Monthly Archives: March 2016

a writer’s gang

I’m waiting to hear back from my mother and sister. I’m not tapping my feet about this (tap, tap, tap), because they have lives and I know that (tap, tap). I sent them my latest story a couple of days ago, and I’m keen to hear their thoughts. What worked and what didn’t. What they’d prefer gone, what they felt was missing. I trust them. They are both astute readers.

As I checked my email repeatedly today, it occurred to me how many people help with my writing.  These people are integral to me producing halfway decent stories. Writing teachers have given of their time and wisdom, some well beyond the course or workshop. My mother and sister often look at my work. Two of my childhood friends, and another writing friend provide feedback. Two friends in Texas, USA often read my stories. My husband is great at giving me title ideas when I’m stuck. And lastly, but so importantly, my writing group critiques most of my pieces – kindly, gently and thoroughly, helping me improve every story I submit. They are brilliant.

Without these generous people, I wouldn’t be able to make my stories work. Before the gift of their different perspectives, my work is muddy and lacks resonance. Other people get me there, every time. And I think that must be true of most writers. We think we create our stories, and it’s true we put the initial words on paper, but many others make suggestions, discuss plots, find weak points, encourage us, or even just bring us the odd cup of tea. We get the job done with the help of our gang, and hopefully we in turn become part of the support crew for other writers we know.

If you happen to be a writer doing it solo, I can recommend doing a writing course (preferably in person – just my opinion though, since I’ve heard of online writing groups that seem to work), since that’s how I met my fantastic writing group. And if you have a family member or a friend you trust, just ask. See if they’re happy to read your pieces from time to time (just try not to be impatient like me!). You can always rotate who you ask, to avoid dumping too much on the one person.

Although it’s been hard to ask for help, I’ve found that most people want to lend a hand to a struggling writer. Most people enjoy being consulted, and most people have kind spirits.

We all need each other when it comes to writing. Or perhaps I should just say we all need each other.  Writers or not.

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Stories and a poem

I’ve been reading a lot of short stories lately, soaking them in. Helen Simpson, Cate Kennedy, Angela Carter. Christos Tsolkas, George Saunders. Flannery O’Connor, Alice Munro and Lorrie Moore. Joyce Carol Oates and Raymond Carver. Sometimes I am almost breathless at the end of a piece, and I have to get up and move and shake myself. These writers blow my mind.

I’ve also been reading a bit of poetry, in a small volume I bought myself a couple of years ago, Penguin’s Poems for Life. And although I’ve read this particular poem before, and no doubt you’ve seen it too, when I read it today I had that breathless feeling again. It’s by Raymond Carver, written when he knew he was dying of lung cancer.

***

 

Late Fragment

And did you get what

you wanted from this life, even so?

I did.

And what did you want?

To call myself beloved, to feel myself

beloved on the earth.

 

***

 

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