Literary Dispatches from London-The Inklings and a Writers Group
I must admit that I have never been a member of a writing group. I know from conversations with other writers that they can be helpful and provide a sense of community in the otherwise solitary pursuit of crafting a novel. But for me, writing a book is too scary. Particularly at the beginning stages of writing a book, I think the idea itself is too fragile. To talk about it would be like purposely bringing a baby into the world prematurally. The act of discussing the idea or even reading the initial draft of my book in front of others seems like a recipe for disaster. I’m thinking, “The first draft is awful. I don’t need other people to tell me that. I need to sit my ass down and revise that sucker until sparkles.”
I would, however, make an exception. If I was invited to join the “Inklings,” I would show up in a heartbeat and without hesitation. That is a writing group I would join. The only problem is that it hasn’t met since 1949 and all of its members are dead.
On a day trip to Oxford University, I learned about the Inklings and it sounded like just about the coolest writing group that has ever existed. It included legend C.S. Lewis, author of the Chronicles of Narnia and J.R.R. Tolkein, author of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Picture that for a moment. Imagine C.S. Lewis and Tolkein working through the plot structure of The Hobbits and character motivation of Frodo Baggins, or Tolkein discussing the religious underpinnings of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe with Lewis, whom Tolkein converted to Christianity in 1931. The Inklings met at noon every Tuesday, usually in a local pub. There they discussed early drafts of books that they were working on as well as read excerpts to one another. Most meetings occurred at the Eagle and Child pub, which was known around campus as “the Baby and Bird” or simply “The Bird.” Although I risked missing the bus back to London, I couldn’t resist paying the Bird a visit and taking a look at the back room where the Inklings met.
I had about twenty minutes before the bus left to return back to London. The guide assured us all that they would leave us there, if we were not on time. So, that began the sprint. After a potty break at Boswells of Oxford (a cool 18th century department store on Broad Street), I began my hustle to the Eagle and Child. I hustled past St. Mary Magdalen church and the Martyrs Memorial (a memorial to three protestent bishops, two of whom were burned at the stake nearby and the other allowed to deteriorate in a cell)...hey, man, I had to get to that Pub. Don’t judge me.
Down St. Giles street I walked/jogged until finally I made it to the white stucco building that hosted the Inklings and enabled Tolkein and Lewis to have a mid-day drink and literary conversation. The inside was just what you would imagine. It was a quintessential English pub, warm and cozy. Yes, there is no doubt I would join the Inklings if invited. No further need to rethink my views regarding writing groups after all.
JD Trafford is the award winning author of six novels, including “Little Boy Lost” which has sold over 100,000 copies worldwide. His latest best-selling legal thriller “Without Precedent” is available right now. You can learn more about or purchase J.D. Trafford’s books athttps://www.jdtrafford.com/the-books