Friday, 7 October 2011
New season, new school year, new writing group. Who said I give up easily?
After the fiasco with the Creative Writing Class last spring, I thought I'd see who else might have it in for my style of writing, so why not give the newly founded Creative Writing Group of the local u3a a try? Most of you will know that U3A stands for University of the Third Age and is open, free of charge, to people of age 50 and over. Whatever you wish to study, whatever your previous level of expertise, there will be a course for you. And if there isn't one, somebody will start one.
This CW group is run by members, there is no lecturer, nobody is in charge. Naturally, there will be one member who will dominate the group, talk the most, be the most decisive, the most easily offended and generally let the rest know that her/his word is law. That is as inevitable as one person in the group being the tallest, or the oldest.
The inaugural meeting took place in a private bungalow in the bubble end of a cul-de-sac in the rabbit warren of identical streets above the old town. You might have been on any new housing estate on the edge of any erstwhile small market town in the UK. I do wish town planners weren't chosen on the basis of who can produce the nastiest, dullest, most unimaginative and repetitive rows of dwellings; no wonder the families inhabiting them are pretty interchangeable themselves, their highest ambition in life being to own wall-to-wall home entertainment units to watch reality tv.
However, the owner of the bungalow where we met, a delightful elderly lady, softly spoken and slightly vague in manner, seemed to have no tv at all; instead the tiny sitting room held a piano, a sofa and easy chairs, a small table and bookshelves. There was barely room for the resident thinly elegant lurcher to weave through, much less for the eight people, plus hostess, assembled to discuss procedure. Everybody seemed very keen, ideas were produced as to frequency of meetings, possible venues, subjects to tackle; it was decided, for the time being, that members should produce a piece of writing for each meeting, leaving us free to choose poetry, short stories, memoirs, non-fiction, and even chapters of novels; in short, the new group's success was assured. One person went so far as to suggest that we should publish a book containing the best of our writing at the end of the first year.
Calling yourself 'a writer' and actually writing something have very little to do with each other. When the next meeting came round, I was the only person present, apart from the hostess, who had attended the inaugural get-together. Only one of the others had sent apologies for absence, all the rest of them had quietly faded away. Luckily, there were three new people who had been unable to come before, two of whom had the good sense to bring their manuscripts.
We have now had the third meeting, in a private room in a pub in the old town; a much more suitable venue, where we all fit easily round a large table. One further member dropped away, but another two new participants appeared, with one apology, bringing the group to a possible grand total of between six and nine members.
This process of natural elimination will eventually come to an end and I am hopeful that we will soon settle down to a manageable number of people who want to write. Hopeful, because everybody present happily read a poem, a bit of a memoir, a short story; we are getting to know each other and characters are beginning to emerge.
We meet for two hours mid-morning. As this is England, a tea break is expected by all; two hours without the obligatory drink is unthinkable. In the pub this is no problem, we simply order before we sit down and a waitress brings a tray. When I mumbled apologetically, that I could manage without refreshment for two hours, my fellow writers pitied me. " It's nice to have a drink, makes it more comfortable and we can have a little chat." I was afraid of that, but I'll be happy if the chat concerns itself with writing.
The end of year best-of-writing collection was mentioned again; we'd better get down to it.