Two years after I moved back to Toronto, I decided to start a writing critique group because I couldn’t find one near me that met on a weekday evening. When I was living in Aurora, a bit north of Toronto, I belonged to this wonderful writing critique group called Richvale Writers. It was run by poet Bernice Lever (and she continued to run it until she moved to BC) and was actually in Richmond Hill, which is a little closer to Toronto. But non-driver me and another non-driver writer were lucky to get a lift with another writer to and from the town centre for our meetings. I liked the way this group operated and it became a model for me to develop my East End Writers’ Group.
East End Writer began meeting in the tiny living room of my tiny east end bungalow. For that first meeting I worried there would not be enough room but worrying wasn’t necessary. Three people – my writer/editor friend from down the street, another writer from Canadian Authors Association, and myself were present for this meeting. Over the next few years the membership and attendance grew, especially when we had guest speakers. One evening we had 17 people crowded into my living room. We were spilling over into my office.
We also developed a modus operandi for our meetings. No feedback given in nasty and/or dictatorship type modes. But it couldn’t be all positive. The trick was to blend the positive and the negative about the story or poem being critiqued to help the writer improve, get ideas for writing problems he or she was having with the piece so the writer could make his or her story better and get it published. It was about the writing, not the writer. It was sharing. And many of us did get the rewrites of our critiqued writing published.
And yes, there were a few questionable feedbacks and complaints about them to me. I can take a lot of writing criticism, usually, but if I had several complaints about someone, unfortunately I had to ask them to leave or as I became more familiar with running a group talk to them and try to work it out. More on this below.
But the “house party” couldn’t last. In September 2013 I had a boarder and her cat. There was no room in this inn for a writers group. So, we became nomads. First stop was a cafe around the corner. I had done readings there from my first Beyond book – the short story collection Beyond the Tripping Point (Blue Denim Press, 2012) with some other Crime writers of Canada members. A few months later the cafe went out of business and closed.
Next stop was a combination second hand bookstore/quilting workshop centre. We were in the workshop room at the back. This one was for a few months only, but the owners told us this upfront. When our time was up the owners closed the bricks and mortars store and took the books to their online shop.
We were back on the street again. But not for long. Just a couple months of a summer break. Then, thanks to a librarian then at S. Walter Stewart library branch, East End Writers’ Group went into partnership with the library branch as a library program. This meant more publicity for the group with flyers from the library. Membership grew. We had a few public presentations strutting our creative talents (reading our writing, acting, singing, photography).
We also so had to deal with members’ problems. The one that comes to mind is the woman from a community college whom I call “the poacher”. She showed up for one meeting at the library and just about took over the meeting. Unfortunately, I was overtired that night and so were my wits. This particular woman was trying to form her own writing group to meet in the living room of the tiny bungalow she lived in. She persuaded some of the EEWG members to email her their short stories, novel excerpts, etc. for her to critique. I heard from some of the members that they never heard back from her in any way.
But Karma always kicks in, often when you do nothing. I heard later (and I don’t remember from where) that she not only didn’t get a writing group going in her bungalow, the landlord kicked her out, I believe because he wanted the house for a family member to move into. Lesson: if you give someone the boot or equivalent, you will also get the boot from someone.
In late 2019 we started preparing for our 20th anniversary in 2020. In February 2020 I picked up flyers for a guest novelist at one of our upcoming celebrations and was just going to distribute them when…
COVID-19 hit and many businesses, etc. in Toronto and elsewhere in Ontario, in other parts of Canada, shut down. That included all Toronto library branches. The library was now only online, so many of us were put on hold, in COVID limbo, where we still sit thanks to all the waves and variants of COVID. I will not go into who is to blame for all this COVID stuff here. Maybe another time. Maybe on my Only Child Writes blog. For now I prefer to focus on writing and the like.
One of our members, a retired IT guy got us on Zoom in April 2020. He does the technical stuff so is called the host. I am the meetings’ moderator. Since then we’ve been meeting on Zoom twice a month except for December. However, 20th anniversary celebrations got put on the back burner. I was too busy dealing with all the changes in living due to dealing with all the COVID stuff (for another blog post on another blog), and very busy with several rewrites of my memoir The Enemies Within Us – a Memoir, which as you may know from previous blog posts, was published in October 2020 by Blue Denim Press.
When 2021 arrived and COVID was still sticking its ugly face and other parts into our lives, I decided we were going to celebrate East End Writers’ Group 20th anniversary in 2021. Everything was all topsy-turvy, so why not?
Unlike our previous celebration presentations (10th, 13th, and 15th anniversaries) I was not going to do most of the organizing, preparations, etc. myself. So I put together a group of four of us – longtime members Shane Joseph and Tom Taylor and newer member (as in started to attend from our library meeting days) Andrea Laver, and me. All of us took on parts to get this show on the road -virtually, of course. Shane who is computer savvy (he is a writer but also publisher at Blue Denim Press) is handling all our technical stuff – planning meetings on Zoom, dress rehearsal on Zoom, upcoming show on Zoom, and the invitation on Facebook (with the Zoom login embedded in it for activation the evening of the show). Andrea volunteered to host the presentation, and I put out a call for presenters in the East End Writers monthly newsletters which I write and send out. And we got a variety of talent signed up – author interviews,singing and songwriting, readings, a presentation on what happens when fact and fiction collide, and a panel on publishing, although Shane took that one over after I got one more panelist signed up and he signed up the third panelist. Once that was done I left the panel set-up to those involved. Unlike our library presentations, this one won’t require a food spread for all.
In the following posts before the presentation I’ll be putting a bit more about who is doing what and an insight on an individual preparation for doing a presentation without giving it all away. As well as a few other things being done.
Meantime, take note again of this date for the presentation: Wednesday, May 26, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. EDT(please adjust your time zones) and please sign in to attend. Here is the link which will get you to the actual invitation on Facebook before you sign in. You do have to login to Facebook to sign in as going. So, if you are a writer or reader, please join us.
Sharon A. Crawford
The M and M Author of Mystery and Memoir
Books available on Amazon