Writers Cynthia, Margaret, Raewyn (coordinator) and Sue meet at the library and community center on Hakeke St on Thursday mornings. Photo / Paul Brooks
It’s Thursday morning at Hakeke St Library and Community Centre. Raewyn Laird is there: she is the facilitator/coordinator of creative writers known as the Fresh Voices Writing Group. The group operates from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
Margaret Stratford is there too, early.
Fresh Voices started out as a creative writing class with a tutor, but the tutor got a job and had to leave. “So one of the band members, Annette Green, took over,” Raewyn explains. “And she ran it for a year, and she got a job. So I took over. I was part of the original group and, at the same time, I was doing a BA in creative writing.” Raewyn has completed her BA.
Fresh Voices has 12 floating members, but there are four core members: Raewyn, Margaret, Sue Seconi and Cynthia Couper.
“We have two members who have moved to Australia, and once they settle down they will join us via Zoom, and we have one who has moved to Korea. When she finishes her English exam, she will join us via Zoom.”
Not all members work on particular projects.
“Our group is really exploring how to use words. We have a weekly homework assignment, which can be written as a story or a poem…and we share them at the start of each meeting. It’s not a set schedule, that’s all that comes with people writing and they want to know more. We do a 10 minute writing prompt or a pun.
“Everyone writes differently, and we don’t want people to write the same way. We want them to write what they’re comfortable writing in a style they’re comfortable with. , which makes sharing stories interesting. From a one-word prompt, you can get a wide variety of results. If you’re not able to do your homework because you’ve been busy with other things, you won’t get detention!”
Raewyn says that all of the band members have felt the need to write since they were young, but life got in the way.
“Right now we’re doing poetry. A few weeks ago we did odes.” She speaks of Horatian and Pindaric odes, elegies and limericks.
“Some of our writers have been writing for themselves for a while: others haven’t explored that side of their personality, so everything is new, and they’re learning ways of writing new words, new ways of writing. put together words – it’s a growth to live.
“There are many writing groups in Whanganui: we are a very creative society. Some of them focus on bigger works that they want to publish, we explore more about how words work and the joy of words on paper. When we criticize a piece of writing, we are criticizing the writing, not the writer.”
Margaret has attended writers’ workshops over the years and finds herself surrounded by words in her volunteer work at the library. Fresh Voices is fun for her.
Sue Seconi is part of Fresh Voices. Her husband was the last volunteer of the month for Volunteer Whanganui. Sue says she only attends the creative writing group for coffee. She has been with the group for about a year.
“There’s a wonderful freedom here,” she says. “What you can do, you do; what you can’t, you’re not going to be sent to the naughty room. My handwriting has improved a lot here.”
Cynthia Couper is the fourth member, and she is working on a piece of creative non-fiction, inspired by a writing prompt.
“It’s news. I’ve never done this before,” she says. “It’s around the war in Ukraine, so I have to do a lot of research.
“I always wanted to write, but I never had the chance.” Cynthia took workshops at the Gonville library with Laraine Sole. “She brought me out of my shell. She broke through some self-imposed barriers and she put together a little portfolio of our stories and gave it to us at the end.”
Fresh Voices is about writing, but also about friendships forged with words. Thursday morning at Hakeke St Library and Community Centre, if you’re interested.