Saturday, February 25, 2012

Surrounded by Talented Souls

By Keith N Fisher

According to Wikipedia, this is a picture of the corner in the pub called Eagle and Child, where The Inklings met after 1949. It is called the Rabbit Room and as you can see, houses a memorial to CS Lewis.

The group included CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, Charles Williams, and Hugo Dyson. In 1933, they began to meet in various places to read and discuss various material including their unfinished manuscripts. Members of the group changed over the years. Even Tolkien drifted away in the latter part of 1950, but it was to this group, Lewis distributed proofs of The Lion Witch and the Wardrobe in June of 1950.

The pub was remodeled in 1962, which changed the private nature of the Rabbit Room. Lewis, of course, died in 1963.

Being a part of the group had it benefits and drawbacks. Williams inspired Lewis, and Dyson was instrumental in Lewis becoming a christian.

To meet with like-minded individuals and discuss your work can be beneficial. Even stark criticism can help. Apparently, Dyson, who was an expert in Shakespeare, preferred talk and literary discussion to reading manuscripts, but he didn’t like Tolkien’s work. The story is told that he would lie on a couch listening to Tolkien read from The Lord of the Rings and shouted, “Oh God, not another elf!”

In many circles today, Tolkien is more revered than Lewis. He is definitely better known than Dyson. Tolkien went on to be named The Father of ‘High Fantasy’, but that is not the way it used to be. Tolkien was a writer before his time, and I’m glad he persevered in spite of harsh criticism.

This is a picture of where my group last met. I doubt there will ever be a plaque on the wall honoring the Super Edits critique group, although it is possible for some of the members. Besides, we don’t meet in that cafe very often. We have been known to read our chapters in the upper room of a Mexican restaurant, between the stacks in the public library, and even in my backyard. We offer help and support to each other, we cheer each other, and we provide a listening ear.

I’m quite certain I would never hold up under the sarcasm Dyson gave to Tolkien’s work, and it took a while for me to humble myself enough to realize my group was right. I am a better writer because of them. I also get to read many popular books in the draft stages. I talked a little about that in my review of Tristi Pinkston’s new book, Targets in Ties. Go check it out and enter her contest.

In the meantime, listen to your critique partners. They might be the catalysts for your becoming a great writer. At the very least, you might learn a little humility.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

1 comment:

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I enjoyed your history lesson. I had heard that Tolkien was often critisized by his peers. But as a big fantasy fan, to me he had no contemporary peer.
Our local B&N isn't so friendly and asked our critique group to meet elsewhere.