Writers Without Borders
My first stop is a writing group named Writers Without Borders, who meet on a weekly basis to share works in progress and give constructive feedback. The group mainly consists of expats living in Chiang Mai, though everyone is welcome. Residents and those just passing through can attend as frequently as they wish — there are no membership rules. You also don’t have to read your own work if you don’t want to.
“I’m so glad we have this writing club” says British expat Jim King, “somewhere we can come and turn our phones off.”
As I take a seat around the table, I quickly realise I’m surrounded by people with whom I share a common interest with. This common interest is a passion for writing.
Providing a space to share works with one another, receive critique and talk about literature, writers from all backgrounds with varied experience can get involved. Whether you’re published or just write for fun, all are accepted and embraced. If you’re looking for some direct and honest (but overall positive) feedback on your work, I think it’d be really worthwhile to go along to a meeting. Yes, it can be nerve-wracking for first timers to put themselves out there, but it really is a rewarding and valuable experience for anyone who wants to improve their work, find their creative voice or simply just have the opportunity to socialise with like-minded people.
However, the discussion isn’t limited to writing. Other topics may be discussed such as editing, marketing, choosing an agent. There was even a debate about modern technology which produced some very poignant words that I’m sure will stay with me. “Don’t dumb down language and experiences. We are losing our vocabulary,” says Jim King, and I can’t help but agree.
Writers Without Borders meet every Thursday, 7pm at Why Not Italian Restaurant
Magic Theatre Poetry Reading
Next on my quest to uncover Chiang Mai’s writing talent is an open mic night for Magic Theatre Poetry Reading, a group of poets who meet on a regular basis to take centre stage and read out their work. “We are here tonight to celebrate poetry in any form,” says host Ina Jain, as I find myself on the terrace of Be Beez Cafe and Guest House, quite relaxed on a bamboo and wicker sun lounger. The glow of fairy lights and occasional clink of wind chimes creates a poetic and very fitting atmosphere.
The two feature poets of the evening, Yvonx Slater and Feral Willcox, kick things off before the open mic section of the night. Yvonx, from England, reads several original poems, the first being about herself and her sister picking daffodils as children. But perhaps the most impactful moment of her set is during a poem about the death of her father. “You’ll have to excuse me if I get emotional,” she says apologetically, “I loved him a lot and it was a complex relationship”. As she goes on to detail a painful experience that a lot of us can relate to, it’s clear that both poet and audience are connecting through her words. One woman even has to leave the room for a few minutes. And this is what I love about poetry — this single moment, for me, defines what poetry is all about. The ability to create images and stir feelings with only words.
Another memorable piece is a poem read out in Finish by Leif Jansson, despite the majority of the audience not knowing a single word of the language. This is when I realise that poetry has no language barrier. The emotion he wanted to convey is evident by the way he pronounces and emphasises words, and we understand.
Talking to host Ina Jain about how this group came to be in existence, she explains that she was initially invited to join Magic Poetry Theatre by a friend from Canada, and eventually began to co-host before taking over when he left Chiang Mai. “I liked the space of people sharing what they do and just getting to talk about that,” she tells me, and it’s obvious that this is something she really cares about.
The Magic Theatre Poetry Reading host open mic nights monthly.
Facebook: Magic Theatre Poetry Reading
Chiang Mai Writers’ Workshop
My final experience of the creative writing scene in was at a Chiang Mai Writers workshop, held at Rustic and Blue. Created by local travel writer Laura Gibbs, who wanted to support the writing community in Chiang Mai and bring it closer together, these regular workshops tackle a different issue each time, and provide a space to talk about any writing-related problems people are having. The workshops have become so successful that many spin-off groups have appeared, but Chiang Mai Writers aims to keep their workshops free and open to all. This particular workshop was run by personal development specialist and published author Ellen Bard aimed at finishing projects and breaking down those barriers that prevent productivity, from hectic work schedules to good old fashioned procrastination.
As more and more people pulled up chairs, notepads and pens at the ready, it was refreshing to see so many people getting involved. Ellen began the workshop by saying that the meeting “should be chill, just talking about writing”. And that’s precisely what it was. As everyone sipped on a smoothie or an iced latte, it was very much a relaxed and open environment. After introductions, I soon discovered that there are a mix of people from all over the globe, with varying experience who dabble in different genres of writing.
It seems that each person has their own problems with, as Ellen put it, “sitting their ass down to write”. From managing too many projects at once to aiming for unrealistic perfectionism, anyone who’s ever tried to write anything will know the pain of staring at a blank page displayed upon a glaring laptop screen. This workshop aimed to combat those problems and optimise productivity as a writer. Just talking about it with people who can relate really helps — sort of like a writer’s therapy. There were plenty of tips and advice to absorb as well as book recommendations and useful websites. Even those who are experienced writers have these problems, such as attendee Laura Dodge, an author from New York who has had seven novels published but still uses a sticker chart for motivation.
CM Writers’ Workshops are held every two weeks. To keep up to date on workshops as well as other events, join the Facebook group Chiang Mai Writers.
Creative Writing Chiang Mai
(Ed. We discovered one more group after Emily went home to the UK.) Started a year ago, this group meets once a week, on Tuesdays at 5.30pm at Meeting Room Art Cafe just over the river. Creative Writing Chiang Mai provides a place for people to come together and write. Facilitators take the time to prepare readings and prompts, which are discussed and then followed by a timed writing exercise. Everyone just comes to write, create, and absorb the energy, with no need to share.
The facilitators take turns on subjects such as poetry, non-fiction, memoirs, fiction and even opinion and editorials. For more information see their Facebook page Creative Writing Chiang Mai
After attending three quite different types of event, I’ve found that there are a lot of enthusiastic and dedicated writers in Chiang Mai, and various types of meetups suited for different needs. If you want constructive critique on your work, a place to celebrate and perform poetry or just some helpful advice, Chiang Mai has something to offer any writer. I found that with each group there was a lot of support, passion and creativity among its members, and although each was different, they are all most definitely fun.