Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Let me tell you a story...

I love stories and I love writing; I always have done. I was one of those kids who would plead with their parents to be allowed to read 'just one more chapter' at bed time, and would sneakily employ the torch under the duvet trick if I was at such a crucial part of the narrative that sleep simply wasn't an option.

At school, writing always came more naturally to me than drawing, and one time I even won a competition for a piece of writing I did about milk(?). The prize for this competition was immense: I got to meet Rolf Harris with my teacher and another competition winner!! I was only about six, but I distinctly remember my mum sending me to school that morning with some fifty pence pieces taped inside my Garfield lunchbox so I could buy one of Rolf's books and get his autograph. Of-course, being six I had no idea how a transaction in a shop worked, and I remember getting home that afternoon and proudly showing my mum my Rolf Harris poetry book, complete with his trademark 'Rolferoo' autograph, then witnessing her horror when she discovered that the money in my lunchbox was still neatly taped inside. So there's a very strong chance that I stole this book:

This has gone off on a bit of a tangent, for which I can only apologise, but basically I think what I'm trying to say is that the fact that I chose Rolf's blue poetry book (A Catalogue of Comic Verse), instead of the red one about drawing which he was also promoting in the bookshop that day, somehow demonstrates that words for me have always been more important to me than images. Or maybe it's just because I'm crap at drawing...  

That being said, I'm not the quickest reader in the world (I like to absorb every word and feel genuinely guilty if I skim read), and I'm certainly not the best writer, but recently I decided to take the plunge and submit one of my short stories to the monthly Writing Salon I attend in Covent Garden.

The gist of this meet-up is that, each month, two of us submit a piece of writing to be read and critiqued by the rest of the group. If you've ever been to a book club, you'll know that more often than not some of you will love a book, while others will detest it. But you can quite happily debate both sides of the argument safe in the knowledge that the author isn't listening in to your scathing remarks. Well, the Writing Salon is a bit like this, except the authors are there to hear your views; both good and bad. So it was with an underlying sense of fear and trepidation that I went along to the December gathering last week to hear what they all thought about my story.

The overall verdict was pretty positive I'd say, although the group was split about whether the twist was 'twisty' enough. About half of the room had guessed what was going on quite quickly, while the remainder had read the story as I was hoping they would. Some of my turns of phrase were criticised, which I think is probably the most difficult kind of criticism to give and to hear, although none of the feedback was unjustified or harsh. It'll be boring for me to go into details at this point since you may not have read the story in question, but it was a really valuable experience, not least because the other piece of writing we discussed on the night was absolutely incredible and I felt honoured to be in a room with such talented and creative people.

As well as discussing the two pieces of writing, we also did something rather fun since it was the last session before Christmas. Fellow Writing Salon-er Alex Vail writes more about it here, but we had to come up with a six-word short story. There were lots of very clever and moving entries, but I obviously went for the 'comedy' angle. So, to round off this blog post, here is my rather festive six-word short story:

Rudolph woke up. Brown nose. Shit


Holz said...

Omg I'd never read this post....absolutely just guffawed at the 50ps-in-the-lunchbox story- "o there's a very strong chance that I stole this book: " AWESOME.

Sarah said...

Which group do you go to? I'm trying to find a new, nice group and not turning much up!


hayjane said...

Hi Sarah,

To attend the Writing Salon you need to be a member of The Hospital Club (or know someone who is, which is why I count myself lucky). Although I think there would be plenty of demand if you were to set up your own free one. The reading group I attend is just me and a group of girls who meet up in a pub once a month to drink wine and talk books. Let me know if interested.


Sarah said...

I will have to send an email out and see if any of my friends belong. Where does your book group meet?

I have thought about setting my own writing group up, but I think I need the fear of not knowing anyone to ensure I attend/write enough/bring my best stuff!