The first challenge of becoming a writer for me was the whole idea of becoming a writer. That was for clever people, I used to think. Where to begin? With a pen and paper – all right, here goes. Then came the second challenge. What was I going to write about? And the third - where do you put the commas and full stops?
After about a year of outpourings, I had to face the forth challenge – who was I going to give it to? I had to have some feedback, other than a few trusted friends. So, hugging my manuscript, off I went to a writer’s group. There were around six people in the room, I remember, mostly women. We took it in turns to read and then came my turn. Trembling and sweating, I read the first chapter of my novel. There was a silence at the end. Then everyone said how good it was and how it held their attention. Well, I walked home that night, elated. It wasn’t until several days later that the doubts set in. I knew that if I stayed with that group, I would never improve.
Some time later, the fifth challenge was in joining the City Lit College in London. I’d heard of Carol Burns, a tough critic, an excellent creative writing teacher who’d pull you over the coals if necessary. I sat at the back of the class that first afternoon. The room was packed with earnest looking authors, manuscripts perfectly prepared, unlike my dog-eared bunch of papers. Everyone read their pieces and were constructively criticized - some disagreeing with Carol, as if they only wanted to be told what they wanted to hear, and she would respond: you either accept what I say or you don’t, it’s your choice.
When it came to my turn, I was shaking so much I could hardly speak. But when I did, she stopped me on nearly every line. No, no, she’d say, you don’t need all those adjectives, throw them out . . .
I was the worst in the class, yet I knew everything she’d said to me was gold dust and I traveled home on the bus that evening more elated than I’d ever been. Now I could learn, go forward – discover what I had in me to give. I studied with Carol Burns for two years, then joined her private group where yet more challenges had to be faced.
Good, excellent, that’s what we want, us writers, challenging ideas, feelings; daring to put our hearts on the page.
Thanks so much for visiting us today, Laura!
Guest Blogger Bio
Laura Graham was an actress for many years
performing in Shakespearean productions at the National Theatre in London. She
has also played leading roles in Chekhov and Strindberg in major theatres in
One of the major influences in her life was coming to Italy
to live, with virtually no money, only two beloved cats for company, and coping
with the mishaps, the passion and the intrigue. Which is what her first book, Down a Tuscan Alley, is about. Her second book, this time for children, Tale
of Two Tuscan Cats is about the adventures of her own two cats, one found in
the forest, the other on the street. There is now a sequel - Tuscan Cats get
into Mischief, which is also for sale on Amazon.co.uk