What benefit does being a member of a writing group give me?
. . .
Running along the uneven road Melissa watched the heavy clouds roll overhead and then their darkness fell to Earth, pouring rain across the landscape, the road immediately turning black. Her feet quickly wet, the rain reached through her hair down her neck as she ran on. A gate swung open next to her, startling her. How had she not noticed it? Where was she? Disorientated she looked through the gate, up the crooked path towards the warm glow from the windows of the little house beyond.
She started for the house, hardly seeing the path, slipping on the wet surface, catching herself and running on, readying herself to bang on the door, hoping they’d understand that she needed to use the phone. Who did that anymore–stopped at a stranger’s to ask to use the phone? What was the etiquette of such a request? It used to be an offering of 10p, didn’t it? But she didn’t need to knock. Looking up through wet matted hair she saw the door opening and a man holding a torch smiled at her.
‘Hello!’ He said it as if he expected her. He moved aside for her to go on in.
Relieved, she pushed open the inner, heavy door. A wood-scented warmth covered her and a fresh tickle of uncertainty came with it. She saw tapestries on the stone walls, the heavy antique furniture, and the beautiful rug on the floor. Immediately she felt embarrassed to be dripping rainwater onto this scene. She paused, realising the disconnection between the house she thought she was walking into and the interior she was now in the midst of. The phone. She looked around for the usual locations people kept phones and looked over her shoulder to ask the man with the torch. He had moved back into the shadows beyond the inner door, waiting with his torch for any more visitors.
Carefully, she moved towards the far side of the room where voices rose and fell beyond yet another heavy oak door. They would know where the phone was. She levered the iron handle and pushed through to light and another enchanted space that stretched out much further than she expected to see.
The house was far bigger than it looked from the outside. This was the kitchen, but not as she expected. Melissa looked behind her to the dark grandeur of the room she was leaving and then back to this Voodoo kitchen with painted tiles, animals hanging, and baskets stored along the walls. Spanish moss dripped across the ceiling, hung as if drying for some future use. A fortune-telling teacup sat purposefully on a small windowsill. The old cooker was warm.
People stood about, cupping mugs in their hands. They didn’t match the room and all were dressed differently, gathered as if they too had arrived in here by accident, been offered a warm drink and stayed. Her wet jumper sagged on her. She looked down at it, furrowing her brow, and moved closer to the warm cooker. A tall man asked if she’d like tea or coffee. He was a match to the man who welcomed her into the house, a teapot to the cup. She forgot about the phone. The thunder rolled outside but no one looked towards the windows.
. . .
The above was written during one of our recent meet-ups when we completed a 15-minute writing exercise describing our first visit to this unique space, a house called Talliston. I chose to use allegory because the house is exactly as I described it above, a convergence of creativity, spirituality and warmth and I sensed allegory was the best way to capture that. I decided to use another name because I wanted to liberate you from my usual blog-persona to enhance the sense of fairy tale.
How did I find such a place? I had lunch with the intensely inspiring Metropolitan Mum and we talked about ways to be around other writers. Face to face. I went home and Googled writing groups in my area. By cosmic coincidence one was just starting up not 15 minutes from my house. I had a really long think over several days. I needed a connection with others like me. John Trevillian, the man who set it up seemed to want the same kind of writing group that I did. I decided to join. It felt daring because I would be out of the house during dinnertime one night a month. I stepped cautiously out on the porch of my comfort zone and when the evening finally came to go to the first meeting I hurled myself off the porch at a full run without looking back in case I lost my courage and returned home to make sure all the dinner dishes got cleaned instead.
It was a stormy wilderness state of mind I kept losing my writing-self in that finally chased me to the gates of Talliston, the house where the Talliston Writers’ Circle meets. We all arrived in various states of uncertainty. We all have one thing in common: we want to connect with others to help us with our work through honest critiques and worthy discussions. What I most love about the group is that we are all very different. That means when I handed this reworked piece to three of the members I got three very different, but equally thoughtful sets of feedback. Gold dust!
Some of you know I’m working on a novel. I brought the outline to the writers’ circle a few months ago. At that time it resembled a rough draft of an adolescent Bronte making an attempt at the 21st century. With the help of this honest, supportive group it has slowly evolved into something closer to Barbara Kingsolver considers Country House Rescue. Well, it’s getting there, anyway.
Want to meet more of us?
John Trevillian, one of the creators of Talliston and organiser of the Talliston Writers Circle.
Several of the group have been published with top ranking downloads on EtherBooks, check out these names: Amy Irving, Duncan Swallow, Sarah Wragg, Victoria Wright, and Penegrin Shaw.
. . .
Are you a member of a writers’ circle?