My love of story goes back to the mid seventies when I was a barefooted girl living in the bush. Back then, I had no point of reference when it came to my tribe because I had one and was well and truly loved and accepted. I was free to be myself.
When I went to boarding school I was suddenly without my tribe and had to learn how to fend for myself and to navigate the confusing relationships that go with teenage territory. I suddenly had no voice and stopped being myself. I also stopped loving stories – writing or reading them.
This is not a unique story. Just about everyone I know has experienced the slow suppression of his or her true self. We fight against society norms or what we thinkwe should be doing. Unless we find the right tribe early on, it can take a long time to live how we truly want to live. We are always searching for somewhere to belong but at what cost?
About 13 years ago, I was at a crossroads in my life. In hindsight, this was a special situation for me because I was at a point where I could decide where I was going. Luckily I chose what was really in my heart. I wanted to pursue what I wanted, not what I had been doing. I wanted to write.
I saw a flyer about an open mic night for writers. I went on my own. You could say that night changed my life. Not in a big bang sort of way but a dawning of consciousness. I didn’t participate or talk to anyone. I sat up the back and observed, which is my natural way. I went again the next month. I loved hearing people reading their work and I started to write again. At the end of the second night, one of the organisers came up to say hi and chatted to me. He was a teacher at the local TAFE. Within months I was enrolled in a writing course and you could say I was now part of a cult. A good one. I found a tribe and realised that maybe I wasn’t as weird as I thought. Or maybe the things that I wanted were not out of my reach.
When I started my own publishing business I realised that so many writers deal with isolation, depression and anxiety. I searched for ways to create a safe haven. I wanted a place where people could go to feel nurtured and less lonely. Those open mic nights had stayed with me.
Fast-forward 13 years to our own open mic night at Busybird Publishing. As I sat listening to each reader last night at our 60thopen mic night, it struck me how much the writers had grown and improved in their writing. How much fun they were having! Isn’t this what it’s all about? To create, share and have fun?
We have many regulars who have been coming for years, and many who have now been published. And so often the comments after the readings harp back to it’s so good to hang out with like-minded people. To be part of a tribe.
Of course, I’m not saying that coming to our open mic nights is responsible for good writers, but I know it helps on so many levels. People feel safe to share their work and by doing so can get feedback. This can only help them improve their craft as well as confidence. My hope for all writers is that they search out the like-minded people who can help them in their writing journey. It’s too lonely to do it on your own. Stories need to be shared and are pretty irrelevant if they aren’t.
I’d like to thank Barry Carozzi (that TAFE teacher) for those open mic nights. I don’t think he realises that they meant so much to me and I’d like to think that I’m carrying the baton along with my Busybird family.
Busybird Publishing runs open mic night on the third Wednesday of the month, February to November.