The members of the Brussels Writers’ Circle are a varied bunch. Prose writers, poets, playwrights, memoirists, screenwriters and bringers of silly bits and pieces, we sweep in from all different occupations and locations twice a week to share our scrawlings with one another.
In ‘Meet the Circle’, we introduce you to some of our members, hopefully providing an insight into who we are, what we do, and what we think about growing alien life forms in a jar. Well, maybe not that last bit.
This week we will hear from Jay Harold, brand new co-chair of our Tuesday meetings. He is a proud graduate of the University of Essex, where he earned his MA in Creative Writing in 2018. He also has a BS in Psychology and is currently working towards obtaining his MS.
When did you join the group?
I joined the Circle in February 2016. I’ll never forget my first meeting. It was a Thursday night and very busy, and I didn’t have a pen on me. I must have turned red in the face when I asked to borrow one and the chair that night looked at me like: ‘Are you kidding me?’ Good times! I learned my lesson in the meantime.
What were your first impressions of the group?
I immediately thought the Writers’ Circle was a fantastic group of people and felt right at home straight away. The prospect of an upcoming BWC meeting leaves me just as enthusiastic and excited today as it did back then.
What have you published so far?
My first real adventure with creative writing was during my year at the American University of Paris, where my writing professor encouraged me to submit a short story for publication in Paris/Atlantic, a student-run magazine. I was seventeen and very proud at the time. The story, ‘Scarred For Life’, was set in 2025 in an apocalyptic World-War-III Paris. It described the life of young American hippie with a dark past.
In the second semester, a piece of flash (non-)fiction of mine was published in a really cool ‘Zine’ called ‘The City Project’, which was founded by a girl who had taken the writing class with me.
I think my most productive time has to have been my year in Essex, though. I had several poems published in anthologies of the University of Essex Writing Society (a fantastic gang of merry misfits who were crucial to my creativity at the time). Speaking of anthologies, some of my poetry has been published in the BWC’s second anthology, ‘The Circle’ (now available on Amazon and at the Brussels Waterstones).
Finally, I post poetry, short stories and sometimes essays on my blog, jayharold.blogspot.com.
What are you currently working on?
I have been working on a novel called ‘Leaving Paradise’. It’s an expansion of my MA dissertation, which explored the relationship between the Beat Generation and the Punk movement. It features characters loosely based on Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Arthur Rimbaud, and my writing professor at AUP, all of whom have had a significant influence on me as a writer.
I am also in the research phase of a book on dyspraxia / developmental coordination disorder, which is an issue that I care deeply about. I want people to learn more about it and dispel some of the misconceptions surrounding the issue (I’ll give you one for free: it does not disappear with adulthood).
Who are your biggest literary influences? How have they influenced you?
I’ve already mentioned the influence that Kerouac and Ginsberg have had on me. Their close relationship to jazz captivates me. As a result, the exploration of the relationship between writing and music, in the broadest sense possible, is a key point in my work. Though I enjoyed ‘The Dharma Bums’ more, ‘On The Road’ is the novel that originally made me want to become a writer. Ginsberg’s poems ‘Howl’ and ‘America’ blew my mind and shifted my perspective on poetry. Some would say that my reverence for the Beats has taken on unhealthy proportions.
Joan Didion’s ‘Play It As It Lays’ fascinated me as well, because where the Beats’ sentences could go on for lines and lines and are more psychologically and emotionally driven, Didion has an incredible talent for brevity and objectivity. Didion and Kerouac, to me, are polar opposites in many ways, and I’m currently exploring how, if at all, their styles could possibly be integrated into one. I think I’m slowly starting to zero in on the answer. On a side note, if anyone is interested in Joan Didion’s beautiful and tragic story, I highly recommend watching ‘The Center Will Not Hold’ on Netflix.
Do you have a memorable moment from the BWC that you could share?
I came to the launch of ‘Circle of Words’ – the first anthology – back in ’16 and remember seeing the whole group come together in a joint effort to promote the book and, even though I hadn’t contributed anything to the first anthology, I felt distinctly proud to be a member of the BWC. I’m even more proud to be the Tuesday co-chair now and look forward to working with Niamh, who will be the other co-chair.
What do you get out of the group?
Inspiration, feedback, validation, motivation – everything that should come along with a collective of writers, does in the case of the BWC. It’s also a great way to keep your ego in check, because there is lots of constructive criticism and we’re such an eclectic bunch that you get a whole range of opinions, approaches and talents.
So far, it’s been an absolute pleasure to be part of the Circle. More importantly, it’s been a learning experience on both an artistic and a personal level thanks to everyone who frequents the meetings. You get a little taste of everything at the BWC, including published and award-winning authors, and that’s what makes it so truly unique. What’s even more exciting is that we get new members all the time. If you’re not a member yet, please don’t hesitate to shoot us an email and we’ll add you to our mailing list.