By Angela L. Garratt
It only seems like five minutes since we met a very talented Italian writer by the name of Valerie for the first time, but that was twelve months ago at our very first meeting of 2018. Since then, we have welcomed more members, Mike, Kwane and Syisha too. It is always a pleasure to meet new people, learn about their writing style and try to help as much as we can in ways of being constructive, inspiring and encouraging.
In January, the OWG put together a talk and a performance of poetry and short stories for the second ever Wolverhampton Literature Festival. We met members from the Telford Writing Group and a lady by the name of Louise Pelfrey from the Arts Foundry at Wolverhampton University. Meeting both were very interesting and constructive as Louise is putting together an anthology of life stories and photographs to be read out at the Wolverhampton Literature festival in February 2019. I know that a few members of the OWG have taken part in this anthology and it will be a pleasure to watch when the time comes.
2018 has been a year of firsts too. As with all writers, it is important to get to know the world around you and take inspiration from it, so therefore many of our group outings this year has been to nature reserves, such as Sandwell Valley, Leasowes Park and Kinver Edge. All three were extremely beautiful places where history has a place and where legends live. For example, Leasowes Park has the legend of the Lady Pool. When I first heard of the Lady Pool and its ghost, I was so inspired, I wrote a poem about it called ‘The Lady Pool’. I submitted it to the Black Country Bugle, and it was published the 2nd April 2015. This is just one example of how such places can inspire us.
Kinver Edge has an intriguing and historical past. The rock houses were once inhabited by the people who lived there, and they are exactly what it sounds like, they are houses carved out of the sandstone. Kinver is not just a nature reserve where people can enjoy the clean air and wildlife. It also has a pretty little town, a place where antiques can be sought, or if you prefer, a pub that sells some of the best pork pies in town. Or an orchard where the imagination could grow as wild as the apple trees.
Sandwell Valley is well known for all local residents to be a source of peace, play and if you so wish to walk and take in the sights of the wildlife.
I know that one of our members, Heather was so inspired by Leasowes Park that she has painted a canal, covered in yellow Iris’s as was such a sight that we came upon during our walk. Anyone of those nature reserves could be a fantastic setting for a story, and the genres and ideas could be limitless.
We have tried new foods too, such as plantain and Sharon fruit. We ate a banana and an apple and really took notice of our five senses and learnt not to take for granted everything that we eat, but to savour the moment and use this information in our writing. So, my advice would be that the next time you eat, really take notice and enjoy what you are eating or drinking. As if you ever have a starving character, your food will taste the best in the world for him or her.
On Saturday 28th April, the OWG went to the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. It was a lovely day out, all the artwork on display and the large statue of Lucifer as we walked into the round room. Also fascinating was the Egyptian artefacts they had on display and the other artefacts from different ancient cultures from around the globe. It was a day out that we will remember for many more moons to come.
Then on the 14th of July, the OWG celebrated Black Country Day at the Old Hill Festival. It was here that our Daniel got lost and we spent much of our time waiting for him, eventually, Julian found him, and we enjoyed the market stalls, the church stalls and the live music. Nicole bought a giant unicorn balloon. It was a hot day, and the cold drinks were going down a storm. One of the stalls on the market sold pens and all sorts of fancy stuff. Could I walk away from a pen store? Nope, not on your Nelly, so I walked away with a lovely little pen with an ‘A’ carved into the clip.
In August, we celebrated both my fortieth birthday and the fourth anniversary of the OWG. You can imagine my surprise when the group presented me with a £45 gift voucher for WH Smith. Oh, that was such a lovely present. The first opportunity I got, I went to WH Smiths in Merry Hill and spent the lot. I could not wait to get home and revel in my gifts, and it was more poignant because I was looking forward to starting my third year in studying for my Combined BA Hons. Degree in English Literature and Creative Writing with the Open University. Bally, bless her heart, took me out for a meal, and then we had drinks at her place. Also, Jackie bought me a bag, a diary and a pen in the shape of a flamingo. It was a lovely day, and the OWG made it extra special just because they were there. There is nothing like being able to spend your birthday with friends, and I get to spend every Saturday morning with them. How cool is that?
Our fourth anniversary was another very special day. Bally brought a cake and Nicole took plenty of photos. We enjoyed one another’s company and wished for many more years together as a group.
Now, I have not got to tell you how amazing Nicole is at baking, everyone in the OWG has tried her cakes and cookies and every now and again she surprises us with something new that she has made. To name but a few, cinnamon rolls, peanut butter and jam traybake, and most recently gingerbread star biscuits. Oh, they were lovely, everyone tucks in, and there is hardly anything left by the time we finish our group meeting or outing. She is a very talented lady both on the page and in the kitchen.
Another thing the OWG was involved in was judging a poetry competition for the year 5 children of Heath Fields Primary School. This was not an easy thing to do as all of the poems deserved to win, but we could only choose four winners. Each winner had a first, second, third and fourth certificate and everyone else who took part had a certificate of participation as we did not want anyone to feel that their effort had gone unnoticed. Hopefully, this competition and others like it around the world will inspire our next generation of poets.
On the 8th December, some of the members of the OWG, including myself, went to the Steelhouse Lane Lock-Up in Birmingham. That was another fun day out. We spoke to people who had worked there when it was in use, and we spoke to a female PCSO. She had been doing her job for seventeen years and my, she could tell a story or two. We walked around the lock-up, cautiously as the floor didn’t feel safe underfoot due to the fact that it was cast iron with holes so wide you could see down to the other floors below. The cells were small but fascinating as there were mug shots of old Victorian prisoners. We had our fingerprints taken, and we took many photos. At the end of our tour, we all crammed into an interview room and pretended to be criminals being interviewed — it was a lot of fun. Then just before we left, we bought our usual collection of pens, bookmarks and (I bought a cup) postcards to say that we had a great day and we wanted to take a memento home to remind us of the fun we had.
Our final outing for the year was our Christmas meal at the Court of Requests in Oldbury. We had our Christmas party at the library and our meal at the pub. It was lovely, twelve of us packed around a long table, decorated with crackers and Christmas themed table settings. Both Niv and I had a bad cold at the time, but it was a lovely day, and I wouldn’t have changed it for the world (except for the cold of course).
So much has happened over the past twelve months that makes it practically impossible to write all of it in just one article, but you will see in our news pages that there are write-ups of the year’s events. The last thing I would like to tell you is the poetry evenings that I run once a month at the Britannia Inn, Rowley Village. A fellow writer, Maddie Williams and I started these evenings to bring a bit of poetry to the Rowley Regis area. Every month they have become more and more popular, and they are a favourite for the OWG. It is a place where we can all relax with a beer or a soft drink and enjoy an evening of poetry.
The OWG has spent much of our writing time putting together our second anthology, which is to be published in the New Year. This is a book of poems and short stories inspired by the assignment set each week. Each assignment is an imagination prompt that each member has had a go at writing over the past four years. The book was named by Dave Edwards as Naked Words and Empty Cages, and the artwork for the front cover was designed by one of the group’s artists, Heather Barrett. I can’t wait to see the finished book, and we will let you know both on this website and our social media pages the date, time, and place of the book launch, and any other relevant information regarding our forthcoming anthology.
Now, I would like to say thank you so much to everyone who has come along to the meetings on a Saturday morning, shared our outings with us and contributed your stories, your life experiences and your friendship. But a special thank you goes out to Nicole, for without whom, the OWG would not be what it is today.
A Message for the New Year
It does not matter how advanced you are with your writing, it makes no difference on as to why you write, and there is no right or wrong genre either. In fact, there is no right or wrong way in which to write. Your writing is as unique as you are. The fact is that you write, and my message is simply to never give up. Never let anyone tell you that writing is wrong, that you are wasting your time. Never let people tell you to stop what you are doing, never let them tell you are never going to get anywhere and that you are not good enough. Ignore snide remarks, laughter and above all never let them get you down. You are a writer because you write, what you write is irrelevant, and if you ever need help, encouragement, reassurance, inspiration, constructive criticism, then that is why the OWG is here. I formed the group because I had to suffer all of those indignities while I was writing my first novel. I knew there would be more people out there just like me who needed support. I never gave up, and I wouldn’t want you to either. You are better than you know. All you may need is a little bit of support and guidance, and you will find that here, with us at the OWG.
God bless you all and best wishes for a successful and prosperous new year.
And above all, have fun!