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The writing group.
Here I was, retired, putting a lot of effort into recovering from a stroke, writing a lot and getting creatively bored; what to do? I had heard of the University of the Third Age ( U3A ). I looked them up and I liked their ethos of self help. No professional lecturers but just using each other’s expertise to pass on knowledge to others. There was a vast range of subjects to choose from. Each subject had one or more groups in the local area and each had a group leader.
I first contacted John, who was trying to get a creative writing group off the ground. We met up and discussed how to get enough members to make it interesting. We asked around and eventually came up with eight people who would be interested. We set up a meeting at John’s house with a suggestion that each should bring a piece to read aloud to the others of about 1,000 words or so. No theme, a subject of their choice. We all arrived and John talked a bit about what we hoped to achieve – the shared enjoyment of writing with the added benefit of constructive criticism from the other members of the group to help each of us improve our writing. Each writer then read out their piece, followed by a group discussion and critique of it. Everyone seemed to enjoy it and expressed their wish to come to the next meeting which we arranged at my place the following month. The suggested and agreed theme was ‘Democracy / Election.
How many do you think turned up for the meeting? Yes, just Three! It seemed that some took the constructive criticism too seriously! Anyway the Three of us had a good time and after having a discussion about the reasons for the high drop out rate, decided to continue – especially with what we saw as the valuable criticism from an ‘audience’. We then read our pieces to each other and then discussed each one in forensic detail. We all thought this was excellent as we each learned from each other – which is the point of the U3A. What is the point of listening to a piece someone has written and then saying,’ Oh yes, very nice,’ when you really think that it could do with some serious editing.
That was back in April 2015. We have continued and gained two more people so we now have five regulars, which seems about right. Over the two hours we set for the meeting, at each others house in turn, we spend an hour on general conversation about writing then have the reading and critique, with coffee or tea and biscuits on tap. It sometimes goes on a little longer when the conversation and the critiquing is flowing well. The themes over the year since then have been; Pets, Conflict, The future, The past, Yesterday, Humour, Christmas, Resolution, ‘three paragraphs – which is true, Words, Poetry, Anything, Destination, Nature, Biscuits, Murder and Halloween or humour. Each these themes is, of course, open to individual interpretation – and it certainly is! It is a joy to hear each writers ideas.
Being gluttons for punishment, or writing addicts, John and myself have joined another U3A writing group which has been run a by a published author – 8 novels! – who has been running this group for some time. This gives everyone exposure to different authors and their style and experience of writing. Also, going to two groups gives a different theme for the following meeting and so gives an idea of coping with deadlines – who wants to turn up and admit they haven’t written anything?
This writing for the group has to fit in with all my other writing. If I make a list it will be quite scary when I see the amount of work I have set myself or I can look at it the other way that there are lots of sweets in the shop – I have hardly begun to make a dent in them. So, we have, A short story or two or three each week as the ideas occur, A family history, two pieces of writing for the Creative writing groups each month, my autobiography, my novel, this story about my novel growth, Three geology books, notes for future geology trips, write ups of geology trips, a skeleton for my second novel, a quarterly newsletter for our local stroke group, treasurer for the Avon RIGS Group and a poetry collection. This means I am never searching for something to write.
Last year a swimming lake / Lido was reopened after a great deal of expensive repair work so the local community book shop decided to advertise for an anthology of prose and verse to celebrate this. Many authors contributed fiction, non fiction back to the war years and poetry. I was proud to have one of my stories chosen. I was now a published author!
Our two writing groups have continued until three of us decided that it was all very well writing but just as a singer needs an audience, a writer needs a reader. We were probably getting too non critical of each others work as we knew the styles well. What about releasing our prides and joy into the real world and see if they could fly – in other words, would they sell?
Part 4 – Self publishing. will follow shortly.
© Richard Kefford Eorðdraca
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