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Introducing: The WOW Collective Writing Group

The WOW Collective

WOW is dead. Long live WOW. While our former writing group, Writing on Walls, is no more after the departure of founder Leslie-Ann Murray, a new writing group has risen to take its place. Called The WOW Collective, it seeks to help its participants hone their skills and receive critical feedback on their work. The first meeting is Wednesday, August 26 at 7 pm. We caught up recently with one of The WOW Collective’s principal organizers, Kerryn Leitch, to find out more.

Hi Kerryn. As we know, the WOW Collective is a reboot of Writing on Walls. Can you tell us a bit about what that’s all about, and how this new group will be different?

Writing on Walls was based on fostering a gentle environment for emerging writers in which there were strict rules for the nature of feedback shared by participants. While we are all caring, compassionate people (none of us bite except me and that’s only when provoked), we felt that, to move forward in our writing, we needed more constructive discussion of our work. The WOW Collective is about moving forward with our writing rather than concentrating on the fundamentals.

As a writing group that seeks to sharpen certain skills, I understand there will be certain writing prompts during meetings. Can you give me an example?

Certainly. For example, in a meeting of the collective we are usually given two or three linked prompts. Some prompts aim to improve basic writing skills, e.g., Write a scene of being scolded by a parent but write from your parent’s perspective. Now write that scene using only dialogue. Other prompts might encourage you to make a foray into a new genre or style, e.g., Write a “Dear John” letter from the perspective of a selfish lover or write a description of interviewing for the position of Human Wrangler at the offices of our supreme monkey overlords. Oh dear, that sounds quite banal. Trust me, we have a lot of fun and it really works in developing your skills and ideas. Writing prompts are very popular. Google it (er, I mean Baidu it) and have a look. It’s a nice diversion from the daily slog of finishing that novel or writing angry letters to the editor of Cat Fancy magazine.

What are your personal feelings toward writing groups?

Hmmm. Good question. I think it is great to be part of a community. I can honestly say that Writing on Walls took me from awkwardly applauding others in the back of the Bookworm Library to having the opportunity to perform my work and meet like-minded people. That being said, I rail against the prescriptive approach to writing. Anyone who tries to tell me how much dialogue I can have in a paragraph or what is an “authentic voice” should find a more receptive audience. This is a process of support and discovery. There are some incredibly talented writers in this group and it is a joy to hear their work and learn from them. No rules, no prescription, just regular human decency and the will to put your stuff out there.

What’s the ideal WOW Collective member? Hypothetically.

He’d be about forty, single and interested in disheveled divorcees with tattoos. No, I’m kidding. The ideal WOWee is someone who writes, or wants to write and wants to hear what their contemporaries are doing around Beijing. They will also need to be able to tolerate me for about two hours each fortnight.

What is the state of writing, of literature, of the general arts in Beijing? I don’t mean to ask in any abstract sense; how would you characterize the community of artists with whom you associate?

Beijing is an excellent place in which to be creative. The writing community here, like the visual arts and music scene, is both vibrant and accessible. They say, scratch an English teacher and you’ll find an artist (they don’t really say that but they should). This city provides so many opportunities to mix with people on all parts of the spectrum and most people are extremely generous with their time and support. I personally don’t think the expat writing scene here in Beijing is fully-fledged yet and that is what makes it so special. It hasn’t acquired an impenetrable mystique, we all feel like we can have a crack at it. Sure there is plenty of mediocrity but there is also treasure that might never surface in an established scene like New York or Berlin. Keep scratching those English teachers, you might just find the winning ticket.

Kerryn is only one head of the hydra that is the WOW Collective. By day she teaches and by night she writes, voice acts and tries to be a good human being.

What: The WOW Collective
When: Wednesday Every Two Weeks
Where: The Bookworm

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