When I entered G24 after six on a Wednesday night I came prepared with a notebook to take notes, and even brought a story I’m working on, but I didn’t know what to expect from the Short Fiction English Club.
Junior Cailtin Schesser and alumna Juanita Brown greeted me with surprised faces as I entered the room. Yes, I write a good deal of fiction, but I had never attended an English Club event before. Both chalkboards in the room were covered with scraps of writing both legible and hard to read. I took a seat at the far right corner of the front row and waited for someone else to show up. Caitlin started as soon as I brought my notebook and pen out. Looking to the door, no one else came in. It was just to be us three that night, and it ended up being everyone else’s loss.
In Short Fiction club, writers bring in their work for comments, help, and advice. That’s how Caitlin, the leader of this group, jumped right into the night. She looked at me and asked if there was anything I was working on that needed any kind of advice. I was caught off guard. Looking to Juanita, who only looked back at me, mirroring Caitlin’s questioning face, I racked my brain. I was, in fact, struggling on an ending for something I had been working on for sometime. Though I wasn’t sure what kind of help could be gained from it, I offered it up as sacrifice.
Caitlin and Juanita listened with opened minds as I explained my predicament. After I finished, Caitlin went to the board, chalk in hand, and began writing possible versions of an ending to my story. Even though I already had two different endings I was torn between, the two came up with two other possibilities. I was impressed and greatly surprised at how interested they were in helping me with my story. Caitlin said that anything that comes up in Short Fiction will be addressed to help the writer improve and gain confidence in their writing.
I wasn’t prepared for all the help, but it quickly got me invested in the rest of the time spent during that hour. All three of us had the opportunity to voice concerns about stories we were working on now and offered us a chance to get second opinions. It’s one of the greatest ways a writer can improve, and it’s a great way to encourage any writer to keep writing.
“The only way you’re going to grow in your writing, and find fulfillment in your writing is to keep writing. Don’t let anyone stop you,” Caitlin said.
Every writer, aspiring or established, would agree with that. Reading a lot and writing a lot are the most crucial elements to improve your own writing. Attending this English Club meeting made me want to write for much longer than the hour we spent workshopping, helping, and discussing.
Early on, Juanita asked Caitlin how this group was going to be structured, to which Caitlin answered so eloquently, “Kind of flying by the seat of my pants here.” Elaborating a little more, she said it’s going to be a meeting by meeting basis, letting the writers control how it will go, and, of course, bringing work that the writer thinks needs some assistance.
Those small desks in G24 can get pretty uncomfortable after sitting in them for twenty minutes, however, my spine felt resilient and unbent (except for when I was doubled over my desk writing) and my concentration remained in the present. The atmosphere was palpable with creation and inspiration, not to mention motivation to put pen on paper, something that’s the hardest part for me. There was a high energy in the room and a comfort that made me open up. Perhaps it was because it was a small group, or perhaps it was because I was amongst fellow writers who share the same zeal for stories as I do.
Caitlin hopes that people who come to Short Fiction group can share whatever they’re working on without judgment and “have a place to feel comfortable talking about anything on their mind.” I know there are more than three writers on campus, and while it might be a conflict of time that restricts people from coming, I can attest that if a writer is seeking to improve and grow in their craft, this is one of the greatest places to attend.
“Fiction allows people to open up,” Schesser said at one point. During that hour, hardly knowing Caitlin or Juanita, I opened up about my fiction readily. I knew I was among writers who cared about other people’s desires just as much as their own. There is always room for encouragement, and there is even more room to simply write.
I left that night anticipating next Wednesday, where I can give up an hour to be among fellow writers and generate ideas. My pen glided over my paper butter on bread as we each sketched up two characters of our own. I wasn’t sure how my characters were going to read, but as soon as I started, Caitlin let out an unrestrained chuckle. If I wasn’t present in any situation during any other part of that day, I was awake during that hour. Actually, I was exhilarated.
I was able to talk to Caitlin for a while after that hour. There’s nothing better than exchanging anecdotes and advice with another writer. There wasn’t a thing that could discourage any writer in that meeting. Not even those backbreaking desks, the fear of not being heard, writer’s block, or the atmosphere. I was inspired as well as motivated in that time. I encourage all writers on campus to check out the Short Fiction club that meets every Wednesday at 6 p.m. in Gardner 24. Who knows, it might be the best way to spend your Wednesday nights.