Sunday, June 17, 2007

Writing Group as Cello Recital

Grab the reader in the first four words of your article. Write tight (concisely). Make sure your article is perfect (spelling, grammar, usage), and that it follows the style of the publication you are writing for. This means you have to read the publication you are writing for. Don't overuse "good words." The impact of a special word like "shimmer" is destroyed if an author uses it more than once in the same publication. These were the main messages from Gerree Trudeau, guest speaker at local writing group I attended yesterday.

Trudeau is entertainment editor of the local paper, a small paper published twice a week, all local news, school news, good entertainment coverage. Trudeau has published my concert reviews and press releases over the last few years, and I wanted to meet her in person. I am interested in writing more reviews and articles on music, on Cape Cod, and on music on Cape Cod. Here, on Cape Cod, writing about Cape Cod is always well-received, according to Trudeau. She writes reviews on movies and local theater. She generally does not write music reviews because she is not a musician, so there is opportunity for independent reviewers, though not payment.

Questions were handled in an interesting fashion. We were seated around a long table, about 12 of us. One by one, in order, everyone asked a question relating to the talk. A methodical, participative approach. After the question/answer session, the writers read excerpts from their work for Trudeau to comment on. Of special interest to me was a former opera singer's account of her hazardous journey up a mountain to a theater in Italy. After each reading there was an affirmative murmuring from the other writers and a comment by Trudeau. Generally, she suggested that they make their opening line more dramatic.

I had brought no works-in-progress with me, but have a review in this week's paper, so mentioned that. I also mentioned this blog to the woman sitting next to me, so do want to say hello to her, should she drop in.

It seems to me that reading one's work before a group of people could be even more traumatizing than playing the cello at a group cello recital. So much more personal on many levels. And, it is more demanding as an audience member too. "Performers" are not just playing the same Suzuki pieces you know and love. They write in a whole range of genres and voices and tone. You have to pay attention to the words, the meaning, the emotions, and the technical aspects in order to comment effectively.

A woman I talked to afterwards said yes, it is difficult to read your writing in public. But she finds she works harder at perfecting the piece, knowing she has to read it. Kind of like a cello recital.

The writers were universally supportive and encouraging of each other. Also much like a cello recital, especially a cello recital by people like me, late-starting adults.

I am not sure if I will return to this writing group on a regular basis due to time constraints and lack of an ongoing writing project that I need comment on. But, like a musical ensemble, such a group would provide motivation and feedback, and I can see the value of it.

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