Deep Breaths – Blog from Rachel

We’re trying to blog some reflections on our events, so that you can get a feel of what they’re like. This one’s from Rachel, one of the Inky Crew. If you’ve been to one of our events and would like to write a blog, get in touch!

Eight of us tucked into a cosy corner of the front room at Forest last Thursday for a Readeasy session. This is the second that I’ve attended, and as well as being a really enjoyable evening, I’ve found that they have huge impacts on how I think about my writing.

The format is simple: writers submit pieces by email before the event. These can be poems, short stories, excerpts – whatever you want to discuss. The word limit is set to 500, to ensure every piece can be given time. The pieces are printed anonymously, and each one read aloud and discussed for 10 – 15 minutes on the night. Places are limited to the first 8 people who apply, to make sure it’s a manageable evening.

And sometimes there are biscuits.

The brilliance of the evening, for me, is twofold. Firstly, you get to hear a wide range of writing in a very concentrated way, with each member of the group feeding back opinions, praise and constructive criticism. Because the pieces are read anonymously – yes, I confess that I tend to try and play the guessing game for the first few  but after  a while, it really doesn’t matter who wrote what – and because everyone in the group has had to submit a piece, an atmosphere of trust is in place from the start. Both times I’ve been, opinions were expressed with both honesty and sensitivity. The range of voices means that reactions can be very different;  there is so much to be learnt from how other people saw the same text, how someone else could pick out something you hadn’t seen, or reveal a completely new way of looking at it.

Secondly, once the initial shock of hearing your work read in someone else’s voice has passed, it’s invaluable to hear how people react to your work. An adolescence spent in bassoon lessons means I have quite a lot of lung capacity. I take deep breaths and then yammer on in long and involved sentences. What I hadn’t realised was that I also write in long and involved sentences, which prove difficult for someone else to read, either aloud or on the written page. Yes, it’s about finding your own style and voice, but also about how effectively you’re communicating  your meaning.

It’s revealing to see how the themes you thought you’d tucked in so carefully can be completely overlooked, or that a phrase that you had thrown in without thinking becomes a distraction.

And at the end, sometimes, there’s that indescribably lovely feeling of connection when someone understands what you had been trying to say.

As a learning process, both about how you read and how you write, as an opportunity to be exposed to a spectrum of writing styles and ways of reading, and for an intense and wonderful evening…recommended.  Sign up now…spaces go fast…

The next Readeasy will be on Thursday 10 March.

If you would like to reserve a space, send a piece of your writing (under 500 words) to inkyfingersedinburgh@gmail.com. Further details can be found at https://inkyfingersedinburgh.wordpress.com/writers-group/

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