With Sutton Writers moving online for the foreseeable future, we asked member Catherine Hodson to tell us what it’s like to attend a feedback workshop via the Zoom video conferencing platform.

Having everything cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic has been very difficult to adapt to and I had missed Sutton Writers meetings and workshops, so I welcomed the opportunity to attend a workshop online using Zoom. People had been talking about Zoom and I was keen to try it out so I registered on their website and received a link by email. 

After several emails and posts on Facebook with other people who attended the same workshop, we agreed to do it on the evening we normally have the workshop. 

Getting ready for the first Zoom workshop felt like getting ready to go out. I brushed my hair, cleaned my teeth and changed my clothes. I even thought about having a shower! 

I copied and pasted the password and followed the link and was happy to see several familiar faces on the screen. It was interesting to see what people had in the background – whether it was bookshelves, displays of coats and shoes, or a blank wall behind them. It tells you a lot about people! It’s been the same with people being interviewed on the television. It’s made me want to re-arrange my furniture so that I would also have bookshelves in the background. 

Talking to people on screen isn’t like talking face to face because you can’t make eye contact. I found myself looking at the image of me, instead of at the others. Also we couldn’t see everyone all at the same time and didn’t seem to have any control over it. We all had our names at the bottom of the image of ourselves – useful if you’ve forgotten someone’s name. 

Nevertheless, it was good to see people and have a chat and catch up on who had moved house, and who had been ill and got better. When it came to reading out what we had written, it was just like a normal workshop, except one of us had a problem with the sound on their computer. We each took turns at reading and then the others would express their opinions. 

Some people may remember my story about Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny coming to Sutton to visit the Writers Circle. I’ve written another one about Peter Rabbit coming back to Sutton, finding everything closed because of the coronavirus, and then logging onto Zoom to attend a workshop. I read this story at the online workshop and everyone said they enjoyed it. The other stories were varied, with different styles and subjects, so the general format was the same as a workshop with people in the same room. 

Our first Zoom workshop lasted an hour and a half and I felt like I had achieved something and learnt something new from the experience so I’m looking forward to doing it again in a couple of weeks. 

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