Two full-time fathers have joined forces to set up a new writing group.
The Oamaru Writers’ Collective met for the first time last Friday night. Co-founders Adrian McCauley and Eddie Robinson wanted an evening timetable that would fit around their commitments to raising their children.
Mr McCauley said he usedto be a member of theWaitaki Writers Group, but because it met on aMonday afternoon he could no longer attend. However, he valued the group so much he wanted to offer something similar to others for whom daytime meetings were not convenient.
“For me, that was a big driving factor.
“I just craved interaction with other writers.”
He met Mr Robinson at a writing workshop a couple of years ago. He agreed there was room for an evening group, and wanted it to focus on writers’ development.
They were happy to have crossover between the two groups, describing their collective as “fully inclusive”.
However, they did not have access for wheelchairs premises are upstairs from the Lagonda Milk Bar on the corner of Thames and Eden Sts.
Mr Robinson said the venue, called Our Hub Oamaru Creative Arts Space, was procured with the help of the Creative Communities scheme.
“It’s a place to start,” he said.
“We’re very happy with the landlord – Lagonda.”
There are several adjoining rooms where people can gather to share ideas, he said. He hoped the writers’ group would be able to collaborate with other artists and makers in the future.
Mr McCauley and Mr Robinson arrived at the collective in different ways. Mr McCauley said he was “a reclusive kid” whose mind worked faster than the environment he was in. That inevitably led to imagination.
“I was a voracious devourer of stories.”
He started writing because “the story I want to read doesn’t exist”.
Science fiction and fantasy are his favourite genres.
“I used to absolutely love steampunk.”
Its surge in popularity “diluted” it for him, but he still considered himself a hard-core devotee.
Mr McCauley is one of 10 authors contributing to the UbiquiCity Project’s anthologies about characters and events in a future city fuelled by ubiquitous computing.
Mr Robinson said he did not devour the written word as a child, and was a slow reader who did not commit easily. He only recently joined a book club to motivate himself to read more widely.
He was “inspired by everything from the beat poets to more modern short stories.”
Mr Robinson always read more non-fiction than fiction and has written anecdotal essays and interviews with local artists.
Both men contributed to the Waitaki District Council and Oamaru Mail lockdown memories competition, Mr McCauley co-winning the short story section.
The format for the collective’s meetings would be discussed with members but was likely to begin with a warm-up writing exercise. Mr McCauley said it was always so interesting with a group activity to see everyone’s versions.
Workshops for different types of writing would be held according to demand from members.
They would be encouraged to take along their ideas and discuss them with their fellow writers, seeking feedback.
Mr Robinson believed that would make them less vulnerable to comments from outsiders.
“There are no industry professionals, no hierarchies. We’re all developing writers wishing to shine.”
Mr McCauley said his collaborative anthologies would not have happened without his experience with the Waitaki Writers Group. He had been “self-deprecating” about his writing, but the group gave him confidence that he had talent.
The collective would be “a supportive environment” where members would receive “small doses of criticism”.
“Without that, it’s much harder to take rejection letters.”
Because the New Zealand publishing industry was “very small and quite elitist”, self-publishing was the end goal, he said.
Success as an author was “a combination of how good you are, who you know and luck – your ability is the smallest piece of that pie chart”.
Mr Robinson said everyone needed a break from their daily responsibilities and needed to choose what to do outside the home.
Creating the collective was not selfish but was establishing a healthy network of people with inbuilt succession, he said.
Mr McCauley said forming a routine of leaving the houseto meet fellow writers had been great in helping him to recover after a traumatic experience and for his mental health.
“I don’t think there areany great writers out there who aren’t screwed in the head.”
Oamaru had such a strong literary heritage that was not fully appreciated, he said.