An Adventure in a Writer’s Circle
The 10 writers sat in a circle like the famed knights of Camelot reportedly did. Only they did not wave sharp swords about and were not weighed down with heavy armour. The weapons of choice for this writers circle were pens and pencils (the latter for those expecting errors), which they would wield with words on pads of paper.
They were a mixed group, male and female, young and old, published authors and those hoping to have their first publication so that they could refer to themselves as ‘published authors.’
Tonight there would be little writing taking place. They were going to spend the vast majority of their time sharing the stories that had resulted from their last meeting. It had been one of what they called their ‘field trips’, although this had been the first time they had actually visited a field for inspiration. They had brought lawn chairs and most wore sunglasses.
As they read their stories, you could see that each writer drew or projected something different upon the ordinary seeming field. There was a story that told about a tranquil yet somehow terrifying atmosphere, that ‘lurked like fog over the gentle rolling curves of the field’ (the writer’s actual words). There was a story taken from a bird’s perspective, one looking for food, but not finding any. The writer was a food columnist in the local paper, so her stories tended to be about that subject, although often were more interesting than you might think. Yet another story appeared inspired by Robbie Burns ‘To a Mouse,’ not surprising as the writer was a Scot. Every story was quite different. One story even included a romantic rendezvous. But his stories always did, even when they visited an old abandoned jail house.
The most exciting part of this meeting, however, were the plans for the next field trip. They were going to go to the Maggie Muggins, an Irish pub on the opposite side of town, where none of them were known. The leader of the circle had checked it out, and it seemed like an ideal site for writers – lots of people went there, rich fodder for fiction. They were to sit at three separate tables. There they would watch people, and write stories based on what they observed and imagined concerning what was going on. This could be a story about illicit relationships (probably going to be a popular storyline), or tamer relationships that were reaching a critical period of change. Someone could that night discover a long lost brother or sister, or an almost forgotten spouse from a different decade. The stories could also be about criminal activities being plotted: drug deals, thefts, even murders that would take place when the intended victim left the building. Each writer was to pick for observation a group keeping company at the bar or sharing a table, write down a detailed description of what the people looked like and how they were acting, then weave with strands of imagination into a story. They were going on a Friday night, so there should be plenty of subjects for stories.
The Field Trip
They did not enter the pub all together in a pack of literary wolves (the group leader’s words). That would draw too much attention. They arrived in three cars, twenty minutes apart, two carrying three writers, one carrying four. The three groups sat in different parts of the pub, so their observations and therefore their stories would be diverse.
One of the writers circle, a young, yet to be published woman called Emma, had noticed something just outside the pub that she wanted to write down while the picture was still clear, and the introductory words and potential story line were still dancing in her mind. She rushed to a chair at an empty table and started writing. She was still doing so when the others sat down, and the waitress came to serve them. She reluctantly had to stop when she was asked what she wanted. Emma almost rudely replied, ‘Whatever you have on tap. You choose.’ She right away went back to her writing.
When the beer was served, which had taken a while as the place was packed, Emma picked up her glass of a local draft and moved it mouth-wards. It never touched her lips as she quickly put the glass down again, so fast that a little spilled onto the table. The two young men she had noticed outside with the smokers had just entered, and went to the darkest corner of the pub, near where the dartboard hung. No one was throwing darts that night. It wasn’t Tuesday, darts night. What she saw them do once they had sat down, ordered and received their beers confirmed that she had chosen a good storyline for them.
The other two at her table wanted to know what Emma was writing about, but it was considered bad luck to ask someone that question before they volunteered that kind of information. So they decided to keep their questions to themselves until Emma was willing to talk about her story. Besides, they had their own observations to make and stories to start. By the end of the night they had forgotten to ask her, caught up as they were with their own stories.
After the Field Trip
The circle of writers left early, about 10:30, as they were eager to expand what they had handwritten onto their computers while the ideas were still actively in their heads. The two men that Emma had been watching stayed on until closing time, as she had written they would in her story.
The next day there was big news in town. The Maggie Muggins had burned down last night, shortly after one o’clock. The police were asking for information relating to the fire from anyone who had been inside or in the vicinity of the pub.
Emma gave them a call. She spoke of seeing two young men playing with their lighters, flicking, constantly flicking them, while staring at the flame with a manic intensity. They did this outside the pub, when they were standing a little ways away from the smokers. And they continued this activity as they sat at their table in the dark, unused dartboard section of the pub. When the officer she spoke with remarked about how observant she had been, she told him about the circle of writers field trip. He laughed, but said that he was thankful for the information.
Following the detailed description that Emma gave them, the police were not long in picking up the arsonists. An article in the local newspaper simply said that the police had an informant that was very useful, but they were not willing to divulge her name.
At the next meeting of the circle of writers, when it was Emma’s turn to present she sighed halfway to a sob, and said. “I have not story to read tonight. Reality stole my story. What I wrote as fiction actually happened.”