I ventured out in the cold on the last Thursday in January to join a writer’s group I saw on Facebook. The posting read: WORD CRAFTERS is an evolving group of writers who welcome all levels of craftsmanship with an emphasis on inspiring and encouraging each other through good listening skills, positive feedback and creative energy.
Writing is a lonely field, and this looked like a great opportunity to connect with others who are tortured by words as I am. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it all sounded positive, so I trusted the universe and went to the meeting.
The venue for the group was a hip place known as “Rest, Stop and Rejuvenate”, known for its gatherings of performing artists from many fields, mostly musicians. I was greeted by Linda who operated the events in the space. She offered me a welcome cup of hot tea and some cookies. We were meeting in a living room-like environment with a small kitchen area.
I found a seat in a comfortable chair set in a circle. The facilitator was a young woman. There were 2 men who had arrived before I did at the start time of 7:30. We informally introduced ourselves.
The young woman started the meeting a little past 7:30 as a few others drifted in late. We started with formal introductions one at a time around the small circle. She said the discussion topic to start the meeting was “genres” of writing, and we would follow the discussion with a chance for each of us to read something we had written out loud to the group.
As we began the discussion topic, there were 4 members in attendance including me. We each talked about what type of writing we like to write. I said I write personal true stories and some family history. I was not prepared to read out loud. I listened to the others during the discussion and decided on a story from my childhood about eating dinners at my Italian grandparents house. I chose this story because it was the correct length (we were allotted about 5 minutes), and I knew it wouldn’t be too personally revealing yet would show some creative ability. I decided at this meeting that writers and artists in general are a brave group.
I think it takes real courage to put ourselves out there without a sense of how our work will be received. At Word Crafters, feedback was generally supportive and positive. Some members laughed out loud at appropriate junctures when I read my story. I was keenly aware of not being well rehearsed, but powered through 5 minutes of reading my work. I enjoyed hearing what other brave souls wrote since there were a few genres presented that I was not well acquainted with such as science fantasy writing.
A tall, burly handsome man came in at about 8:15, well past the start time. He seemed unorganized, not sure if he had something to share. He was dressed in a suit which gave me the impression that he was a “corporate type”, and I judged him as not being creative. He was shuffling through stacks of paper as the other attendees read their work. After four others had read their pieces, he came up with something short to share. If his work didn’t strongly resonate with me, I still gave him credit for bravely presenting something.
I found the most enjoyment in hearing the young facilitator’s reading of her poetry. She is also a painter and has been long suffering with her creativity. As she has been running Word Crafters for about three years, it seemed that the other attendees were familiar with her work and history. I cobbled her story together on pure conjecture.
At the end of the meeting, I was amused by the way I had mentally crafted stories about each of the attendees based on their appearance. I came away with a net positive feeling about the group. I told myself to come back in 2 weeks for the next meeting.
I went for my second meeting two weeks later. It was colder now, in February, with patches of snow and ice on paved surfaces. I generally avoid going out in these conditions, but I was motivated by becoming part of this group I had found. The meeting began shortly after the scheduled start time of 7:30 with 2 men I’d met last time in attendance and me.
The discussion topic for the week was “reading your own work”. When do you read your work? Do you ever read it out loud? Why? What happens when you do? I volunteered that I read my work out loud to one friend who enjoys it very much, and I sometimes find errors through reading aloud that I miss when I read to myself. A discussion of about 10 minutes followed with the other members.
The young facilitator then told us that the writing theme for the month of February was “Gain, Loss and Balance”, and if anyone wanted to read their work to the group, they would have a chance following the discussion.
Again, I was not prepared or rehearsed to read anything, but was sure I could find an appropriate story from my body of work. I settled on What is it Like to be a Mermaid With Legs?, one of the first essays I published on Medium when I first joined in September, 2017. It covered all three topics in one way or another as it was a discussion about being disabled.
I was caught off guard by my own writing when I came to the part of the story that very briefly mentioned my sex life. Bravery. We were all adults and it was a brief, innocent comment that was just a part of the story. Not a big deal. The group liked the essay, and one man shared his own experience about being in a wheelchair for a brief period once.
The big, burly handsome guy came in late again, looking disorganized. He was dressed more casually. He shuffled his papers again seeming to be confused about whether he was prepared. In a few minutes, he had found two poems to read. I was surprised to hear he was a poet because I had been rather judgmental about him at the last meeting. I became keenly interested in listening to what he was going to read.
He started by saying his first selection had been written on a bar napkin. Gradually, my impression was shifting. I thought writing poetry in a bar on a napkin was cool. The poem revealed a vulnerability about his hesitating to hit on a woman he found especially attractive when she asked him if he had a lighter. He repeated “Do you have a lighter?” over and over. That was the title of his poem.
His next selection was about vanilla perfume and how attracted he is to that scent. It was lyrical throughout, with a slightly hard hitting ending where he pointedly “beds” the woman wearing the perfume. The comments which followed from the group were very positive with everyone in agreement about the ending shaking the beautiful flow of his words up to that point.
I sat listening and finding this man more and more sensitive and creative than originally judged. I noticed he was not wearing a ring. My next thought was “dammit, have I turned this venture upside down from something I was doing to better myself into a man hunt?”
The next meeting is scheduled for February 22nd. I’m still not sure if I will rehearse something to read, write something new, or stick with the extemporaneous method of showing up and making a selection on the fly.