Thursday, 17 March 2016

Nottingham Writers' Club

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.

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.

30 comments:

  1. Ninety years - that's impressive!
    Finding a good group like this can make all the difference in the world.

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    1. The club is one of a handful to have been running so long, and it's good that it's still going.

      Certainly agree that a good group can make a difference, Alex. :-)

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  2. Hi Patsy - I think it's excellent you've been invited to judge. I met Pam McIlroy when she came down for the Brighton Festival 3 years ago and I was 'jealous' of your club ... but I enjoy the feedback I get via the blogging fraternity ... but know where to go - should I need some prodding re publication etc. I'm into the University of the Third Age and various other 'learning' societies in and around down here ... keeps me occupied for now.

    Cheers and good to meet you Carol - your NWC sounds so encouraging and helpful in many ways ... Hilary

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  3. Sounds like a wonderful group to be part of. I'm jealous. ;-)

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    1. It is a very positive group, Misha, and I'm very grateful it is.

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  4. That's a good writing group by the sounds of it, Carol. I enquired with a local group but didn't hear back.

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    1. A group of supportive, encouraging writers is important.

      That's a shame you didn't hear back, Suzy, but it's worth checking other contact sources in case they've had changes.

      I know some databases are out of date - it took me years to update the ones I knew about when I became the club's contact person, and I'm sure there will still be a few I've not found yet!

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  5. I guess I'll have to join up with one.

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    1. It's worth trying them out, Oscar- ask the contact/organiser if you can go along as a visitor first, as you need to judge if it is going to be right for you.

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  6. Thanks for a greeat post, Caril.

    I do agree that finding a good writing group can be very motivating and helpful.

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    1. Thanks, Patsy.

      Motivating and being helpful are important for a good writers group.

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  7. Caril -- Ninety years? Wow! What a fantastic group to be a part of.

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    1. I would miss everyone if I ever had to move away, Linda.

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  8. I can endorse everything you've said about NWC and writing clubs in general, Carol. You work very hard for the club and I've learned a great deal from being a member.

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    1. Thanks for your support, Keith. It is appreciated by all of us.

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  9. Our writing group started as an evening class over 30 years ago. When the course finished, several members set up privately and it has been going ever since. At the moment we are in our local library who welcomed us with open arms in the fight to keep libraries open. I find it very helpful and I think you need a knowledgeable leader who can guide the group.

    Thanks to Patsy and Carol for this post.

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    1. That's wonderful to hear, Maggie. And good that the group and the library find it mutually beneficial.

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  10. Enjoyed this post. NWC sounds excellent, Carol - bit too far away for me though!

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  11. I am still looking for a writers' group near enough for me to join. Good interview, Patsy and Carol.

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    1. Thank you, Lizy.

      Sadly some areas of the country are not as well populated with writers' groups. Perhaps you could start with a small one in your area.

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  12. I agree with everyone's comments. I joined a writer's group when I retired and was just starting my writing "career" and the motivation, encouragement and help was invaluable. Writers and gardeners are very generous with their advice, I find. Liz Young: I found my group through the council libraries and, for more senior writers, the local Royal voluntary societies often run them. Or why not set one up of your own and ask for a free room at the local library or, better still, the pub!

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    1. I agree with you L, writers and gardeners are generous with their advice, and it is valuable to writers of all levels. :-)

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  13. I've been to one or two of the NWC workshops in the past. I was always made to feel very welcome, and the content was good.
    My own group is over the border in Leicestershire, and like Carol I find it invaluable for support.
    I feel quite sad for anyone who hasn't got one nearby that wants to try being part of a group.

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    1. That's lovely to hear, Maria, thank you.

      It is sad for those writers who don't have a group available to them. I know how difficult it can be getting free publicity options if the group is small and not known about.

      Sadly without new members groups do close, so I hope this post and the positive comments from everyone who has commented, will encourage writers to seek out groups near them, or even start new ones.

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  14. I don't belong to a writing group but I am very honoured to have been asked by Carol to judge the Rosemary Robb Ghost Story Competition for the Nottingham Writers' Club :-)

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    1. We're very pleased you agreed to be our judge for this year's competition. Thank you. :-)

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  15. Enjoyable and interesting interview - thanks Patsy and Carol.

    marion

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Thanks so much for commenting!