Monday, April 22, 2013

Pen and paper...

AOG, Madrid

I don’t normally do new year’s resolutions. I don’t like to do them because I always find them nigh near impossible to stick to. 

However, this year, for some strange reason, I did a small resolution list. 

Among the items listed were:

1-    lose weight
2-    write a short story per month
3-    be more sociable

Number 1 is on and off. It always has been with me. But that’s a post for a different day. 

Number 3 I remind myself of every time someone calls and I’m at home, and all I want to do is stay there and not deal with humanity. 

However, I confess that this year I have actively sough out, and worked on, my social life.

Number two, I admit, has been a long time coming. 

Thus far I’m already running behind about three months, and I’ve just written one short story. 

I have, however, started on another one, and there’s a third one on the back of my mind. 

And I can say that this is the case only because a few months ago something happened which has helped me to get my creative act together and do some serious, or almost serious, writing.

Mid November last year I was lucky enough to join a writers group in Madrid. 

I had joined a critique group years ago, but my attendance always waned since it always seemed like we got together to talk and not write, which for some reason is what I, and I alone, thought would happen.

But then one day I came across this group, and thought I would give it a try. 

Most of the people who attend are British, but there’s the odd American, the odd Canadian and odd Spanish member here and there, but there’s other 'odd' nationalities too!

The group itself was founded by an Irish guy who’s been living in Spain for a few years. 

It has been going strong for over a year and I have to say that I was made to feel welcome from day one.
Since I joined, the group has gone through a few changes. In fact, the very day I joined I, along with everyone else, was presented with the group’s new rules. Among the one’s that stood out the most to me were: no eating during meetings and no laptops. And don’t be late.
Nothing too difficult or demanding.

Another thing it went through was a change of venue. We used to meet at this café near Bilbao metro station in central Madrid. It was ok, but a bit crowded.
Also, within no time some people, including me, got the idea that the café's owner was more interested in his other customers than us. For example, the music began to get louder each time. 

This, for a writing group that reads its work out loud, is problematic.

So we went on a pilgrimage to find a new place.

First to a café nearby with nice decor, but a bit crowded. Also, the guy behind the bar rather we got up and asked for things instead of him actually behaving like the waiter that he was and taking our orders at our table.
Also, he was not keen at all on charging people individually for their consumption and insisted on one big, fat, large bill. So big, fat, no.

The other place was near the Plaza de España area. In the back of it in fact; an area filled with restaurants serving foreign food.

Less crowded than the other two, it was, in fact, a basement all for us. However, although some people liked it, for others it was uncomfortable and the seating arrangements were a bit odd. 

But the guy who ran it was actually very nice.

Lastly, we went to a Café in Chueca neighborhood. The upstairs of the place was very spacious. We decided to meet there in the end. But no, it too is far from perfect.   

The service is very so-so, and it is starting to get noisy. But this is just like any other café in Madrid. Good weather means people will come out and socialize.

Some of us have begun toying with the idea of meeting at Retiro Park, right by the lake. There's loads of public cafés there. 

But I digress.   
I normally arrive at the group on time, find a seat, and get ready for an hour of themed writing exercises. 

When we do these, we normally divide into smaller groups of 3-5 people. On a good day maybe 20-25 people will show up!

The group’s members take it in turns to give a sort of workshop on a particular theme. We’ve had workshops on erotica, death, character creation, locations, etc.
Every time I go I leave thinking myself lucky for having attended –but I have yet to conduct a meeting myself. Work keeps me from being able to commit for the time being.

Nevertheless, I feel fortunate to have access to such a talented group of individuals from all different backgrounds, all interested in writing.
Some of them keep blogs; some are working on a novel; some like to write short stories; some write poetry. In short, one way or another, we are all interested in writing. 

After every exercise we read out loud what we’ve written to our group, and I have really begun to enjoy some people’s writing. 

Slowly, I have also begun to make some friends in the group, and I love that this is the case. I’m always short of friends.

But not just that, I have also been able to get my act together enough that, when I am in Madrid, I actually leave the house on Saturday and go to write for a while to my favorite coffee shop: Diurno. (See past post about writing in Diurno here).

What I do is post a small notice on the group’s facebook page, stating time and place. Slowly, some members have come along. 

We talk and chat and gossip, but we also go quiet and write. And I really like that we do all this.

The group’s facebook page is also very active, with members posting writing tips, ideas, in short, anything which might be of interest to other people. 

But not just that. There’s even talk of a group blog. And there’s been meetings related to it.

But not just that. A few weeks ago, we were told of the possibility of working on a screenplay for a short film.

Some people were interested, some were not. 
I was.

I submitted my entry (basically a 300 word story based on some images previously chosen by the director) and waited. And waited and waited some more.

Finally I was told that I, and a couple more members, had been chosen to participate in this collaborative script-writing project. 

I was over the moon when I found out!

I have never written a screenplay, or any other type of play, in my life. 

Nonetheless, I do think it is a wonderful prospect, certainly it is a learning opportunity.
Last Saturday we all met for lunch and what was going to be a writing session where the entire script was going to be hammered out between 4 people. 

No such luck. 

We met the director, who is French, and ate some and drank some.
Then we had a few discussions about the film and the director showed us some more images he liked.
Then we talked about them a bit, and then we spent about 20-25 minutes writing on our own.

We reconvened and read our bits out loud. We had some great ideas, some ok ideas, and some ideas which were very ambitious, but nonetheless welcome.

It was almost 7 pm by now, and we realized we needed to talk less, and write more. And that is how we said good-bye.
By our next meeting, three days later, we should have come up with something else. Something new.

So I spent most of Sunday trying to think of a story following the briefest of briefs: 

  • One should be able to watch the film with the sound off and follow it.
  • There should be a scene of feet going to and fro.
  • Only 4 characters.
  • Use older people because the give a movie ‘texture’.
  • It should have a happy ending. 

This last bit we also discussed during the afternoon. Two of us are for it, and there’s one undecided, and one who questioned why this should be.

 I really didn’t have much of an answer beyond the feeling I got off of the images the director showed us, which were mostly depressing and keep giving off an air of alienation.

Its early days yet, but I’m sure I’m going to enjoy this new project.