I signed up for my first writing class about 10 years ago. The session began with a writing exercise lasting around 10-15 minutes followed by each of us reading their work out if they chose. There was no compunction but most did, which enabled the tutor to give some brief feedback. I recall that I was about third to read my humble effort on my first session. This was the first time I'd ever read my writing to anyone other than my daughter. Thank goodness I was third because by the time we had reached halfway through the class I realized that I was up against some seriously good writers. (I found my piece not long ago and was gratified to see that my writing has improved since then!)
The second half of the class allowed people to read from their works in progress for fuller feedback from the tutor and members of the class. The focus was always positive and supportive but weak writing was criticized with suggestions to improve it. I found it helped my writing to develop and that giving thoughtful criticism was also beneficial for one's own writing.
Members of the class were working on poems, short stories and novels. I loved hearing Barbara's fictionalized memoirs, funny, wry but also heart-breaking. Barbara had visual impairment so she often asked me to read these pieces out. It was an honour to do so. Jane was busy working on a novel in which the indomitable Mrs Maybury and her hapless friend got into all sorts of scrapes. Joyce was writing a novel set in 1976 where she evoked that unforgettable summer with small details - do you recall Aqua Manda? If not, you weren't a teenager in 1976! (Actually it has been revived: Aqua Manda.) Another writer, Rae, a teacher, wrote edgy stories with a dark side including those for young adults.
After 3 years I left the class to move on to setting up Greenacre Writers with Rosie Canning and sadly lost touch with some of that first group - but recently I reconnected with Rae Stoltenkamp, who wrote those edgy pieces. Rae is a passionate supporter of libraries in general and Herne Hill's Carnegie Library in particular. A former English teacher she remains actively involved in helping people to gain literacy skills. In among her various projects Rae has recently published her novel Six Dead Men. She had already published books for younger readers but this was her first novel for adults. Rae talks about her journey toward independent publication on her blog here. To learn more about Rae and those Six Dead Men read her interview with Chantelle Atkins.
Follow Rae on Twitter @Raedenwrites
It's very easy to think when someone has a writing success that they're lucky. But we all know the work that goes in to those successes - that there will have been graft, doubts, tears, more graft plus persistence and determination. And probably somewhere along the line, cake and wine.
Well done Rae. Here's to your writing success. Wine and cake anyone?