A farcical novel-in-emails about an eccentric writers group. They've all got a book in them, unfortunately.
In December 2016, Julia Greengage, aspiring writer and devoted housewife, put up a poster in her local library with an idea to start a writers group. This group would read each others' work, exchange constructive feedback and generally share the pains and pleasures of this excruciating yet exhilarating endeavour we call Literature.
Seven people answered.
The emails gathered here present a true and unvarnished account of a developing dynamic culminating in the events of the, now notorious, Bleeding Typewriters documentary.
This is the story of the Crawley Writers Group.
Meet the motley members:
Keith is an IT consultant and mercenary sci-fi geek who can bang out 5000 words before breakfast, and is obsessed with monetising his work. He has to read to the group at double-speed because he’s so prolific.
Alice identifies as a writer of fiction, even though she hasn’t ever written any fiction. She blogs a great deal about planning to write fiction, and overcoming writer’s block, and has been working on the opening sentence of her novel for two years.
Tom is a suburban lothario who describes himself as a ‘brooding TEFL bureaucrat, novelist manqué, lover not fighter. I write therefore I am’. He has an embarrassing secret, which may come to haunt him.
Peter (never Pete, please) sees himself as a conceptual literary artist whose goal in life – for reasons best known to himself – is to ‘re-present the present’. In practice this means finding different ways to spy on people. He is only ever really comfortable when he has made everyone else feel completely ill at ease.
Jon is a faded muso with a UFO complex. After a few years as part of an obscure prog rock band and a lost decade as a hippie traveller, Jon now works for the Dental Estimates Board. He writes deceptively simple animal fables with powerful hidden messages about the deep state and, you know, the way things really are.
Blue works in a charity shop and is a big fan of gloomy music and dark poetry including ‘Sylvia esp. Sylvia. My poetry is very intense and tells it like it is about me and my emotions and the world how the world is. I use free verse which means no rhymes and academic bs. Just raw feels.’ Her poems include Electrocuted Angel In The Headlights of My Dead Lover’s Eye Sockets, and the notorious Kitten on a Fatberg.
Mavinder, sadly, couldn't make the first meeting. Or the second. But promises to come to the next one!
Led by Julia, a glamorous housewife with steely ambitions of her own, these budding writers meet every month to read out their work and encourage each other in their dreams of getting published.
But it’s not long before the group’s idiosyncrasies and insecurities start to appear. Expect feuds, rivalries and romance; sex, scandal and humiliation -- not to mention an exploding sheep's head, a cosplay stalker, and an alien mothership invasion. They’re on a journey, and God help the rest of us.
A novel-in-emails about seven eccentric writers, written by three quite odd ones, KITTEN ON A FATBERG is a very British farce about loneliness, the ache of literary obscurity, and the perils of Twiglet sex.
Editors’ Note to the First Edition
Like many TV viewers, we were pleasantly appalled by Bleeding Typewriters, Channel 4’s notorious fly-on-the-wall documentary about the Crawley Writers’ Group. Here was a story that seemed to have it all – if, by all, you mean sex, drugs, violence, a vicious cosplay stalker, a prog rock reunion, and an alien mothership invasion.
As members of a (comparatively rather staid) writers’ group ourselves, we wanted to know more about this extraordinary collection of authors. Documentaries have a tendency to bring out exaggerated behaviour in people, so we were keen to uncover the real characters and trace the unguarded evolution of the group, right back to its beginnings as a twinkle in Julia Greengage’s eye.
The emails gathered here, then, present a true and unvarnished account of a developing dynamic – forming, storming, norming, performing, and even mourning. As editors, we saw our job as merely to facilitate the free flow of the unfolding story; to that end, we have excised material that was repetitive or merely functional, tidied up a few inconsistencies and inaccuracies, but otherwise left things as they were originally written. We conclude, of course, with a transcript of Bleeding Typewriters itself.
To our minds, the narrative this correspondence unveils is every bit as extraordinary as the documentary itself – exploding sheep’s heads, fascinator attacks, Twiglet sex and all.
D.B., M.J., A.W.
To: Crawley Writers Group
Sent: 01.12.16, 10:37
Subject: Welcome writers of Crawley!
My dear writers
What a fantastic response to my little notice in the library!
I'll be honest, I was a tad trepidatious before I put the idea of a writing group out there, but I just thrive on creativity and so the idea of a little community of like-minded literary searchers was irresistible.
So just imagine my delight when I returned to my little poster a few days later to see that all the little paper fingers with my email address on had been torn off! (The graffito about 'arty-farty slags' I could have done without, but still.)
So if you're getting this email, welcome to the group and I hope the writing is flying! I propose we meet every 2 or 3 weeks, rotating around different homes or other venues (pubs can work, but in my experience all that boozy bustle can be a tad unconducive). We'll be reading bits of our work, exchanging constructive feedback – and generally sharing the pains and pleasures of this excruciating yet exhilarating endeavour we call Literature!
I propose that we meet at my place for our first gathering – it's No 1 The Larches, the big one at the start of that private road opposite the golf course with the newly – and very dearly – asphalted carriage drive (don't ask). Shall we say next Thursday, 745 for 8? Do let me know if you can come.
I thought it might be nice if we all briefly e-introduced ourselves beforehand, so we know a bit about each other before we meet? I'm Julia Greengage, 49 (though my dear hubby insists I don't look it), and I've been an actress for about 25 years (Bad Girls, The Bill, ‘difficult fibroids patient’ in Holby etc). My husband is big in HR at the airport, and we moved here because the commute from Richmond was sapping his spirit.
In between gigs in 'the biz of show', I moonlight as a paralegal, but my secret self has been plotting the big novel for over a decade. I've finally got an idea I can work with and a few draft chapters, and am looking forward to putting it out there!! Nothing ventured and all that! I guess style-wise I'm a mainstream fiction type, with a love of big emotions and gut-wrenching twists, somewhere between David Nichols and Judi Picoult. Well one can but dream!
Anyway enough about me. Do drop the group a line to let us know if you can come and tell us a little bit about yourselves.
Until Thursday, dear writers!
Saturday, 9 February 2019
Thanks so much to everyone who has helped us get to 10% of our funding milestone in our first week! We've been blown away by how generous people have been, and we really really appreciate it.
The fatberg has been having a bit of moment this week, what with the monster they pulled out of the sewers in Sidmouth, Devon, and the launch of a public info film disguised as a movie trailer, Fatberg Invasion…
These people are helping to fund Kitten on a Fatberg.