Friday, 6 February 2009

Exposition: Our first assignments

This is now month two of the Unique Exposition writing group and at our first meeting we were given a writing assignment. The challenge was to go to a coffee shop or a public place where we could observe someone incognito for five minutes, and then write about them and imagine something of the cicumstances of the next hour of their lives. During our meeting tonight we spent time reviewing and sharing our thoughts about each other's writing.

I encouraged the group to follow this simple acronym: WRITE.
To be warm, respectful, inquisitive, tentative and encouraging.

We were not "marking" each other's "work". We recognise that writing can evoke different responses from different people. We understand that our words and stories are part of us and yet separate from us. This reminds us to be rigorous with ourselves but gentle with others. As a wise man in my house says-if you have nothing positive to

We read through the cameos and read out a favourite sentence, we reflected on our response to the way the author had drawn the character, the setting, the narrative, and our emotional response to the piece.

This is a scary experience to share our first attempts so over the next few days hopefully members of the group will venture forth and post their writing. So I will go first and introduce you to 'Tom' who I observed in a M1 motorway service cafe somewhere in the Leicestershire area on a return trip at the end of a long day.

As this is a blog with comment boxes we welcome you to follow our guidance and share your responses.

Tom sat comfortably in his world of rest. The headlines of the Independent were scrutinised then read. After a few minutes the paper was carefully folded and the next section deftly selected. Like a heat seeking missile Tom leafed through each section until he detected the sports pages. The cricket reviews were found and then read in depth.

Tom was sitting upright in the plastic motorway café chair. His dark donkey jacket was open revealing a red scarf warm over loosened shirt and tie. His dark, crumpled, three day worn end of Wednesday trousers bore the marks of long days spent on motorways and up and down office stairs. Legs are crossed; feet wear soft, black moccasins wide and worn, moulded by miles of steps. His cropped dark hair has strands of silver illuminated by the harsh fluorescent tubes of the service station lighting.

Latte in tall china cup is sipped over long intervals. The brown bag of crisps is slowly and steadily eaten without compulsion, all attention on the paper. Eyes remain locked on the report all distractions averted, Tom is oblivious as people scrape back chairs and sit in jovial groups with burgers and chips. The report is processed by diligent intelligent eyes; all actions are precise and measured with no excess.

A small white chocolate bar is opened. Snap as a slice is broken; chocolate, coffee, crisps, chocolate, coffee, crisps consumed as eyes remain on the paper. The chocolate is finished and the paper folded. Tom rises; he abandons the detritus of his motorway snack leaving half and inch of coffee in the white china cup.

Tom visits the toilets and washes his hands, a slim man in his mid forties who lives in a world of precision and ordered routines. As he walks towards his car he flicks the electronic key to the bleep as the car jumps like a loyal attentive servant. A quick glance at the windscreen and fuel as Tom slides into the seat. He estimates the time to get home and makes a mental note to turn on the news headlines in ten minutes time.

The car carefully navigates the exit route past the garage with overly inflated fuel, and slips into the stream of red and white snakes eyes and accelerates smoothly to seventy. Tom starts to think of home as he anticipates the enticing aroma of dinner with his wife and children. He will savour mundane details of everyday activities and the mini dramas that his sixteen year old daughter seems to constantly provide. He has already accumulated all the latest cricket scores and he will enjoy the post mortem of each innings with his son who is growing a love of the game to rival his own.

Jacqui Webber-Gant. January 2009

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