Thursday, 22 January 2015

The company of writers

I love being in the company of writers. Whether they're famous novelists, performance poets, young writers or total beginners, I simply love being around people who write. I love them because so often they're kind-hearted people with generous spirits and because they're often people who like to look below the surface or beyond the horizon of our day to day lives. And I love them because, in spite of all the cliches of tortured poets (and let's face it, many of us have our tortured sides) writers are grown-ups (or children!) who remember how to play - with words and ideas and with each other.

Yesterday I walked into a meeting between my colleagues Joe Kriss and Matt Black who were talking about a funding bid (yawn). I asked if I should leave them to it and Matt said he was leaving and that I had created a neat segue between meetings. Cue a discussion about the wonder and origin of the word segue and it's relationship with the segway. There was banter, laughter, hugs and even mime as I tried to explain the art of segwaying which, if you're interested, looks like this and nothing like the action I was demonstrating. I guess, laughing about words isn't everybody's cup of tea but my cup runneth over when I'm with people who love words like I do.

Often, when people ask where I'm happiest, this is what I think of. I think of all of the writing groups I've been part of and the groups that I've run. I think of writing retreats and courses and all of the people who have shared their words and their souls in those precious moments together. The people in those rooms feel like people who are my friends for life even if so many of them live far and wide and the only access I have to their faces and words is via my Facebook newsfeed. They are people with whom I have shared something special.

The poet and novelist, Sarah Salway, is one such person. I met Sarah on NAWE's Coaching for Writers course. Her recent blog on this theme resonated so strongly with me and I loved the line from Yasmin Khan Mughai's poem about her group in which writers share confidences like this is our last night alive. That's exactly how it feels in a writing group sometimes. Like everything mundane has been stripped away and we are looking into the very heart of what it means to be human. And it is a heart that is shared by everyone in the room.

Sarah's blog reminded me how much I was missing being part of and running a writing group. Since becoming a single parent, I find it hard to get out in the evening and I rarely get to run the Writing Yorkshire young writers' groups because 5-7pm is what's known as the witching hour in households with small children and it's not a convenient time to be out. So, it prompted me to set up a new group which will be in the daytime on a Wednesday, when I can get out and share my skills and my words with others. I've called it Get Writing and I hope it will inspire others and myself to do just that. Please get in touch if you'd like to come along and share in the magic. It also prompted me to plan a Writing Yorkshire masterclass on running writing workshops and to set up the first Writing Yorkshire retreat. Writing inspires people and being amongst writers makes me happy.

Of course, I'm also happy in the arms of someone I love and I'm happy when I look into the beautiful faces of my children or when I gaze at a gorgeous view of the sea. But, truly, many of the happiest times of my life have been when I'm in room full of writers. On a writing retreat at Ty Newydd last year, we were asked to write about why we write and I wrote these words:

I write because what else is there but the flow of ink on paper?
Because, sitting here with this pen in my hand,
hearing the pens of neighbours pouring forth, I feel at home.

I feel whole. I feel this is where I belong.

With writers is where I belong and I am so lucky that I spend so much of my time in their company. Thank you to all of the writers I know who have inspired me and shared themselves and their words with me.