By Laura P. Valtorta
My writers’ group (SCWW Columbia II) is filled with a bunch of solipsistic pseudo-intellectuals who think they know more than the next guy – especially the guy sitting next to them at the writers’ group. It’s horrifying. Even the African-American members seem too White. A meeting is likely to give you mental snow blindness.
But the group is fun, and I fit in. I love eating at Casa Linda with these clowns.
Another good thing that happens is when I bring in ten pages of a screenplay and other writers take on the various roles of my characters. Reading your own stuff aloud is helpful. You grow a third ear. When somebody else reads your stuff to the group, your errors shine bright like Swedish fish jellybeans.
I think we should mix things up. Once a season, exchange pages with each other at the beginning of the meeting and prevent each writer from reading aloud her own work. I’d love to hear Rex pound out some of Bonnie’s poetry in that sarcastic staccato of his. Let Bonnie tackle the corpses piled “as high as a house,” and Rex read about wrestling with religion in the New South. It would be fun to hear Kasie shoot everyone in sight in post-Civil-War Texas and Mike lecture us about death-defying vampires. I’d like to listen to Ginny read about golf and Fred tell us stories about living with a disability. Just once.
Writing a stage play or a screenplay is miraculous because, eventually, others read your words. Like the experience of the Marquis de Sade in the movie Quills, hearing the mentally ill read your work and change it – consciously or unconsciously— often improves the writing. We are, after all, writing for others. The purpose is to convey a message. However solipsistic we might be, we are attempting to communicate what makes us human.
On April 9, 2016, a group of actors (experienced and new) will be reading my stage play, Bermuda, at Tapp’s 1644 Main Street). The show starts at 6 p.m. Everyone is invited; it’s an absurd comedy filled with messages.
I am no actor. Although I want to read with more expression, I still need to practice and learn. Right now, I hear myself sounding like dry oatmeal. Listening to my play being read by professionals is a learning experience. The same could be true of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.