‘So you’re going to go into a room full of strangers and read a piece of your writing to them?’ said Cyberspouse, aghast, with no idea of what I would read.
‘I guess it’s like Alcoholics Anonymous’ I replied.
I had found a phone number in the local arts directory; at last we were living somewhere that actually had an arts directory. The only piece of new writing I possessed was the article written for the local newspaper’s annual competition be a journalist for a day. It was titled The Oldest Profession in the World, which actually referred to being a stay at home mother. The tutor at the writing group said The Echo probably was not ready for my sense of humour and little wonder I was not one of the five chosen for a week of guest reporters.
The group met weekly except for a summer and Christmas break and at each meeting we read our work and handed it in for a short written critique to be received the following week; a simple formula that spurred me on to start writing short stories. This is the group I still go to, same tutor, a few of us who have belonged for over a decade and lots of interesting characters who have come and gone for a variety of reasons including final departures. Along the way it was suggested I try a novel…
There have been other groups I have tried, looking to broaden my outlook and find out more about publishing. One group met in a coffee shop; the other writers were varied and interesting, but the woman who ran it spent a lot of time talking about herself, the coffee shop was noisy and she expected us to give her £5 for the privilege.
A good while ago a creative hub was started very near to where I live, the altruistic landlords charging a peppercorn rent. I imagined meeting all sorts of creative people, perhaps somebody with their own publishing company – all writers can dream. The woman who ran this group read her own work, which wasn’t very good, then one day decamped from the hub, taking half the group with her and telling one of the remainers she could run it. We carried on and we’re still going, a tiny core of enduring members. Along the way we were thrown out of the original building when the admin person’s ‘issues’ came to the fore, met at each other’s houses, then disbanded and reformed at the library to be rid of an obnoxious member. We have had some very strange people over the years, some only coming once or coming too often. But there have been good writers we were sorry to lose.
One of my local writer friends has never set foot in a group and prefers to stay home writing; he has written a lot of books. But most writers seem to enjoy meeting others; it is energising and a good way to get feedback.
Some groups produce their own anthologies and run competitions, alas not ours. There is so much great writing I have heard and novels unfinished that I was looking forward to reading; proof indeed how important it is to preserve your writing, self publish or print and keep it safe, but don’t abandon it.
We all belong to a big global writing group, WordPress and other on line worlds, but do you find it helpful to meet up with real people locally at groups and conferences, or do you avoid them like the plague?
Most of my short stories were inspired by topics given at writers’ group. I have published four collections of short fiction.