For about a year now, I’ve been attending a small local writer’s group once a month at All on the Same Page Bookstore. There are just three of us who have been regulars from the start, including the bookstore manager. We’ve now grown to a group of eight just this year, and I must say it’s a nice group. It sort of reminds me of February House, in that besides two members who are working on memoirs, each of us is very different in writing styles. A few of us have books on the shelf. AOTSP has a superb indie/local author section when you first walk in the door.
We usually spend the first half of the meeting just discussing whatever topics come up. There’s usually no real agenda and it’s very laid back, but everyone seems to like it that way. The second half is usually devoted to those who brought something to read or would like feedback on. Last night, three members had a chance to read.
Our first reader last night is working on a sequel to his first book, drawing on his personal experience with dissociative identity disorder. His lead character has an alternate identity that kills people, while his regular self is the normal odd Joe that doesn’t always get the jokes in the room. Speaking of humor, the chapter he read is perfectly timed with just the right mix of it that really made us warm up to it.
The character and the author’s first book was born out of a drunken conversation the author had at a party about William Burroughs, the author’s personal favorite. An eavesdropper thought they were talking about Edgar Rice Burroughs, so the author was inspired to create an Edgar Rice Burroughs type character and put him in a William Burroughs world.
I personally liked the author’s everyday descriptions that really helped me picture the setting. And his pace and humor made his read very entertaining.
Our second reader is one of our memoir writers, whose own mother published children’s books back in the 1950s. His memoir focuses on his youth and his own personal relationship with his mother. He read a vivid scene where he was bullied as a child and his mother brushed it off with almost no concern for her own child’s feelings. It’s an interesting balance of real life terror for a youth versus the imaginary life his mother wrote for the character she based on him. I asked him if he was jealous of that character his mother wrote about, but he said no. Ultimately, he lacked a protector, something every introverted child longs for at that delicate time in life. He has a talent for vivid descriptions that really set the time and place.
Our last reader is from across the great big pond and is working on a teenage fantasy piece. I can’t tell you what it’s about without giving the center focal point of it away. But I can tell you to hear this woman read out loud is like slipping into a hot bath. She reads with such gentle and soft tones that you just melt and get lost in the story. It reminded me of the childhood comfort Saturday story time at the public library once gave me. When her book is published, I will drop everything to read it. I know it will be THAT good. Absolutely haunting!
She told us that some of her story was drawn on memories she had of her own Oma (grandma) who passed away when the author was just ten years old. She was with her at the time, and was even left alone for a bit when her grandma was being carried away in an ambulance. “I remember the tears,” she said. And then she told us about how cooking plays an important part in her book because her Oma was always cooking. She talked about the love that her Oma put into dishes, and how she’s never been able to replicate them exactly the same even with the exact same ingredients. I related to this so well because I’ve tried it myself with my Mom’s dishes.
It was a great night overall. One of my regular sayings as an author is that it’s a very lonely task, so it’s good to be able to come together with like-minded people and share such personal experiences. Sometimes it’s easy to put our life into words when those words come easy. And sometimes it’s difficult, or the words won’t come. But when they do, they help us to reminisce, whether we intended to go there or not.
It takes a lot out of a person to draw from our life experiences and put them into words. Words that we want others to read, but not always judge. Or judge lightly. And to bring those stories to the table, in their early stages of development while we are giving birth to our books, is just as equally difficult.
But that’s the magic and wonder of writers in a room sometimes. It’s the best feeling in the world really.