Last Saturday night, the 8th, my writing group, all 8 of us, gave its first (but I hope not last) group reading at a wonderful local indie bookstore, Macs Backs. We read in the basement, where it was, against all basement logic, about 100 degrees, and you could hear the creak of footsteps overhead.
We each read for 8 minutes–pretty clever, right? And variety abounded. I sometimes think of myself as the most schizoid member of the group, since I write for “all ages”, but most of us shimmy the genres. One poet also writes journalism, one novelist also writes poems, and our sci-fi guy writes creative non-fiction, though he insists on calling it a novel (can you tell we have debated this?)
I’ve never been in another writing group, but I hear they can be brutal. Ours, I’ve been informed, is supportive, kindly and egalitarian by comparison. Whew. Not sure I could survive any other sort. While we can certainly mete out the suggestions, and a polite silence has been known to reign ominously long, no one ever brings a sledgehammer to the table. I always come looking for criticism, but I also, truth to tell, dearly need the support. This is a lonesome occupation. When the work is zombie-eating my brain, I crave talking to someone else who knows what that’s like. Who tells me it’s worth it. Who reminds me why.
We sounded really good in that basement. Even better than we do at each other’s kitchen tables. It’s funny how a podium and an audience sitting upright in folding chairs gives the work a new validity. I read an essay about the time Paul left a kitchen cupboard door open and I hit my head on it, coming close to a do-it-yourself lobotomy. It was really about forgiveness in marriage, and afterwards a woman came up and asked me where she could get a copy for a couple she knows getting married soon. That was nice (it appeared last April in Cleveland Magazine.) One of us has a series of poems about a character named Wesley. I’ve come to think of him as ours–but there he was, out in public, strutting his stuff. I was so proud of him!