CHAPTER 3 (Part 1)
We left Stephanie, Julian, John and June at the abortive inaugral meeting of the newly separated Writers’ Group, about to close the meeting until Stephanie mentined that they hadn’t actually read anything of their writing yet.
The others stared at Stephanie for a second. Reading their work! That was the reason for their existence as a writers’ group, but really there had been so many distractions it was hardly surprising the point of their meeting had slipped past them.
‘Oh of course! Sorry. I was so caught up in the business stuff I forgot that.’ June said. ‘Would you like to start then Stephanie?’ She became flustered again, ‘I mean if you’d like. I mean I’m not chair am I so…’
‘That’s fine June. We can’t all read at once, we need someone to sort us out.’ Stephanie said. I’m very happy to start if that’s okay with everyone else?’ The two men nodded their agreement and Stephanie opened her notebook and explained she was going to continue her story about waking from a dream to discover that the events in it were happening in reality. Possibly. Or it may a dream in a dream. She started reading.
The others listened and all made notes. She finished and looked up, waiting for thoughts, criticisms, praise, offers of advice.
Ashby was never short of an opinion.
‘I like that. But I can’t always tell which bit is the real dream and which bit is her thinking about the dream and which bit is the dream coming true.’
‘That’s sort of the point John.’ Stephanie said.
‘Oh. Fair enough then. Success.’
‘Did you think it was too confusing though? Should I make it more obvious somehow? Will the reader get too teed off to bother working it out?’
‘Maybe you could make it a bit clearer by font or something? June offered.
‘I think you should leave it for now. Carry on a bit longer until you get to some sort of resolution and see how it feels then. The problem with judging little bits at a time is you can’t get a feel for the arc of the plot. It may hold together and become blindingly obvious or it may just be problematic. At the moment it seems okay to me but it needs some way of helping the reader sometime soon.’ Straker suggested.
‘So you were lost?’
‘No. I’m just wondering how long you can keep the average reader in a holding pattern.’
‘I thought you weren’t supposed to underestimate your readers?’ Ashby said. ‘Let them work things out?’
‘You were the one who said it was confusing.’ Straker said.
‘Aye, but it’s like you said, it’s difficult from a short piece. Now I know it’s supposed to be for the reader to work out what’s real or not, it’s like a psychological fake news thing isn’t it? It’s really good.’
And so it went on, with each of them reading a piece and then discussing whether it worked or not for them and why and what might be done or not to improve the piece. With no readers section about, matter proceeded more swiftly. No one was comparing a piece with Magic Realism and then spending fifteen minutes debating whose work constituted Magic Realism and what Magic Realism actually was. They had had that discussion some months ago until someone quoted Leal and noted that if you could explain it, it wasn’t Magic Realism. Which brought a sudden silence and then a heated discussion about logical dead ends and in Ashby’s case a declaration some people were too far up their own behind’s for their own good. Straker had a definite sense that this was the incident which had prompted the split between those interested in deep reading and critique of modern trends in literature, and those who wanted to write stories.
Straker finished reading his offering as the last piece of the evening. He was rather embarrassed about as it had been a rather mundane piece of thinly veiled autobiography dressed up in over bright clothing. It was received well, however and it made him wonder what people looked for in writing. Some of what he considered his more interesting works had received as many thoughts on how to change things as praise. Here he offered a straight piece of simple recounting of fact in thin disguise and it was praised without demur. He shouldn’t complain he supposed.
‘I think that wraps it up then.’ June said. ‘When’s the next meeting?’
‘It will be in two weeks, here in the morning.’ Stephanie said.
‘The library half day?’ June said.
‘Yes. I suppose we need to sort out a more frequent schedule as we’ve split the booking with the readers.’ Stephanie said.
‘Do you think they’ll keep meeting here?’ Ashby asked. ‘They’re a feckless lot.’
‘Well it’s what we agreed. So until they change their minds, we’ll need to think of something else if we want to carry one with weekly meetings.’ June said.
‘Why don’t we wait until a fortnight’s time and when, if, we sort out our aim and officers, we can talk about when and where we will meet after we exist?’ Straker said.
‘Good idea.’ Ashby said.
‘Suits me.’ Stephanie agreed.
‘In two weeks time then.’ June said and with that she blew her whistle softly and went a bright shade of pink.
(To be continued)