15 February 2017 - 6:10 pm

Revamping the CWG

Like this, but with more talking!
(Picture via Pexels)

I’ve been running my Creative Writing Group for 8 years now, here in the lovely Brisbane. It’s going great: I get a good turnout every month, and we have lively discussions about different aspects of writing, we learn things, and we have fun with exercises.

For the last few years, we’ve been meeting in a room in one of Brisbane’s big, friendly libraries. When it came to setting up the meetings for this year, I dropped the ball and sent the booking form in to our usual venue later than usual. As a result, we missed the initial round of allocations and lost our usual slot. It was my own fault, which I freely tell anyone who starts getting angry at the library for not being able to accommodate us.

I talked with the lovely people at the library to see if we could work out a different time slot to meet in, but the best they had available was Thursday evenings. That’s tricky for a lot of the group, and not great for me, so I started to think about alternatives.

Just across the river from where we usually meet is the State Library of Queensland. They have a heap of space and rooms, and I was hopeful that we could find a new home there. Sadly, it was not to be: their free meeting rooms can only be booked three months in advance, which means I can’t get a regular time slot, and the rest of their rooms are paid for. I’m dedicated to keeping the group free, so having to shell out a hefty fee for a meeting room isn’t an option.

That left me looking for other options. Rather than being stressed or upset about it, I’ve felt really positive about the process. Truth be told, I’m relishing the chance to make a change: we’ve been meeting at the same place at roughly the same time for years, and while consistency is easy and comfortable, it was also starting to get a little stale. It felt like time to shake things up.

Through the process of considering different venues and trying to find something that would suit us (that was also free and available at the right sort of time for us), I realised that meeting rooms were really turning me off. While they’re handy, in that they give us a comfortable, private room to talk about whatever we want (and the group is notorious for wandering into touchy subjects, which I encourage because artists should talk about the tricky stuff), the nature of many of these meeting rooms is that they’re enclosed and insular.

Brisbane is a gorgeous city. There are many beautiful places to visit, and it seems like such a shame to talk about art while shut away in a room. So, I decided to try something different this year, to shake the group up and see what works: moving the meeting to a weekend daytime time slot (rather than our previous Friday evenings), and picking a different venue each month.

Finding someplace that a dozen people can sit and chat for a couple of hours is a challenge, especially when the needs for suitable shade and public transport access are added in. I have a few ideas for venues, most of them outdoors (or close to outdoors).

I don’t have to do this entirely on my own, which is a great thing. I did a survey of my usual attendees, to make sure I’m going for suitable times and locations (there’s no point me setting up the meetings if no-one is able to come!). And I’ve had a heap of offers of help, which I’m incredibly grateful for.

I’m looking forward to finding us suitable meeting places and seeing how they impact our discussions. It means I’ll have to do some scouting, which is tricky because I’m trying to keep it as central as possible so everyone can get to it, but that’s a long trip for me and parking is a pain near the centre of the city. (There are some gorgeous locations out near the coast where I live, but they’re too far for most people to travel to.) The time and energy to scout are going to be tricky to find, but I’ll work that out.

Uncertainty can be really tricky for me to handle – I have a tendency to get stressed about it – but I’m learning how to handle it (it’s a process). In this case, I’m comforting myself with the knowledge that it’s temporary. I’ve got a bad-weather/emergency backup venue in mind, in case of rain or more intense heat. If the whole roving experiment doesn’t work out, I can always find a meeting room to book that won’t charge us anything (I know of an option or two). And it’s only for this year; next year, we can always book in to the library again and return to our previous pattern.

So, I’m doing a bit of an experiment, but I’m looking forward to it. Here’s hoping that our roving meetings inspire us and our writing! I’m getting a lot of requests to hold a meeting in a cemetery, so what’s the worst that could happen, right?

Our first foray is this weekend, out to a familiar venue because it’s where we held last year’s KoP and TGIO for NaNoWriMo. I have a sneaky plan in mind.

Wish me luck!

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One comment

  1. Kunama says:

    Good luck!

    February 18th, 2017 at 5:14 pm