“I’ve wasted the last ten years of my life drinking cappuccinos”, is by far the most fascinating, and entertaining, reason given for attendance. I let out a cautious laughter. We’re sitting at the back room of a south west London community centre on a mid-week September evening. The creaky mismatched furniture and the strange acoustics of the room enhance that universally awkward, self-conscious mood of any first adult learning session. There’s a choir practice on stage next door. They’re actually pretty good. I’m sitting on one of the uncomfortable chairs of a Creative Writing course for adults. I’m wondering how I ended up amongst this group of 12 strangers.
In reality, I know exactly why I am here. Because of a dormant, long-standing desire to do sculpting. Some friends of mine got me playing with modelling clay the other week. Sure, champagne was involved, too. But modelling that green lump of children’s clay through my hands prompts me to browse the Visual Arts and Crafts courses at my local community learning centre. Hmmmm. The offering consists of Creative Embroidery and Feltmaking. Definitely not my cups of tea. Although lacking in the three-dimensional element, I decide to sign up for the Creative Writing course. On a whim. I don’t share this with the group. Besides the cappuccino lady, they seem serious in their writing endeavours.
As the night progresses, I grow more enthusiastic. The tutor explains the course to introduce us to building blocks of bringing stories to life and capturing a reader’s attention. Each of the six sessions will cover one building block in more detail. We talk about perspective, characters, dialogue and settings. Our home assignment is to make a story of the random newspaper headlines he gives us. He also asks us to bring in the opening page of our favourite book. We have to note down what we like about it, what it tells us to expect about the book and what questions we may have after reading the book. It’s not quite sculpting, but close enough for now.
At break, I watch the cappuccino lady. She doesn’t drink the tea and coffee offered. She seems determined not to waste another day.