The Return of the Writing Group

I wanted a very Halloweenesque title but this is totally misleading, the title should really be “return to”. I’m so happy to report here that I finally returned to my “official” writing group after nearly 1 ½ year.

It’s almost surrealistic how little it changed while I was away. It is held at the famous bookshop “Shakespeare and Co.” close to the river Seine and Notre Dame, and the meeting room is a very atmospheric library with rough benches, a frayed carpet and musty books that aren’t for sale: actually a perfect setting for a gothic short story! The group leader is still the same, bedraggled, pale and thin, hurried-but-always-ready-for-a-pint-afterwards, limerick-loving and with such a great theatrical voice for epic poems. And even though most of the group are American artsy students and au-pairs (a therefore transient and tortured – if not navel-gazing – little troop), I recognized a few members, the lyrical middle-aged female poet with a large golden mane and long, a bit spidery limbs, and Robert, a very nice middle-aged guy who shares his time between France and the US and who’s always ready to read aloud and comment but rarely brings his own pieces.

I stopped going, oh I don’t remember the exact last session I joined, but I was already very pregnant by then, and sitting there in the crowded little room (no toilet) wasn’t fun anymore. Everybody there suddenly seemed… I don’t know, so young, unattached, egocentric, rootless. The bookshop seemed very far from our home, the metro journey unbearably long and stuffy, and the baby had somehow sucked all my inspiration. I was dazed, but not in a creative way. And after that last session, well, I never found the time and energy on Saturday afternoons anymore. Not to mention that blog aside, I wrote nearly nothing, no fiction to speak of. Even less to consider presenting in front of 20 strangers.

But this month I found a good friend through Facebook, someone I met back when we were in a writing group together on the other side of the world, and she reminded me of the fun of this all. Mr. Smithereens kindly agreed to entertain our toddler during the meeting this weekend. I was elated, but it felt strange, it felt… bloody long (2 hours!! How will Baby S survive?? While I routinely let him with the nanny all day long…) and to say nothing of the guilt. But at the end of the session my brain was full of words and ideas, new ones, old ones. I had heard funny theater scenes, obscure poems, a page of a thriller. And nobody said it was worthless and futile. It’s worth it. Definitely. I’ll go again.

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5 thoughts on “The Return of the Writing Group

  1. Oh yay! Glad your return to the group ended up being worth it. And I must say, at such a location to be envied by those of us who have never been to Paris and fantasize about what Shakespeare & Co must be like.

  2. I am glad you went back! You are a natural writer and I think it is good for writers to connect with one another. I don’t have a child but I am guessing here that daddy/baby time is quality and so you should feel no guilt!

  3. Oh, this group sounds like it could be great. Glad that you went back. What an intriguing place to have a book group, though I’m not at all surprised that it attracts an electic expat group. Perhaps you’ll share some of what you share with the group here too. Yes? Don’t feel guilty about leaving Baby S with Mr S — you need time for yourself too. The boys will be fine without you for a few hours — they’ll have fun together — so in the long run, all will benefit.

  4. I’m so glad you went back and had a good experience! It’s great when a group like that can be inspirational and give you energy to do more of your own writing. I suspect that’s just as much of a benefit as any feedback you get on your writing. What a great atmosphere for a writing group to meet in!

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