And so it transpired, in the mire and darkness of editing hell, I found the perfect way to procrastinate and concentrate on something (anything) other than what I was supposed to be doing. I started a writing group!
In January 2011, I set up The Singapore Writers Group on www.meetup.com//thesingaporewritersgroup and sat back and wondered if anyone would join. They did. Now, nearly four hundred of them have. Four hundred!
Before the first meeting, I had no idea why I’d done it, what the group was about or (most importantly at that stage) where we would meet. As more and more people began RSVP’ing, and after several panicked rekkies around in town, I found a cool little café in Duxton Hill called The Pigeon Hole. Quite a few people turned up. A lot of them never came back. There was a round robin of introductions (we still do this) and then we kind of sat looking at each other. I ate my mac and cheese and drank my wine and thought, this is nice! Why the hell have I done this?!
Nearly two years later and we have a core group of people who come along once a month. We take it turns to host. We drink wine and eat those awesome tiny macaroons that someone will invariably bring. And we take in turns to read aloud the stuff we’ve been working on. We’ve been doing it for so long now that we know the projects the others are working on. I genuinely look forward to hearing the next chapter of a novel or final draft of a short story. We’ve got authors of short stories, poems, plays, novels – anything really. And on the whole, the standard is excellent. I am absolutely convinced that it is only a matter of time before we have the first Singapore Writers Group publication (although we already have a number of published authors coming along…).
We’ve also had contact from the Singaporean Arts Council, wanting to pick our brains on certain topics; heard a talk from Joanna Penn of www.thecreativepenn via Skype on self-publishing and marketing; and are about to host novelist Andrew Fiu at a talk in December.
Some people criticise writing groups. Writing is a solitary activity they say. What can other people contribute to your own worlds, your own style or sense of creative purpose? Well, a great deal, I’d answer. First, it really, really, helps to read things out loud. And personally I find doing this on my own in the house too much like the first step towards madness….Also, the things that are given as comments can be extremely helpful. You can get too close to a project, stuck in a particular plotline, write something out of character. It helps to get another perspective, someone who’s not so involved in the project as you. And anyway, you can always disregard all of the criticism if you want. And there’d still be wine to drink and macaroons to eat.
Plus, the group is a great hub for knowledge about things like courses (online and here in Singapore) and books. We have a Facebook page (www.facebook.com//thesingaporewritersgroup) and a Twitter account (@teawithconnie). In the main though, I’ve made some really good friends through it. Ones who aren’t necessarily expat mums with small children. I LOVE expat mums with small children, don’t get me wrong. But it’s great to have some friends outside of that – where we can talk about other things.
So, in my view, writers’ groups are GOOD THINGS. And if you live in Singapore and want to come along to ours, please do!
Next time - a blog from the Ubud Literary Festival in Bali, Indonesia where I shall be visiting and listening to the wisdom of Sebastian Faulks, Lionel Shriver and having a jolly old knees up for my birthday en famille and with some members of the SWG at Naughty Nuri’s Ribshack!