Gallimaufry or why my writing group is cock-o-hoop

Gallimaufry. Say it out loud to hear the skip in the middle of the word, like a sedate court dance. Gallimaufry is a late medieval word, probably from the French, meaning a ridiculous medley, or a hodge-podge of odds and ends. It is the title of the anthology by The Totnes Writing Group. We took delivery of 100 copies on 1st December last year. The group had been working towards this for about four months. The copies were impressive: the cover and the piles. The writers present felt immense pride at an ambition achieved, and a successful project completed.

228 Galli cover

The Group

The group was started in 2013 as a library initiative – those libraries again. (see next post on 5th February). The writers are a diverse lot. They include a gardener, care worker, home tutor, counsellor, IT expert, bowls player, theatre producer, artists, teachers, psychologist, editor, journalists, film maker. Some are established writers, others are beginners. A motley group of 15 writers had produced a collection of 36 poems, short stories, memoirs, reflections and illustrations. My own contribution was a short story.

228 Writers group

Most of the stress of the project was carried by Fiona Murray who edited the book, dealt with the printers, and all the complaints of writers who had commas and fonts adjusted without their say-so.

Why we did it

Writers like having readers and for many it is the reason they write. Although members read their work to the group, which is important, many of us also seek a wider audience. We began to ask ourselves, why don’t we publish a book of our own writings and then used the skills within the group to find a way to do it.

The anthology provided protection and support for those who love writing but do not want to stick out and who suffer from lack of confidence about going public with their writing. It’s a bit like singing in a choir, one of our members observed. If we publish again we hope more writers from our group will contribute.

What the group learned

At our New Year meeting the group identified the following learnings:

Feedback from our readers suggests that the diversity of themes, styles and genres is an attractive feature of the collection. We did not have a theme although if a writer wanted one we suggested ‘Totnes’. This is pretty much how our group operates – loosely.

The cover and overall professional look added greatly to the attractiveness of the anthology. The silk collage used for the cover was made by Fiona Green, a member of the group.

Writers selected the pieces they wanted to contribute. The editor did not choose what to include. We set an initial 2000 word limit and later, when we worked out we could include more for the same costs, a few people contributed additional material.

The experience of writing is lonely. Our warm, supportive group made one aspect of writing – the production of the anthology – a social process for our writers. Social support is something we all value in the writing group.

Writing is often ephemeral and the production of the collection meant that words took a more permanent form for the contributors. Seeing our work on paper, and alongside the other contributions, made us feel more confident about our writing. It has also made us question our current practice. At the moment the writer reads aloud their text for which they want feedback. Perhaps we should have hard copies of the written text because seeing a poem or short story in print is different from hearing it.

The production of our anthology has made us question the purposes of our group. Are we in a new phase? Do we want to launch into another publication, even one in a different format, or do we want to focus a little more on writing processes?

What we need to think about if we do this again

Some of our practical decisions indicate a lack of experience. We could have thought further ahead about costings, publicity and sales. Since our purpose was not to raise money, but to provide a platform, some of that seemed less important. We still have a dozen copies from our print run. We are on the point of breaking even!

The sales team having some success.

The sales team having some success.

Our frustrations (carried by our noble editor) about the printer’s inability to make corrections without causing further unwanted alterations to the text suggest we need to build in more time and more support for proofreading. We wanted a local printer, but we might look for a more responsive one.

And what would be the purpose of a further publication? Do we want to be cherished by the local community? Do we want to be better known as a creative group, and to contribute to the local creative community?

Overall

We learned so much about publishing that I would recommend the process to anyone who wants a modest platform for their writing.

I acknowledge the contribution of our discussion within the group about what we learned in the writing of this post. However I have not attempted to define what the group thought. We are a diverse lot and we seldom agree on everything, but this project was A GOOD THING.

Gallimaufry, edited by Fiona Murray, 87pp. Price £5. Published December 2015.

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16 Comments

Filed under Books, Libraries, Publishing our book, words, Writing

16 Responses to Gallimaufry or why my writing group is cock-o-hoop

  1. Fiona

    A very comprehensive account of the process and outcome. Enjoyed reading it.

  2. Congratulations Caroline and everyone. Quite an achievement and, with this experience, the next one will be even better!

  3. Thanks Caroline for documenting this process. It was good to be involved – if only tangentially: seeing ones work in print is always a boost to confidence.
    Am back in Spain – waiting for a report on my novel – and taking some time to explore other parts of Andalucia and rev up my blog a bit. I’ve taken your hint of posting more regularly – and it’s bearing fruit: more comments; more interest; more fun!

    • Caroline

      Thanks Jon. Sounds like you are having a good time back in Spain again. You should be aware that many people have had a knowing laugh about your Christmas in Totnes poem with which the collection starts. Me included.
      Hope the writing goes well and look forward to seeing you on your return.
      Caroline

      • thanks Caroline for the appreciation – I haven´t seen the book yet so I don´t know whether my request for a link to my website was included along with the text. ´Xmas in Totnes´ is actually (like the other piece) a lyric: you can get the full experience at http://www.jonstein.co.uk/music
        Excellent blog by the way on public libraries. I´m saddened by the fact that the lovely little library in Alozaina – the small country town in which I stay when I´m abroad – hasn´t opened in years. If I were here longer, I´d volunteer to staff it myself!

  4. Eileen

    Hi C,
    I am so pleased to have a signed copy of this lovely collection. I love the cover and the colours of the silk. It works really well and I don’t often say that about a book cover.
    I think your point about having hard copies of the written text especially a poem or short story in print is a really good one. Yes, it is very different from hearing it. In fact, I like hearing someone read and seeing a printed version at the same time.
    Hope you have a great party when you go into profit.
    Great stuff, well done to all at Totnes and I have to add that the Christmas pudding one really tickled me. Thanks Jon.

    • Caroline

      Ah yes, a party with the profits!
      Thanks for your encouragement and your assistance with my story in the collection.
      Caroline.

  5. Eileen

    My pleasure – it is always so good to read your work, in all its many forms.
    E
    x

  6. Lynda Haddock

    Loved the Gallimaufry collection. The opening poem, Christmas in Totnes made me smile and I went onto be moved and engaged by the variety and quality of work here. I found myself imagining what it was like for the group working and planning together – and was reminded that writing is a part of life, an important way of exploring and expressing our experiences. Loved the cover too!

    • Caroline

      Thanks for these very generous and appreciative comments Lynda. I’m so pleased you enjoyed our collection. I hope to see your group’s collected poems – if you decide to publish them – soon. It was a great activity to plan and publish our collection, because we learned so much about writing for publication.
      Caroline.

  7. Gail Brooking

    What a lovely surprise after being laid out ill for so long. Hoping to return soon things are improving.

    Best Wishes

    Gail

  8. gail brooking

    On the way back got a nice bit of writing about I K Brunel I hope will be ok for everyone. Best Wishes Gail

  9. Hello my name is Celine Hispiche and I am the curator and host of Celine’s literary salon. I currently work with the Guildhall Music Conservatiore and their school of speech and drama please take a look at our

    http://www.gsmd.ac.uk/youth_adult_learning/guildhall_creative_entrepreneurs/meet_the_entrepreneurs/creative_entrepreneurs_16_17/literary_salon/

    I am bringing my literary salon to Totnes on the Friday the 13th (lucky for some!) of October.

    I am looking for emerging and established writers from all genres. We have the upstairs of the Barrel House and it should be a fun evening.

    My main purpose is to give writers confidence and a platform to be be able to share their work.

    I look forward to hearing from you and love your blog.

    Celine Hispiche

    Celinehispiche1312@gmail.com

    • Caroline

      Thanks for your interest Celine. I will put it to the Totnes Writing group when we next meet and get back to you.
      Caroline

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