Today writing buddy and fellow #writingchat co-ordinator Carol Bevitt is my guest ...
Last year Patsy kindly agreed to judge the 2016 Nottingham Writers Club National Short Story Competition, and we shared our experiences of belonging to writers’ groups.
There is so much available online for writers that writers’ groups/clubs have got lost amidst all these opportunities, so it’s easy to miss what may be available to writers locally. I've been a member of Nottingham Writers’ Club for 15 years now. I joined just before the celebrations for the club’s 75th anniversary, and in 2017 it will be the 90th anniversary*.
I've been able to benefit from hearing talks by both local and nationally known writers (Miranda Seymour, Stephen Booth, Simon Brett, John Harvey, and journalist Liz Jones among them). On one occasion we even had national TV cameras outside the building we met in. Edwina Currie had been booked (months before) and her talk coincided with the publication day of her revealing diary.
Writers’ groups can help build confidence too. I know how much I've personally benefited from the feedback I've received from judges of club competitions as well as the general support and advice from older published members over the years.
Learning to receive, and give, constructive feedback at manuscript readings has been a valuable skill, but possibly the hardest to feel comfortable with.
In 2015 I put together and led mini writing sessions for members to participate in. I would never have built up the courage to attend workshops, writing conferences and other related events without the confidence I've gained from attending the writers’ club.
Certainly over the past five years NWC has welcomed more new and developing writers, and quickly realised these writers were reluctant to enter competitions because they didn't feel they could compete against more experienced writers. So began the NWC National Short Story Competition (three years ago) giving a little feedback on each entry, and clearly defining an earnings limit for ‘professional’
writers, so it was fair to everyone.
writers, so it was fair to everyone.
It’s very satisfying to hear positive feedback from entrants after the final results are announced and they've all received the comments from the assorted readers of the manuscripts. Social media has become very important too, and I'm part of a team who do club posts on Twitter and Facebook. The website remains our main contact point - and the way most visitors find and contact us.
Nothing stays the same and this year we changed meeting dates and locations. While we still have our formal meeting at the Nottingham Mechanics (a popular venue for many social groups and organisations) it’s a week later, and two weeks after that our informal meeting is held across the road at a pub- its quiet mid-week- and a great place to get-together as no one is bothered by a group of chatty writers reading manuscripts, or holding different discussions around the table- fuelled by lemonade or something stronger.
Of course, not every group is the same. You might find a small group that meets in a member’s home, or local venue, better than a slightly larger more formal group. A few may put restrictions on eligibility, or have a waiting list. So visit and try them out if you can.
The best thing about going to writers’ group/club meetings is the mix of people that share your interest in writing, and all the ideas and experiences that feed your creativity. So if you’ve never considered trying out a writers’ group make 2016 the year you experiment…
* Last December, Nottingham was successful in their bid to become a UNESCO City of Literature, and along with Lord Byron, D H Lawrence, and Alan Sillitoe (a former member of NWC), the club was able to add to the heritage element having been in existence since 1927.