He said it is a common misconception of green writers that they believe a story must begin at the beginning. Our tale will therefore start at the end.
It is May 2009.
Actually let’s start on Thursday 28 May 2009. And the reader should not be guessing if it is morning or night. Do it simply with something like, “the sun was setting as George crossed the street”.
I have taken his words to heart as I always do.
On Thursday 28 May 2009 at precisely 5pm Suzanne walked the short distance from the car park to the classroom.
He also insists on location. Is the subject in a bar or on a bicycle?
She felt privileged to be part of these classes at the Errol Barrow Centre for the Creative Imagination.
Damn. Try again.
She felt privileged to be part of these classes at the Pedagogical Centre located in Errol Barrow Centre for the Creative Imagination on the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies in Barbados.
Does this mean that somewhere on this small rock is a Centre For The Uncreative Imagination? Who goes there and what does their Pedagogical Centre offer? Maybe this is the elusive centre responsible for so much of thinking that is firmly located within the box. But do not think on these matters dear reader. In our story Suzanne is most definitely doing blue sky with diamonds thinking.
A lanky, slightly stooped figure is bent over his table in the seminar room. His wild, grey hair makes him instantly recognizable even before he lifts his head. When she first met him it was this shock of hair that fascinated her. Tonight, the last Thursday evening she is sure to have with him, and it is clear that it is not his hair that has kept her rapt. Will she show him? Will he be appalled that for sixteen weeks she has sat in the same seat and looked intently at the lyrical movement of his hands as he explains his craft of writing? Will he understand that while she appreciated his words she also kept tracing the corners of his mouth as they formed that deep, upturned, curve that is his easy smile?
No, this won’t do either. But it is not hard to see that in his day he probably had the ladies swirling around him. Lamming has such poise, elegance and charm. I assume you already know his work and brilliant mind so that does not need elaboration. What you may not know is his commitment to ideas of equality. He is prepared to stand up for the underdog even when this is not a fashionable position.
He kept shuffling the endless piles of paper and then looking through his battered copy of The Quiet American then back again to the papers in an endless quest for the right bit of text.
She jolted upright.
“Yes. I like this discovering-eye viewpoint that you take on. Yes. Yes. And very interesting to see what you as a Guyanese accustomed to vast rivers and vistas make of this tiny island.”
“What? But your name. And I am sure you said you were Guyanese in one of the pieces.”
“I’m sorry. I believe I said I am often mistaken for a Guyanese. No vast vistas I’m afraid. Oil and gas country.”
He doesn’t bother to hide his disappointment.
“Humm. Yes, well I shall have to re-read that. I was so sure you had the sensibility of a Guyanese.”
For the first time in her life she really wanted to be Guyanese or even to have spent some time there – anything to avoid failing the master.
It is a small class – no more than a dozen – all at his feet wanting to write that novel we think is within us. His generosity is clear. Our little stories are treated with respect. They are all “intriguing” - the starting point for a sure fire bestseller. In return he asks that we take our writing seriously and practice daily. Writing for him is a job with a predictable routine much like factory work. In the early morning he reads the newspapers then begins his writing. After lunch he reads or has meetings. Old-fashioned discipline and sheer hard work is how Lamming became the Lamming. This is not a class in How To Write A Bestseller in One Weekend.
So every Thursday until 28 May between the hours of 5 and 7pm, you can find me at the Ecky-Becky Centre (as it is known on the street). I will be there, in my usual spot, quietly grateful for this unexpected privilege of an audience with Lamming. And I shall be trying to resist the urge to sketch that mouth or those hands just one last time.