‘Is anyone brave enough to share?’ There is a moment of silence; a shuffle; a mumble; then one brave soul starts reading. He sounds like a regular slam poet. The group chuckle at the funny bits and nod encouragingly. The weekly meeting of the Nottingham Creative Writing Society has begun.
The society was started some eight years ago, as a place for students to practice their creative writing and meet like-minded people. They now have 125 members, with a smaller nucleus of active people. They organize weekly meetings, as well as monthly Open Mic Nights where people share their work. They also produce Jabberwocky, a literary magazine which is published once per term.
For the weekly meetings, people don’t bring their own work, but with pen, paper, and snacks to hand, they complete a series of writing exercises. Because of today’s theme, ‘Christmas’, the society’s president Elizabeth Pope has brought chocolate and mince pies, and has written phrases like ‘warmth’ and ‘bellyful of fire’ on the whiteboard. The six members present are asked to write anything for fifteen minutes, incorporating the phrases. Later on, they get corny Christmas cards and Christmas Crackers to inspire them.
If I had expected the meeting to be group of girls sharing romantic poetry, I was wrong. Today’s team consists of mostly guys, who do not appear prone to such feelings, but in fact seem to share a general touch of negativity. The Christmas theme inspires stories on the corrupted spirit of Christmas, rebellious school children, and Santa Claus being killed with a glitter blower. The ‘bellyful of fire’ sparks the story of a woman who dies of stomach cancer. However, the lack of festive spirit is the only things the stories have in common. The writers come up with very different stories with amazing speed, making up whole families in a matter of minutes.
Not everyone reads their work aloud. As Elizabeth explains, the goal of these nights is mostly to have fun and meet other writers. The society does not organize writing lessons, but there are other activities aimed at helping members towards a career in writing. The society was visited by author Bobbie Darbyshire at the beginning of term, and they plan to invite more writers and publishers later on. Elizabeth admits that there might be some competition among the members, but nothing too vicious.
After the participants have worked on a pass-around story for an hour, Elizabeth ends the meeting as friendly as she began: ‘if you can write an end to the story, do. If not… just write a bit more.’
The Creative Writing Society meets every Thursday from 7.00-9.00 in C4/5 Portland building. The Open Mic Night takes place in in Lee Rosy’s café on the first Thursday of the month.