Wednesday night. Any Wednesday – whether in the dead of the Canadian
winter or the stifling summer heat, the Clients' Library at the Queen
Street site of CAMH is bright and cheerful. The Loose Pages writing
group has gathered once again.
(L to R) Loose Pages volunteers Melissa, Jeannine and Lindsay
group was founded in January 2010 by a volunteer named Polly.
Unfortunately, Polly’s work commitments eventually prevented her from
continuing in the library, but with the support of past and current
volunteers – Jeannine, Alex, Melissa and Lindsay – the group has
continued and flourished.
This is how a typical evening
goes. About six people are sitting around a long, rectangular table,
laughing and sharing anecdotes about their adventures throughout the
previous week. Each of these people is different; each brings a
completely unique set of experiences to the group. But all share one
feature in common: the desire to express themselves through the written
word. After a few minutes, Lloyd – a writer who earns his living by
selling his self-published poetry chapbook at various events around
Toronto – urges us to call the meeting to order. “We should probably get
started,” he says. One of the volunteers pulls out a large plastic bin
labelled “Writing Group” and sets it on the table. The group members
open it and take out pens, pencils and loose leaf paper. Then, they
announce a writing prompt. It might be anything from "write about a
tradition that's meaningful to you" to "write a piece inspired by a work
of art." After four years they've gone through a lot of writing
prompts, but somehow they always manage to find new ones.
this point the room goes silent. Some group members begin writing
immediately, others sit quietly, waiting for a flash of inspiration to
confront the whiteness of the page. Some members are avid, experienced
writers; others swear it’s been years since they last picked up a pen.
But within minutes, all pens and pencils are moving, all eyes are
focused in concentration on the page as memories, experiences,
impressions, visions and dreams are transformed into words.
30 or 40 minutes, they put their pens down. Proceeding in a circle,
they take turns and share their work. While no one is ever obligated to
read, they rarely decline. The workshop’s objective is not to critique
writing but to generate raw material, to take first steps toward
transforming thoughts and feelings into words.
transformation is exactly what happens. Every week, the group is amazed
at the quality and variety of pieces produced. From one client’s
reminiscences about his childhood in Guyana to another’s passionate
stories about pressing social problems, the material generated in this
workshop speaks to the full range of human experience. After everyone
has read, they gather their loose pages and place them in the plastic
bin. They leave the workshop inspired by each other’s stories and eager
to continue telling their own.
In 2014 Loose Pages began sharing their writing on a blog. Their workshop is open to everyone, and they are always looking for new members.
Loose Pages writing group meets every Wednesday night from 6 to 7:30
p.m. in the Clients' Library at the Queen St. site. For more information
or to join, please contact The Loose Pages.