Last night I attended City Library, Manchester for the launch of an anthology “Life, Death… The Whole Damn Thing”, featuring short stories from members of the award-winning writing group at Commonword in Manchester. The room was packed with writers, their friends and family members as well as some of us there as supporters and admirers.
The womanswrite group has existed for decades, encouraging many women to find their writing voices and in some cases develop their writing careers. Cathy Bolton, now Director of Manchester Literature Festival, kicked off the proceedings with some of her award-winning poetry. Novelist Cath Staincliffe rounded the event off by acknowledging the importance of womanswrite to her own successful career.What came through strongly throughout the event was the value of this supportive network in helping numerous writers to improve their work and gain in confidence.
In between Cathy and Cath, 7 members of the group read extracts from the stories appearing in the anthology. There was great variety in the work, some being very real, others rooted in fantasy or fairytale. In a way though, what was read, although enjoyable, wasn't really the essence of this event. What mattered was the sense of achievement and the pride everyone , from publisher, editor to all the writers felt in having published.
While most of the work of a librarian is dealing with published work, it was great that this event celebrating creative writing happened in a library. Without the valuable work going on in writing groups, workshops and masterclasses all over the country, sometimes in libraries, many successful writers might not come to light. Writers need to read. Many writers need to test their work in friendly and supportive groups. Writers need to promote their early work when it is published. Libraries can and do support the creative act of writing. With all the cutbacks and change currently happening to libraries in many parts of the UK, I hope this important function won't be lost.