As I’ve said before on this blog, I believe that reading aloud is a lost performance art. That’s why even though I swore off writers’ groups a few years ago, I was drawn by the lure of a new writer’s group set up in my local area that focused on the performance of writing, rather than the critique of it.
WORDS Writers’ Group was set up in the uncharacteristically hot Irish summer of 2013. It’s the brainchild of artists Sean and Miranda Corcoran, who run The Art Hand Studio, nestled on a stretch of unspoilt coastline between Tramore and Bonmahon in Co. Waterford, on the south-east coast of Ireland. People are invited to read pieces of poetry, song lyrics, essays, children’s stories – you name it.
I came to its third meeting and was seduced by the sound of words, by the warm room illuminated by candles and by home-made cakes. Sean Corcoran is a charismatic host (and no, he didn’t pay me to say that!) who creates a warm atmosphere and a sense that anything could happen.
As the most recent meeting came to an end, Sean invited comments from the audience and a poetic type lamented the fact that pleasure seemed to come before critique. I reckon he did it to stir up controversy, and it worked. I was quick to respond by saying it was clear that WORDS was a performance-based writers’ group, and because of that, it attracted what I consider to be record-breaking crowds. (A typical WORDS meeting attracts at least 20 people, compared to 10 at most for your typical critique-based writers’ group).
So what are the attractions of a performance-based writers’ group.
WORDS allows people to share work that isn’t their own, which means that people who don’t write but who love words and literature have the opportunity to share work that they’re passionate about and can make a meaningful contribution. Writers’ groups can come across as elitist, so inviting non-writers to attend widens the appeal of WORDS.
For the beginning writer
Beginning writers can take their first faltering steps towards sharing their newly minted writing in a comfortable environment where they know they won’t be judged. This is an important confidence builder and it will encourage new writers to share their work with the world.
WORDS has quite a few published writers in its ranks, both self published and traditionally published. Reading at the WORDS meetings allows these writers to build up an audience for their work and to network with like-minded souls. After reading from his newly published work, one poet made quite a few sales among the members at the most recent meeting.
Of course there’s always the danger that such a writers’ group can turn into a self congratulation society, and writers do need to seek out rigorous critique that will take their work to the next level. But being able to perform your work is also an important milestone in a writer’s life. Ultimately, there is a place for both critique and performance.
If you’re in the Waterford area, WORDS meets on the first Wednesday of each month at 8pm. There’s a €5 cover charge for refreshments. If you’re not local, you can still join in. Sean is busy forming contacts with similar groups around the world and you can contact him on: firstname.lastname@example.org