at the Carleton Tavern was intense, humorous, compelling & intimate. five members of my fiction writing group (as yet unnamed) united last night & read our work from Departures, a chapbook recently published by above/ground press. the audience was small, but attentive, including supportive friends & loved ones. two of our members were unable to attend the reading due to previous commitments: Emily Falvey & Wes Smiderle. while i enjoyed the event, i missed Emily & Wes & hope we have another reading at some point in which they can participate.
it was heartening to hear the group’s various styles of writing out loud last night: from my potty mouthed smut in “Mind If I Sit?” to Spencer Gordon’s profound & insightful observations about humanity in “Silence So Large and Complete,” Kate Heartfield’s humour in “152,” rob mclennan’s lyricism from an excerpt of “Don Quixote,” a novel in progress, & Steve’s passionate realism in “Beyond Johnstown, or the End of the Line.”
i’m not that great in groups, i don’t really consider myself to be a joiner. a lot of writers don’t workshop their fiction, worrying about the danger of style homogeneity perhaps. what this group demonstrates to me is that writers can keep their different styles, but the work can become stronger with the help of others & the solidarity of being part of a cohesive group can help one’s writing & spirit about something that is mostly a disheartening & unrewarding practice that those who write have forced upon them due to some kind of lifetime twitch or tick we have no control over.
last night i was reminded why i want to be part of this fiction writing group. our voices are very different, but yes, we have helped each other. sometimes in small ways, like fixing dumb typos, sometimes in larger ways like giving me a good title for my story (thanks, Spencer!) but mostly for me anyways in the feeling that we are not alone. since i am trying to learn how to write compelling & articulate sex positive smut that openly celebrates sex & sexuality, i do tend to feel like an outsider in all things literary, but this group has welcomed me & is always helping me to push my limits, offering great advice which results in stronger pieces of writing. i’m learning a lot with this group both from having them review my writing & also by being involved in the editing process of their work.
i read a great interview with the members of the Newfoundland writers’ group Burning Rock(New Quarterly, No 91 2004). it was an inspiring piece. the group has been together since the 80s, starting out of a creative writing course & then continuing with boozy potlucks & relentless advice.
their longevity & discipline inspire me & i hope our group lasts as long & results in such articulate & strong writing. we’ve had people come & go: the founder, Tina-Frances Trineer moved out to Wakefield about 5 months into the group. Josh Massey was involved for only two meetings. Kate, rob & I have been involved since the beginning, December, 2006, except that rob hasn’t participated for a year due to his writer in residence gig at U of Alberta. Emily, Wes, Steve & Spencer joined & now Spencer is leaving to do a Creative Writing Masters at U of T while Lee Anne Boudreau joins the group in August. so we haven’t had a lot of stability yet & maybe we never will. Ottawa’s like that, a kind of way station, sometimes it feels like people stop here en route to better things. i hope that our fiction group helps in that journey.
as Kate said last night when discussing the chapbook’s transportation theme, Ottawans are always trying to find ways out of the city, or back in. i’d like to think of our fiction group as a way in to the city. i’d like to think that the Departures chapbook is a way to understand the city a bit, at least a handful of its residents, with our individual preoccupations & obsessions as communicated by our stories a bit.
i love Ottawa & don’t plan on leaving it, will probably breathe my last breath here. for those of us committed to the city, the experience is one constant goodbye. why do i feel like this is part of the strength of our writing group? i plan on attending a few launch parties in various cities for the great writers in the group and maybe a few of these launches will actually be held in Ottawa.
thanks to rob for organizing the reading & the Carleton Tavern with its cozy rec room like atmosphere. how many readings come with their own private bar? & thanks to those of you who made it out to the reading. during the hazy languid evenings of summer, this is a heroic act. oh yes..and goodbye, Spencer (at least for now). here's a pic of the young gent.