Meetings were restricted to six people, the day before my first writing group meeting was scheduled. Six people arrived. It was fun! We did a basic writing exercise, swapped our news, and our hopes and dreams as writers. Then came lockdown which introduced me to zoom meetings. At first, I felt shy and distant from my writer friends. It helped because every other social contact was on zoom as well and I soon got used to how it worked as a programme. Gradually I got to see the benefits of zoom. You didn’t have to go out in the cold especially if you were feeling a bit under the weather. You only had to make one cup of coffee. You could even wear your pyjamas if you wanted.
Meanwhile we became affiliated to ACW and our meetings were sort of validated. Over the past three years our mailing list has grown. Whilst not deliberately seeking them, we have one member in Germany, one in Holland and two of my friends in South Africa have decided to join us.
A crucial question was do we go back to face-to-face meetings? My immediate response was the meetings are encouraging those overseas writers and those that live a little further afield in Rutland and Southend (I live in Kettering), so I wouldn’t want to exclude them. We stayed on zoom.
Yet there are disadvantages to zoom as well which I have been pondering just recently. Two of our original members can’t face looking at a screen and miss the social contact of meeting in a home. Their attendance has diminished. Writers need a social dimension to their lives which a screen just does not provide. In a face-to-face meeting, writers can bring their books for sale to share with the other members. One to one chats are possible that even breakout rooms don’t make up for. If you having a guest speaker there is usually a cost involved whereas they would accommodate you free of charge on zoom.
So to zoom or not to zoom is still the question. I think the balance I am coming to is to hold a couple of BBQ meetings in the spring/summer where we can actually meet each other, sorry to those in Southend, Germany, Holland and South Africa. Then as the winter months creep in we’ll listen to some guest speakers on the zoom.
As the ACW Group’s Coordinator, I am interested to hear other views on the subject. The advantages and disadvantages of both types of meetings are not always obvious.