Why do farang females gather in a dimly lit basement of the Old Dutch Pub in Soi Cowboy, an area renowned for its girly bars? And what do the women – teachers, musicians, sales reps, humanitarian aid workers, students, television producers, and business owners from more than a dozen countries – have in common apart from the fact that they all live in Bangkok?
Every other Wednesday night between 7 and 9PM, the Bangkok Women’s Writing Group convenes at the Old Dutch Pub on Sukhumvit, Soi 23 to share what they have written and to reconnect socially as women who live in a testosterone-weighted city. The female scribes write poetry, children’s books, erotica, novels, memoirs, personal essays, and screenplays.
No previous experience is required to join apart from a passion for writing and a desire to share it with like-minded women.
Chloe, from Australia, says, “I moved to Bangkok from Japan 18 months ago. I looked around for a way to connect with creative women who liked to write, but found nothing. So I started my own group, and that was the beginning of the Bangkok Women’s Writing Group.” Since then over 70 women have signed up, although only five to 15 women attend each meeting.
Group member, Jessica says, “For anyone looking for mentoring, creative inspiration, and estrogen, this is it. There’s no pretense here. Each meeting is flavored like a different dish depending on who shows up.” She adds, “The best part is that this isn’t the typical expat women’s group where everyone sits around bitching and ranting. These are women you would seek out no matter where you live. They make a difference in their lives by doing something and by having a creative point of view… Kudos to Chloe for continuing to provide an outlet for the muse.”
Another member, Diane from Canada, says, “The Bangkok Women’s Writing Group is an amazing venue in which to share our writings – some of them emotional and personal – in a non-threatening, caring, respectful, and open environment. At first, I was a bit nervous to share what I write with strangers.
It’s like wearing my soul on my sleeve, but because the women make me feel warm and welcome, it’s a joy.I’ve learned an incredible amount from these women who come from so many countries and backgrounds. Before I joined, I didn’t have many female friends in Bangkok. Most of my colleagues are men, so finding these women was refreshing. My mind and my soul feel lighter and clearer each time we meet. ”
The meeting tonight commences with each woman introducing herself and telling the group how she ended up in Bangkok.
Cyndee from Manitoba, Canada goes first, “After I finished my teaching degree, I got off the farm (group laughter) and headed for Bangkok and beyond. I’m here tonight because I like to write.”
And so on, as we circle around the room and each woman tells her story.
Members bring copies of something they have written to share. Some read aloud and some come to listen.
Nova Scotia native, Lois, reads a poem about “home”
The author is a former medical student who one day realized that a doctor was not what she wanted to be and Canada not where she wanted to live. The following Sunday night, I bumped into Lois at O’Reilly’s Pub. Her Japanese boyfriend plays main fiddle in the Irish band at the popular Silom bar every Sunday night, while Lois leaps, arms crossed behind her back, legs ablur, feet rapidly kicking the floor and propelling her into the air. She learned the Irish jig on her native island and has found a home for it in Bangkok.
One of the women in the group crouches in the furthest, darkest recess of the couch. Chloe asks Ani if she has brought something to read. The young Englishwoman stammers, “Oh I don’t know. I brought a few pieces, but they are mostly rubbish.” The group begs, and she relents, but is too shy to read, so hands them off for someone else to read aloud.
Friday night at the Shock Club: If Ani had not approached me, I wouldn’t have recognized her. Because the demure librarian from the writing group had morphed into a sexy vixen, minus eyeglasses, plus cleavage. She tossed back her long raven hair as she laughed with friends and passed around a bottle of Jack Black.
Another member of the group, Cyndee, a Canadian with a soft, pale air, is a master of locution-words leaving her mouth take on a life of their own.
One moment Cyndee is wistful dreamer, the next, a tiger with a roar. I was not surprised when I saw Cyndee at About Cafe the following evening. (Even in major cities like Bangkok, expats tend to gather in the same places.) At the poetry reading, video art, music, movement, and words intertwined in a space cumbrous with creative energy and cigarette smoke. When the mike was opened to the audience, I said to Cyndee, “You must read.”
- “Well, I did bring something – it’s in my bag,” she replied.
- “Go ahead then.” I urged.
Cyndee gulped down a couple of glasses of sherry and approached the mike, her knees trembling, and the paper in her hand rattling. She delivered the first two lines of her poem in a purr. But as she painted a picture of desire unrequited, the words emerged from deep in her gut and spilled into every corner of the room. All periphery conversation stopped.
Cyndee finished softly, with prolonged pauses in all the right places. The crowd hooted and applauded. She stumbled over to where three of us from the Bangkok Women’s Writing Group waited like proud stage moms to give her a hug.
When the meeting is adjourned tonight, a few of us stick around to chat about our nomadic lifestyles, about men, and about where we as western women fit in in the macho metropolis of Bangkok.
Only when the restaurant staff begins to dim the lights and sweep up around us, do we, the writing women of Bangkok, disperse into the night.
(To join Bangkok Women’s Writing Group call Chloe at 023328252 #1006/1107. Or email her at email@example.com Meetings take place every second Wednesday from 7-9PM at the Old Dutch Pub on Sukhumvit Soi 23, near BTS Asoke.)