Writer’s Day 2019 – Ten Go Mad In Oxford

Reading Writers believe in creativity through community. We strongly hold to the notion that our work is better and truer to ourselves through the support we give to each other. Our busy Manuscript Nights bear testament to that.

Writer’s Day is an excuse to take the fun and creative energy we generate at every meeting and really go nuts with it. Every year on a special Saturday, a group of Reading Writers meet up for a full day of larks and silliness, with a bit of actual writing thrown in.

There were slideshows and everything.

This year, we went out of our comfort zone and into one of the most literary cities of all… Oxford. Less than half an hour by train, but suddenly we’re treading the same cobbles as Tolkien, Hardy, Le Carre, Pullman and so many others. To the library!

The Makerspace at Oxford County Library is a cool, clean room with all the facilities a writer could need–that is, wi-fi and a tea urn. A circular table gave everyone a decent eyeline, and Andy our chair and tech guru took up mission control in the centre. Did he look a bit like Colonel White from Captain Scarlet? You be the judge…

Colonel White (note essential biscuit stack)
Commander Andy

Andy had teamed up with this year’s Don Louth winner Eloise to put together a full programme of activities. We were joined for the day by Damon Wakes, RW Alumni and author of brilliant Agatha Christie-in-space yarn Ten Little Astronauts. He cheerfully joined in on all the fun, and was part of the team that won the afternoon’s literary quiz.

The core goal of the day was twofold. Use Oxford as inspiration for a long-form work, and see if we could develop a synopsis of the ideas that came out of what we found. The work that goes into a strong yet simple summary of a piece of writing can be the most difficult task undertaken in getting a novel off the ground. Could we, with only a day to play with, come up with a compelling pitch for a long-form book?

With Andy’s breakdown on the elements of a novel humming in our brains, we dispersed across Oxford to seek word-juice. Some of us, cognisant of Oxford’s links between pubs and wordsmithery, found their way to local hostelries. A glass of wine and a very fine burger in The Bear for Julie and Eileen. A quiet pint in the Lamb and Flag for Rob, in the same room where Thomas Hardy wrote Jude The Obscure.

Julie and Eileen find inspiration at The Bear.

Others took a less boozy approach. Meg eavesdropped on the world’s most boring man in Gail’s Bakery, as he tried and failed to impress a date. Damon made tracks to the Pitt-Rivers Museum, where he ended up face-to-face with a dragon-god mask. Others, like Elaine and Ilaria, simply wandered, soaking up the atmosphere and sunshine.

After all this flaneury, we reconvened to share what we had discovered. Damon presented a workshop on the path to publishment of his novel, which he crowdfunded through the Unbound initiative. As luck would have it he’d brought along a few copies, which the group cheerfully bought up.

Then it was time to get a little writing done, before sharing our ideas. The range was, as befits a gathering of Reading Writers, broad. A tale of warring colleges. Oxford as a place of refuge, or a new home. As the backdrop for a gothic-tinged clandestine wedding. There was even a breakdown of geometry-based SF from Andy which I really want to hear more about.

And then, before we knew it, it was home time. A full day simply flew by, and we hurried off to catch our trains and the last of the late summer sunshine. It was a thoroughly inspiring, creative and hilarious day, and one of the highlights of the RW year.

I’ll leave the last word to Julie, who said:

WOW, what a day to remember.

My last words are to Andy and Eloise, let us know next year’s date asap, so we can book that date in our 2020 diaries.

I’ll raise a glass of Oxford Gold to that. See you all next year!