. During their tenure, they’ve undertaken many roles in the POTB project, and are happy to share their knowledge with their replacements before finally stepping down on 31 March 2020.

The Trustees are anxious to ensure early recruitment to these key roles, not only so that decisions can be made about a further edition, but also to maximise the handover period. For that reason, we are now reaching out to the creative community to help us find those new recruits asap.

Some background

POTB’s main aim [ie magazine production] is supported by an umbrella project which is a Scottish Incorporated Charitable Organisation [SCIO]. We function in a non-hierarchical, mutually cooperative way, directed by a Management Committee of elected Trustees who carry ultimate responsibility for the project. Alongside them, the Editor, Coordinator and Sales Manager share many of the decisions pertaining to the project and the magazine production and it is for these three positions that we are seeking new volunteers.

Everyone who works on POTB is a volunteer: the individual roles carry an element of autonomy, but use approved methodologies, agreed targets, and close involvement with those in associated roles. POTB has no business premises, the Team Members work from home, online, with occasional meetings in or near Aberdeen. Further background details on what we do and how we operate can be found on our About POTB web page.

The role of EDITOR

This person primarily deals with editorial issues within the team and with outsiders. During the production of a new edition of POTB, the Editor helps recruit, then supports our Selection Panels [Prose, Poetry and Art]; and oversees the team of Copy Editors, working alongside our specialist Scots/Doric Editor and the Consultant Editor [our arbitrator]. The Editor liaises with colleagues eg on the magazine content, the Launch event, etc; and is usually the Chair of Trustees.

The role of COORDINATOR

This role involves project management of both team and tasks. The POTB Coordinator helps assign and coordinate tasks with Team Members. Also, during magazine production, compiles a schedule of tasks critical to the agreed timetable, and ensures those tasks are completed timeously. The Coordinator works closely with both the Editor and the Webmaster to ensure the smooth running of the project.

The role of Sales Manager

The Sales Manager handles the sale and distribution of magazines, and oversees the financial status of the project. To date this role has included building and maintaining relationships with vendors; and maintaining records of magazines [current and previous]; also liaises with regional sales team and the PR/Marketing team.

And more

Of course, this is just a summary of the many and varied responsibilities of these tasks. The role-holders interact and communicate with the Trustees, all the other Team Members, and with outside bodies, as required at various points throughout the magazine production cycle – indeed, throughout the whole project. Ideally, all three are Trustees of the SCIO.

Getting in touch

Would you be interested in joining the POTB team or do you know of someone else who might be? Then do please get in touch with us by email to info@pushingouttheboat.co.uk

Or, if you would like further information about these roles and the operations of POTB, then don’t hesitate to send us an email with your queries.

And, if you have any constructive comments on the future of project and directions it might take, please share them with us using the ‘Comments’ link below.

We look forward to hearing from you.


Pushing Out the Boat at Aberdeen University Mayfest

By Roger White
posted on 31 May 2019

 

Pushing Out the Boat held its first post-launch event for Issue 15 at Aberdeen University’s May Festival on Sunday 26 May with a programme of readings from our latest edition.

A hardy audience braved the rainstorm that nearly sunk the University grounds to hear the afternoon kick off with Sheila Templeton’s poem ‘The Iceberg that Sunk the Titanic’ written in her native Doric, a short piece to be cherished for a number of reasons, not least its giving an outing to one of my favourite Scots words – fantoosh.

Poems spanning a range of emotions and themes followed from Al McClimens (‘Yuri Gagarin Stole My Wife’), Helen Steadman (‘Quiet Sisters’) and A.C. Clarke’s intriguing ‘Poems I Don’t Want to Write’.

Interspersed with the poetry were extracts from short stories by Lily Greenhall (‘Frank’), Donna Rutherford (‘The Pack’), and Bruce Gardner (‘Rebel Angel’). The constraint of the festival format meant there was only time for extracts, but what an incentive to go away and find the full texts.

The readings ended with one story that there was time to hear in full – Richie Brown’s ‘A Shaggy Dog’. Richie described it as his party piece and short of having to issue a spoiler alert the only clue about its content must be that its title is not merely metaphorical. It was a good piece to round off a varied programme and send us away with a smile and a chuckle.

You can find a few samples of work from Issue 15 here on the website. For the whole magazine including its selection of artwork, be sure to buy a copy from one of our vendors or online on this site.

The programme for the event was devised by Issue 15’s guest editor Martin Walsh. Apart from Martin, readers included MC Judy Taylor and Eleanor Fordyce. Lily Greenhall, Bruce Gardner, Helen Steadman and Ritchie Brown read their own work. Our thanks to them all.

Footnote: audience members staying on from the previous session in the University’s Multi-Media Room will have seen a wonderful selection of images from Anke Addy’s new photographic essay, The Living Cairngorms. Anke is a member of the Pushing Out the Boat team, serving on the Art Panel for Issue 15, and kindly took all the photos at our recent launch.


Launch of Pushing Out the Boat Issue 15

By Martin Walsh
posted on 29 April 2019

 

Sunday 7 April 2019, Phoenix Hall, Newton Dee Village


Martin Walsh

Great to see so many folk at this year’s launch (we counted 82) – some well-kent, many new and all welcome. Once again the event was held in the inspiring space of the Phoenix Hall, Newton Dee, handily situated for both City and Shire. Fittingly, both Aberdeen’s Lord Provost and the Provost of Aberdeenshire joined us to celebrate the occasion, hosted by our wonderful patron, Dame Anne Begg. And something unannounced on the day: all three editors, since the magazine became a fully voluntary organisation in 2005, were present and helping.

The main focus, as always, was the chance to hear the contributing writers read from their work and to see original images by the selected artists. Issue 15 Contributors had come from far and wide (even Australia!), to meet and mingle with invited guests and the team of volunteers who had worked so hard to bring this latest edition to fruition.

Ian Stephen

Judith Taylor, one of the three editors, convenor of this year’s poetry selection panel, and talented poet in her own right, presided over the afternoon’s readings. Ian Stephen, award-winning writer from the Western Isles, master-mariner and this Issue’s foreword writer, set the ball rolling with a tribute to the high standard of this edition’s contributions. Then came the readings themselves, with their broad range of genre, mood and dialect. There was Doric in abundance, Scots, Shetlandic, rural USA, and even a hint of old Norse – oh yes and some English too!

The readers led us on a journey, beginning with that first wondrous step into a book-filled space; then the comic sparkle of a young North-East quine on a holiday visit to Fife; onto the rescuing of a stranded turtle. We heard memories of a herring quine, and the sharp observations of a talented sixteen-year-old poet. Then to a riverbank in China and the menace of what might lurk within its murky waters; the poignancy of letting go a loved one; then to the undaunted spirit of an undersized quine confronting adult abuse. And last but not least in that first half: the tall tale of North-East man spotting the iceberg that sunk the Titanic (though several months later).

After the interval [with more meeting and mingling] came the memory of a past life touchingly woven into the fabric of the new; and an escapee from Rosehearty who couldn’t quite evade her roots. Then to the image of ‘a long line of Harleys ridden by portly Dutchmen down a glen’. A wild girl from rural USA – ‘Ma said she’d grow up to borrow your husband if you weren’t careful – with her pet quetzal bird. We heard, too, of learning to speak Doric at your Granma’s knee and of the magic of a boy’s first excursion to his favourite football team’s stadium; finally, from the smeddum in the tiny body of a dunnock, to the hilarious climax of an ardent terrier.

An afternoon filled to the brim with quality and pleasure; the first-time published standing proudly alongside POTB ‘old-timers’.

For more photos of the launch, check out the launch photo gallery.


A Seasonal Bouquet from Pushing Out the Boat

By Roger White
posted on 19 November 2018

 

‘ Whatever the weather, wherever you are, make sure you are accompanied for your pleasure and entertainment by North-East Scotland’s very own Pushing Out the Boat.

– from Frances Walker’s Foreword to Pushing Out the Boat Issue 12

Winter

Elizabeth Waugh [lino print]

As I write this, an October Indian summer has already hurtled downhill past a delayed North-East autumn to the long haul of winter. It’s a time to be reminded of the seasonal riches that lie in past issues of Pushing Out the Boat, our not-so little magazine of new writing and the visual arts now as old as the century – it first appeared in 2000 in, yes, autumn. Our wonderful contributors may forgive me if I slice and dice their precious work to pick out some seasonal gems. Selected extracts only hint, of course, at the deeper issues and bigger stories in their complete poems and stories. You’ll find a full listing of their work and the magazine issue it appeared in at the end of this article.

As autumn approaches, some of our authors sense the softer side of autumn, like Beate Allerton’s

temptation in the autumn mists,
savouring
the spices of soft and moist earth

and Angela Arnold’s

… hails of swallows and
then all that black bird-snow of starlings.

Of course, at 57⁰ North of the Equator (Aberdeen) or more, our contributors from hereabouts also know what the seasonal weather brings us, from Robert Ewing’s

Wind-skelfs, then
bullet-rain bruisin
the day

and Fiona Russell’s

On a nor-easterly
it comes,
gathering like a foul temper
That bastard ice wind

to Mary Johnson’s harsh reality that

For sax lang months norland fowk
Thole dreich, dark days and jeeli nichts.

It’s also not surprising in our largely rural area that birds and beasts attract attention. Jean Atkin writes that

In this endless winter at the end
of short afternoons
the sheep know
when I go out to cut holly

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

On ice heave ground I squat to watch
how their brown eyes are split
by horizontal yellow bands, and
I ache for green.

In more comforting mode, Maggie Wallis retrieves one of her hens ‘perched in the rosemary again’:

As I crunch a track over the snow
she makes a sound; that low
contented sound of hens.
I tuck her in closer.

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

So many miles we have hiked
this same journey every night.
I and a white hen
Tramping over moonlit snow.

The imagery provides a reminder that not all is harsh in those ‘dreich, dark days’. Christine Laennec records

the soft gentle darkness
of my street in mid-winter

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

my neighbour waving to us
from her golden doorway
a moment’s greeting
before the clicking lock
returns her to the warmth of the fire.

After the excesses of Christmas and Hogmanay many of us, at least in Scotland’s North-East, feel the need like Jen Cooper to clear our minds with a New Year walk by the sea or up a favourite hill

We emptied our thoughts
off Oxen Crag today,
wind froze them to snow.

Finally, we know there’s a long way to go before spring but like Kris Erin Anderson we cope

Fields without flowers,
matted grass, trees too tired
to fight against the wind.

We are not at a beginning
but the middle – grey and silent.

We bury thoughts
beneath blankets and braid
our legs into one.

Whether or not you get to braid your legs into one, Pushing Out the Boat wishes you for the season all that you wish yourself.

Many back issues of Pushing Out the Boat are still available to buy. If any of the work featured here stimulates your interest, you can order copies online here.

This is the work cited in this article, arranged alphabetically by surname of author (and artist).    Issues 9 – 13 are available to read in full online.

Beate Allerton, Woman on the Seasons, Issue 6, page 59
Kris Erin Anderson, January, Issue 11, page 5
Angela Arnold, Autumn Move, Issue 9, page 8
Jean Atkin, White, Issue 10, page 6
Jen Cooper, New Year, Issue 11, page 69
Robert Ewing, Drawing oot, in, Issue 6, page 47
Mary Johnson, Winter, Issue 6, page 87
Christine Laennec, Winter Lights Within, Issue 9, page 41
Fiona Russell, Ice Wind, Issue 9, page 28
Frances Walker, Foreword, Issue 12, page 1
Maggie Wallis, Night Walking, Issue 13, page 83
Elizabeth Waugh, Winter [lino print], Issue 9, page 30