COLUMN: From muse to page to book to shelf

There’s no question that books can make you laugh or cry or think. Whatever our reading future looks like, there will certainly be books.

There’s no question that books can make you laugh or cry or think. Whatever our reading future looks like, there will certainly be books. And for there to be books, there must be writers.

When some writers tell me they can hardly wait to get back to the project at hand, and that they love every second of writing, I am always a little suspicious. Or perhaps I’m just envious. For me, writing is a difficult, sometimes fraught, solitary occupation that puts the prospect of cleaning under the kitchen sink or around the toilet bowl in a much more rosy light.

American journalist, novelist, poet, screenwriter and biographer Gene Fowler (who gave up a budding career in taxidermy to pursue his craft) famously said, “Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.”

Clearly, with such an extensive writing portfolio, Fowler’s was a bloodier business than stuffing roadkill, but was it any more fun? Maybe — if he had the company of other writers to help him through.

Writers have always sought other writers for companionship, solace, support, or just a shot of absinthe in a dark Paris bar. If it weren’t for Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, and Ezra Pound, Hemingway might never have penned or published The Sun Also Rises. And so the company of other writers is important if we are to have books.

Writers know this, which explains the number of times at the library we’re asked about writing groups. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot we can tell those inquiring writers, as writing groups tend not to advertise.

That’s because writing groups are built on trust, and once a good working dynamic is achieved,  most groups are loath to mess with it.

And yet here you are: a budding writer looking to stretch your limbs, or a writer with a project in search of brilliant and insightful critique. You need a writing group.

What to do if you’re a writer in search of company? Come to The Company of Writers, a workshop about writing groups at the Nelson Public Library on Tuesday, January 21 at 7 p.m. (let us know if you’re coming: email

The evening will cover different writing group models: groups that get together to enjoy writing exercises, work on solo projects in a room with others, read aloud to one another, or submit writing for feedback.

We’ll talk about the rules of engagement for good critiquing. We’ll talk about how to start a writing group, or how to tweak the one you’re in. And we’ll try to release you from that solitary literary bloodletting habit and get you into something more comfortable, and more constructive. The cupboard under the sink can wait.

If enough show up we might even do a sort of “speed dating” session: an around-the-room one-on-one opportunity to see if any literary sparks fly. Budding writing groups could be a happy outcome, or at least the tools to get one started.

I owe everything to my writing group. Sure, I still find myself on my hands and knees with a scrub-brush when the going gets tough. But I know I’m in good company, all of us putting words to page through blood, hell, or high water — and, with a little luck, into your library.

Just Posted

Nelson considers amnesty on parking fines

Drivers with backlogged fines would have until January to apply

EDITORIAL: Federal NDP challenges evident on Kootenay campaign trip

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh tours the Kootenays in support of local MPs, proportional representation

Columbia Basin Trust announces grant for technology upgrades

The deadline for organizations to apply is Dec. 17

Leafs fall to Braves, Twitter fight breaks out

Nelson gave up two goals in the third en route to a 4-2 loss

Cardiac arrest survivor saved by passerby

People who know CPR can now register with a new phone app to notify them of nearby emergencies

VIDEO: B.C. legislature clerk, sergeant at arms suspended for criminal investigation

Clerk of the House Craig James, Sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz on administrative leave

Former NHL player and coach Dan Maloney dies at 68

Maloney coached the Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets

Ex-MSU president charged with lying to police about Nassar

Lou Anna Simon was charged Tuesday with lying to police during an investigation

Police aim to prevent retaliation after Hells Angel found dead under B.C. bridge

IHIT confirms Chad Wilson, 43, was the victim of a ‘targeted’ homicide

Otter makes a snack out of koi fish in Vancouver Chinese garden

Staff say the otter has eaten at least five fish

Police looking into two more incidents at private Toronto all-boys’ school

Police and the school have said two of the prior incidents involved an alleged sexual assault

B.C. lumber mills struggle with shortage of logs, price slump

Signs of recovery after U.S. market swings, industry executive says

25% of Canadians still won’t say they use pot, survey says

Statistics Canada poll says Canadians on average were 18.9 years old when they first tried pot.

Kootenay music mentor crushed by stolen sax, sheet music

Anyone with information is urged to call Crime Stoppers or the Trail RCMP at 250.364.2566

Most Read