My friend June wanted me to go with her to go to an editing course. I thought my short story collection could do with editing and just might, if improved, become fit for publication, so I went along. Dawn Garish, who is a dear friend, is running the course. Now, she is very much into using writing, especially, memoir writing, as therapy. This is not really what June and I are after. So far we have attended two sessions and I think we both found them disappointing. However, I did take note of some comments made about my pieces and changed them, very possibly for the better. So it hasn't been a fruitless exercise by any means. At the second session, one of the participants read us the piece of writing that she had revised as had been suggested and it was very much improved. So she certainly benefited. But I can't help contrasting this course with other courses I have attended. I think particularly of Sindiwe's writing courses and also of Finuala's workshops. I did find one of her comments on my poem about ICU useful, but really when it comes to poetry, Dawn just doesn't have it.
I was in two minds about continuing with the course. Thinking it over and analysing my feelings, I have come to the conclusion that I am out of place in the group. My work may be light, even frivolous, but I am serious about writing. I love what I consider "good writing" and am very critical of anything else. In other words I am a literary snob. If I were to give my honest opinion of most of what has been read at this group, it would would just be hurtful and offensive and not help at all. The style of writing most of the participants admire and probably aspire to is popular and may well turn out to be publishable. This goes for the subject matter too. A lot of it is about unhappy childhood, which so many writers seem to have experienced. I do not easily relate to this.(I also think it has been rather done to death, but maybe that is just me.)
After careful consideration, I realise that the main problem is that I am too old for this group. Two of the members are approaching my age and they write stories that I can enjoy. I can't say the same for the other three. One piece, involving child abuse, that was read at the last session, I thought was quite revolting. I found bile rising in my throat. It actually turned my stomach.The other members of the group obviously did not feel the same way. Dawn did say that there was perhaps too much graphic detail, but in general the writer was told she was honest and wrote well. I did not agree! If it had been a description of her own experience of abuse, it would have been bad enough but would have aroused sympathy. It wasn't! She admitted that it was entirely fictitious and in fact, listening to it, one of the things that struck me was that it did not ring true. The voice, supposedly that of a nine or ten year old, sounded much too adult. I am probably too squeamish, but the writer seemed to enjoy wallowing in disgusting detail. I could not keep quiet. I had to say that I found the piece too disturbing and did not want to listen to it.
I understand now that for this group I am on the wrong side of a generation gap. Perhaps, growing up in the puritanical fifties I am too prudish. I do not share what seems to me to be an a strange fascination with guts, genitals and bodily fluids. I admire the clear, spare writing of the authors I grew up with and don't like the fluffy pretentious style of much of what is published today. I think I shall go to only one more session and before it, or after it, explain my problem to Dawn.