Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Sheppey Writing Workshop: A Roof Over Their Heads

It was a chance flick through a local newspaper that did it. And it wasn't even me doing the flicking. The Sheerness Times Guardian had dropped through the letterbox earlier in the day and I, too busy with work and baby duties, put it on top of my husband's pile of post and forgot about it.

I forgot about it until that evening when my husband burst into the office where I was working and pointed excitedly to an article featuring a local man named Geof Reed and his idea to bring together writers in the community to create a project called 'A Roof Over Their Heads'.

"This is just what you're looking for," he said. I scanned the article, still thinking about the assessment I was writing for work at the time. Halfway thought I forgot the assessment and re-read the article, slowly, trying to take it in, hoping I was reading it right. The idea was to research the area, the Isle of Sheppey, and write about the people who had lived where we're living now, or who might live where we're living in the future.

I read it again.

I wanted to join a writing group. I wanted to learn more about where I live. I wanted to be involved in something interesting and exciting. I wanted to meet other people who understood the love of putting pen to paper, or fingers to a keyboard...

Would this group satisfy all of that? Would it be too much of a gamble for safe little old me?

I wondered for a bit, thought for a bit, mulled it over for a bit. And usually, being the sort of person who likes their routines despite yearning for a change, I would have left it at that. Instead I did a very daring thing, and sent Geof an email. He replied. I was in.

Some weeks later and it was the day of the first meeting. I had a time, I had a meeting place, I had looked on the satellite map to find out where to park (take the second right after the chemist's) and I was off. Nervous and desperate to fit in.

Desperate for this to go well.

There were eight of us in total, including Geof. And I think, although I was too sweaty-palmed to say anything, that we were all a little unsure where the day would end. What ideas might be brought out into the open, who wanted what and what was expected of us...

Introductions were first. Of course. No one likes standing up in front of strangers and... But wait, hang on. It wasn't that bad. The people around the table, the people in the room with me, had similar goals, had similar hobbies, did similar things to me. There were poets, non-fiction writers, short story authors, playwrights, Geof himself writes performance pieces, and all of them, no matter what genre or particular craft they specialise in, love to write. As I am sitting in my study writing this post, I imagine that they, or at least some of them, are sitting wherever they like to write and pouring words on to a page.

I'm sure they are.

And so, actually, it was all right.

The time went in a blur of excitement for me; I could feel it surging up and my mind was racing through all the possibilities open to us. Geof read some of his work, offered advice about plotting, where to get ideas from, showed us how he works (a massive sheet of paper taped to a wall with names and dates and scraps of information scribbled on it), we chatted about what we thought we might write about, what we wanted to get out of this.

And I knew this was exactly what I had been looking for. Geof had even arranged for us to go to Sheerness Library to learn about the local archives and history that they housed there; Florence the librarian and expert on all things Sheppey talked us through the microfilm machine (microfilm! I can't wait to use it! Will I really need to take sea sickness tablets like they do in the films?) and the censuses, the photos and the maps, the books and the articles relating to the Isle of Sheppey.

There's so much I don't know.

There's so much I want to find out.

The next meeting is on 21st September, and I can't wait - this is going to be fun!

But the strange thing is, we don't buy the local paper.

So I've no idea where we received it that day. We haven't since, and we'd never had it before.

But I'm glad that for whatever reason (mistake or fate or whatever) someone decided to give us that particular copy.


  1. I loved this post Lisa-Marie and I love that fate brought you to that writing group. It was clearly meant to be, wasn't it? I had to Google the Isle of Sheppey to see where it was (I was thinking maybe Scotland?! I couldn't have been more wrong could I!!!)
    I'd love to read more about your next group. I hope you'll keep us updated!
    Suzy Turner, author of The Raven Saga

  2. Hi Suzy,

    Thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed it :) I wanted to write a 'journal' of the workshop and thought the blog was a good way to do it! I can't wait for the next session, it really is interesting.

    Don't worry, not many people know where Sheppey is (and I do suppose it sounds a bit Scottish when I think about it ;)!

    Let's see what fate has in store for the next time!

  3. I have started a new blog myself on blogger and when my cat gets of the file I will have a look at the links you gave us and follow them up. First post is a bit predictable but I think I might use the blog for some poems.

    I like the comment about standing up in front of strangers and getting out of your comfort zone - it's never easy.

    I like the input and your enthusiasm for the project; that's what makes such things worthwhile.

    James Apps blog is: