“She felt too visible in the brightly lit room, bar one other lost-looking soul, the only stranger amongst a crowd of long-standing comrades. The request, casually made just 20 minutes ago, had come as a shock. Cushioned by the offer of a beverage but then; ‘after you’ve had a coffee and settled back down into your seats spend 10 minutes writing a short piece detailing character, action and place’. And now they were further suggesting she read her attempt out loud – what madhouse was this!? Through the dimness of panic she remembered… it was her first night at the Ayr Writers’ Club.”
Actually it was a very enjoyable couple of hours. I had decided to bite the bullet and join some sort of writers’ group a few weeks back. A good friend had spent some of her valuable time doing a detailed crit of a short travel piece I had written (for a competition) and its usefulness made me realise what I was missing out on, trying to write in isolation. A bit of online research pointed to the Ayr Writers’ Club being a likely match for my needs.
Boy oh boy though, I seem to be in a minority of one in terms of self-confidence when it comes to public speaking. The Club’s members just about to a man (though they were predominantly women) seemed more than comfortable to share their written work; whether it be a carefully crafted ‘project’ nurtured for some time, or the scribbles from the coffee break. Lots of strong, distinct, interesting voices, the occasional cliché and some surprises.
Even my fellow newbie wasn’t actually lost looking (artistic license, daaarlings) though she, like me, declined to read out her jotted notes. Infact, I was the one who had arrived late, having planned to arrived early but, alas, doing so at Prestwick’s other bowling club. Detail is everything, sigh.
Chatting to people over the break it struck me that my fellow attendees were as good at communicating about their own selves as their stories. I learned more details about people’s lives in the space of a couple of minutes than I sometimes do over an extended period of acquaintanceship. I found this interesting, and quite charming.
A further point in the Club’s favour – members seemed genuinely interested in each other’s work and supportive of each other. Maybe I’ve had bad luck with the online groups I occasionally visit, where bitching, bragging and hard, hard selling seems to rule the day.
Before we left, a committee member filled us newcomers in on an upcoming competition. The first 3000 words of a novel plus a synopsis, with a deadline of November 30th. NaNoWriMo, eat your heart out. Ok, fewer words per day but they need post-spew editing… All entries will be given a crit by a published author and remain anonymous, my kind of competition… Though I suppose if I ever break seriously into writing I will have to allow people to read what I’ve written. From a public facing point of view, however, they’ll have to think of me as a female, Ayrshire-based, still-breathing answer to J. D. Salinger.
As an addendum this is what I scribbled:
“There were a few tuts from the other occupants in the echoing hall at the intrusion of distant laughter, clattering cutlery and applause. Lena didn’t mind; either the tuts or the muffled hilarity. Silence was difficult for her; too evocative of evenings at home in her later childhood. Besides, the chattering seemed familiar, comfortable.”
54 words down, 2943 to go.