Readers Galore!

It's easy when you spend so much time writing, to neglect the most important person - the reader! What are we without them?  On Friday of this week it was the first meeting of a new project I've been asked to run, aimed directly at readers.  It's called Reading Round and is the brainchild of the Royal Literary Fund. They're giving writers the chance to set up reading groups designed to look at short texts - stories, poetry, essays and memoirs - with a 'writer's eye' view to help people get more out of their reading.

I had lots of enquiries to the adverts I placed in the local papers and the posters I'd put up, but only a percentage of those interested could come on that particular day and time.  Friday isn't a good day, but it was the only slot left vacant on the library calendar. But when the first morning came, as I set out the coffee mugs and the cake and biscuits, ten people turned up to find out what it was all about. Reading Round is different, because you get read to, just like Radio 4's story slot, and then you get to share your own responses to the story. There's no 'homework' as in a traditional book group - the sessions are self-contained.

I decided to surprise the group with an anonymous short story that features a female character who seems to be terminally ill.  Most people thought that it had been written by a woman, the depiction was so good, but the author is the Australian writer David Malouf, whose work I rate among the best in the world. The story was 'Towards Midnight' from his collection Every Move You Make.

There was a lot of lively discussion and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. Several confessed that they'd never looked at short stories before and were quite surprised by how much they got out of it. I had two more enquiries after I got home, so hopefully this is going to be an ongoing reading group. For me, it was a great delight to be able to share writing that really excited me and find that other people liked it too. In the weeks ahead I'm looking forward to sharing all sorts of things - maybe even some of Virginia Woolf's essays.  She knew how important the reader is to the writer, though I'm not sure she thought through the title of this one!

My sessions run on Friday mornings in Penrith Library from 10.30am to 12.30.  If you're looking for a Reading Round group near you, then take a look on the Royal Literary Fund website and contact them to find out. 


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