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Creative writers club - ages 8 to 99.

16 December 2013

Their ages range from 8 to 99 but they all have one thing in common. Their love for creative writing and it's all thanks to the support of Tairua librarian Emma Darragh.

Emma has been taking creative writing classes with the Adult Writers Group for the past three years. This year she also began working with the Residential Care Writers Group, made up of six people from the local rest home and a Young Writers group made up of children from Tairua Primary School.

With funding from Friends of the Library and TCDC Libraries two anthologies have now been produced from both these new groups showcasing a selection of their work from the year.

A special Book Launch for the Residential Care Writers Group is being held on Friday 20th December from 11am-12noon in the Tairua Library meeting room, while the young writers attended an end of year celebration with their parents and received a copy of their anthology.

Emma kindly wrote some words about her work with these groups over the year for us.

Tuesdays At Two by Emma Darragh 

Once a month, on a Tuesday at 2pm, I visit Tairua Residential Care to facilitate a creative writing workshop.  There are six residents sitting around two round tables in the communal lounge.  They are always ready and waiting when I arrive, with red exercise books and pens on the table in front of them. They greet me warmly and are eager to share the homework assignments they have written since our last session.  We begin with a simple warm-up.  I might invite each person to consider and share a sense observation from earlier in the day. 

'Tell us one thing that you either saw, touched, smelt, heard or tasted,' I might say.  Senses and recollections sharpen.  Individual comment on a common theme works like a needle and thread, binding the group. Through listening and sharing, we become trusting and confident enough to share our stories.  And what stories they are! Someone talks about the sound of a blackbird singing outside the window at the exact same time every morning.  Someone else mentions the smell of early morning coffee.  Everyone pauses to reflect on the simple pleasure these sense observations evoke and the way they make us 'feel alive'.

Participants range in age from 81 to 99.  There are five women and one man, and they bring a lifetime of collective experience to the page.  As well as a monthly homework assignment, I set an in-session short writing activity. There is always a time limit, which helps writers get on with it immediately.  I encourage everyone to cast aside their inner 'critic' - the one that is concerned with spelling and grammar - the one that inhibits us most from writing creatively.  There is time for editing later.  Getting story written down is our main concern at this point.  The activities mostly inspire life memories, without the sense of enormity a Life Writing project might cause. 

As the year draws to a close, participants have filled their red exercise books with fourteen different pieces of writing. All the pieces were written individually about a range of topics; eg. A birthday, The year I was born, A person who has meant something to me.  As a collection, they paint a poetic and comprehensive story; not only of each participant's life story, but also of the unique individuals they are.

Participants read their work to the rest of the group immediately upon completing the task. Sometimes there are tears; oftentimes there is laughter. 

It is a privilege to hear their stories.  It is a privilege to witness the powerful process of life-writing unfolding. Memories of childhood, as vivid as yesterday, told simply and powerfully.  There is nothing to prevent the memory from getting captured on the page - no preamble, no judging, just getting the story down.   It is a privilege to have the opportunity to enjoy the company and insights of group members.  I am humbled by their evocative writing and their direct and specific recollections. 

Tuesdays At Two'; an anthology of writing, is the culmination of the first year of Tairua Residential Care Creative Writing Group, published by TCDC, with the support of Friends of The Library.  It is a celebration of the dynamic experience of writing and sharing our stories - at any age and stage of life.  It has been an extremely satisfying and fulfilling experience to be a part of, and I look forward to more writing next year.