The big question is – when is a writer successful. Endless row of rejections and critique is something that most of them have to put up with, but often it is the lack of feedback that can be the biggest problem. Speculative Fiction Writers Group and Writers Forum North come together monthly in MadLab to fill that void.
Speculative Fiction Writers Group
Speculative Fiction Writers Group, gathering twice a month in MadLab, brings together those who are interested in writing science-fiction, fantasy and horror (and the various genres in between those central three), who are interested in reading others work, commenting and analysing. Once a month the group welcomes everyone (to be precise everyone who submits a text) to take part. Texts are shared on Dropbox prior to each meeting and the actual get together consists of analysis. The group uses Milford system which goes as follows:
Attendees bring short manuscripts, with enough copies for everyone present. No one can attend or comment who does not bring a story. The contributors read and annotate all the stories. When that’s done, everyone forms a circle, a story is picked at random, and the person to the writer’s right begins the critique. (Large groups may require deliberate scheduling.)
Following the circle in order, with a minimum of cross-talk or interruptions, each person emits his/her considered opinions of the story’s merits and/or demerits. The author is strictly required, by rigid law and custom, to make no outcries, no matter how he or she may squirm. When the circle is done and the last reader has vented his or her opinion, the silently suffering author is allowed an extended reply, which, it is hoped, will not exceed half an hour or so, and will avoid gratuitously personal ripostes. This harrowing process continues, with possible breaks for food, until all the stories are done, whereupon everyone tries to repair ruptured relationships in an orgy of drink and gossip.
The meet-up has turned out to be quite popular – variety of texts are submitted every time. But there seems to be a good average of people attending for writers groups to have the time to go through all the texts. So the second monthly meeting is reserved for the regulars.
Writers Forum North
Writers Forum North approaches poetry that could be looked at as innovative – they aim to dispel some myths about it, try to show that it can be funny and is engaged in popular culture, meet other poets, have discussions on each others work and get feedback. The tricky part really is defining the idea of innovation in the context of poetry. It can easily be classified as something that stands out from the mainstream poetry, but negative definitions like that really say a little. The group is interested in poetry that does not necessarily have a narrative, is not telling a coherent story, but rather tries to present poetry in different forms – graphic and visual, in form of lists etc. In a way it can be looked at as being closer to visual art than to literature.
Like most MadLab meetings, it is pretty informal – every poet gets 5-10 minutes to present their work and gets usually a positive constructive response. Though open to all, what differentiates Writers Forum North from a regular poetry reading is that people are encouraged to bring new work, things they might be still working on. The meeting brings together like minded poets who are willing to share their knowledge. So far the event is just going a long, but eventually might be able to do other kind of readings, book launches, have discussions on particular poets etc.
The writers groups meeting in MadLab have quite strong settled formats, groups of regulars, a lot of work on texts has been done – predictions should be made when the first book launch takes place.