I was seated at my dining table in front of a laptop ready for my online Jack Grapes Method Writing class with Jules Swales.
On my screen, in little boxes were the heads and shoulders of ten writers who blow me away every week with their exquisite writing. While we waited for the last two people to arrive, I enjoyed the chatter between the others in the group.
I’ve been a student in Jules’ classes for nigh on two years and every season I am astounded by how my writing changes. I had written almost every day for over ten years, with little improvement in my writing, yet under Jules’ guidance, in a very short space of time it has evolved in epic proportions.
Each week we are all tasked to practice the exercises at whatever level we are at, (we are a mixed group), at least three or four times in the week, with nothing on our mind and without being distracted by story. Sometimes I feel like I can’t do it, some practices are harder than others. Sometimes I worry about whether I’ll write anything that is good enough for class, but something always shows up. Sometimes I think everyone else writes better than I do, but I’ve learned that we each have our own voice and I cannot judge my own.
The classes are always enjoyable and kind. Jules draws out the learning for people, without judgment or criticism of our work. I learn both from the feedback she gives me about my pieces and from how she responds to the others.
You’d think that with the classes being online, it wouldn’t be the same as face to face, yet it has an intimate feel. It’s like we are all in Jules’ lounge, in comfortable clothes, with our drink of choice. A group of people that have been friends forever.
“Ok let’s get started,” Jules said. I wore my Bose headphones to drown out the background noises in the house so I could listen to every word being read by my fellow students. My homework, printed on two white A4 pages, double line spaced and printed in 12 font, was on the table in front of me ready for my turn to read. My pen and notepad were set to one side ready so that I could take note of the wonderful turns of phrases I knew I was about to hear. I had a glass of water in case I was thirsty, a half pack of mints in case my mouth became dry and a box of tissues in case my eyes were not! I can never predict who is going to move me to tears, but every week someone will do so with their emotive writing. I had switched on the main overhead lamp as I knew that the light would fade as the class progressed. It was morning for most people, but it was evening for me. “Great.” I heard a number of people say, myself included.
One of the things that have surprised me the most about this class is the fact that in the past two years I have written not one but two books as a result, neither of which I had planned to write. One of them needs some additional work before it’s ready for publication, but the other is available on Amazon.
I look forward to class every week. I’ve never missed one. On occasion I’ve joined another group because I’ve had a diary clash, but no matter the group, the experience is always the same.