I started a creative writing class last Monday that just happened to be in a room in my local pub (handy but dangerous!). Another room in the pub was hosting the local chess club on the same night but more about that later.
I arrived early and saw the hand written sign on the room for the writing class with big and bold lettering (important fact). I went in and there was my teacher, a 50-something woman called Ardella, with bright red lipstick and peroxide blond hair. Fabulous! She is a poet and published author, hilarious and quite brilliant (I heard her perform at a revue over Christmas). The are 3 other girls (we are women but Ardella calls us girls and so i will stick with that!) in my class and we all seemed to be similar in age, none of them wore wedding rings (something I notice these days) and it turned out - as we gossiped later in the evening - none of them had children either. Yay! My fellow barren girls! They were, however, very successful and I felt slightly intimidated when I heard what they did for a living. One said in a blasé tone "Oh, I work for Condé Nast". I immediately shouted out excitedly... "Blimey, oooh, which publication?" She was only one of the editors at Vogue! Holy crap! The next girl was a TV producer and the last one, a published children's book illustrator of 28 books. Yes! 28 books. What the hell were they all doing in this class?? As we found out over the next 3 hours no matter how happy you are in your job, there is usually another passion which you dream about. For all of us, there was something about writing that we loved and wanted to see if we could do it to the next level.
Our first exercise was to write a 100 word introduction to ourselves, in the third person, including 20 facts... a sort of book jacket blurb if we were to ever be published... sigh. This sounds easy but to actually get it down to so few words is incredibly difficult. Here was mine:
Growing up in Hampshire, Juliet spent her youth in wellies and pubs until her love of art took her from Salisbury Art College to RISD Design School in America. After a life-changing road trip, she began her Graphics career in San Diego and then Boston, where she also began writing and performing. In 1996, after eight years abroad, Juliet returned to London to study drama but soon set up her own design business, realising those skills far outweighed her acting abilities! She currently lives in Balham, is passionate about films, books and theatre and uses her spare time to cook, write and travel.
Many of you might be shouting at the screen, wondering how I could have left out certain things or added others but to get my life into a pitiful 100 words took me 4 hours! Agony! Oh and I had to put RISD Design School because no one over here knows that RISD is the acronym for Rhode Island School of Design!!
During the evening we had several encounters with people randomly coming into our room:
• Bearded chess players who looked into the room, saw 5 blondes and almost wet themselves on the spot, thinking maybe we were the chess club. Chess players may be bright but they can't read a huge sign on the door saying "Creative Writing".
Neither could the
• Friendly drunken locals, falling through the swing doors with lopsided grins saying "Just ignore me, I'm not here" as they "Ssssshhhhed" themselves loudly and tried to noisily locate discarded coats or glasses from earlier in the evening.
• Friendly non-drunk locals who thought it was ok to just poke their heads through the doors to see what we were up to and then begin asking questions. Very nice of them but quite distracting.
The children's book illustrator found it all very entertaining and began rating all the men out of ten as they came in. A very sozzled local at the end of the night had no idea why we all fell about laughing as he wobbled through the door and she shouted "nil points". Poor bugger!
Ardella picked up on our bad habits immediately. Mine was romanticising writing, thinking that my novel will be written in a beautiful wooden shack on a beach in the Caribbean!! "No" she shouted "You have to be able to write ANYWHERE at ANY TIME! So she challenged me to write the next morning for my entire journey to work, on the commuter tube! That I did. I managed to get a seat and began staring into space and scribbling. Immediately, the girl next to me, who had Downs syndrome, shouted questions at me:
"Are you a writer?"
Me quietly, "Um, no, just writing for a class"
"What's it about?"
Me, quieter, "I don't know yet"
"How are you writing it if you don't know what it's about?"
And so it continued. Most distracting. My idea of the Caribbean wasn't such nonsense after all. After she left the tube I was then interrogated buy a younger girl but pretty much along the same lines. It did get me outside my comfort zone though and that felt good.
I have now written a short story of nearly 1000 words but I will only bore you with it on request!