Thursday, 1 December 2011

In Praise of Writers Groups by Ann Evans

I wonder how many Sassies belong to writers' groups? Way back in the late 1980s before I'd ever had anything published I went looking for some sort of organisation locally for writers. I went along with my friend's mum, Brenda who also liked writing stories and I must admit we joined one or two weird and wonderful groups before finding what we were looking for.

I've always been inspired and impressed by people who have managed to get their work published, especially in those early days and I remember one woman at a writers' group meeting being held at a vicar's house who'd had a letter published in The Times. Wow! Was I awestruck? I certainly was!

Brenda and I eventually came across the Coventry Writers' Group, which was already well established and had some great characters in it. There was a lovely lady called June who wrote romance for Robert Hale; a lady in her 90s who had articles published on thimbles; there was Hilda who wrote poetry and delivered it beautifully in her rich Black Country accent; and Peter whose father had been a founder member of the CWG. Peter was suffering from a wasting disease but his brilliance shone out through his short stories that were regularly published. We also had Maurice who wrote for comedy sketch shows and various other knowledgeable characters. Brenda and I felt like we'd really landed on our feet in discovering this talented group of writers.

Some members of the Coventry Writers Group in the early 90s.
 I'm seated 3rd from left. (What a hairstyle), Brenda is
standing on the right, Hilda is standing on left.
They welcomed us novices with open arms and the monthly meetings were so inspiring. I would come away after each meeting with some new information or knowledge under my belt and new ideas spinning round my head. And my writing really began to take off.

In the mid 90s when my first book was published by Scholastic some members of the CWG made me a gorgeous cake in the shape of an open book and we all celebrated together.

Over the years members have come and gone, sadly some of them have passed away, but four of the group from my early days still remain and still attend the monthly meetings as often as possible. There's a whole new line up at the Coventry Writers Group now, and I'm happy to say includes fellow Sassie, Rosalie Warren.

Often, over the years we've run short story competitions just amongst ourselves, and this year was no different except that we'd set a theme of 'Coventry' for our stories and poems. We had our usual fun evening of reading them out and marking them – then one relatively new member, Mike Boxwell who writes on solar power and electric vehicles and is a genius regarding ebooks and print on demand books, suggested that we should put them all into an anthology.

For years, our writers' group has been thinking about producing an anthology of members' work, but this time with Mike behind the project it finally happened! Coventry Tales has now been published and it's also available as an ebook. Mike has been the driving force behind it, with copy editing courtesy of Rosalie Warren. Waterstones were very supportive in stocking it, and we did a signing there a few weeks ago. Following that we had a launch party with an audience at the central library one evening with wine and food with some of our writers dressing up as characters from their stories - it's not just kids who like dressing up!

It might have taken our writers group close on half a century to get our first publication out there – but we've finally succeeded and the nice thing is, it's really brought us close as a group as we all strived towards one end and celebrated our joint success. Next Tuesday is our Christmas meeting and the wine, mince pies and cakes will be flowing and the chat will be about books and writing and new projects and ideas - and I can't wait!

These days I'm often asked for my advice at our get-togethers rather than me absorbing knowledge from others quite so much, and it's fantastic to be able to give something back after all the support I've had from our writers' group. Fingers crossed future members will get as much from it as I have.


JO said...

I so agree. Without my writers group (and a separate, life writing class) it would just be me and the computer - and my delusions. We work, and laugh, and care about each other.

Sorry, must rush - bus to catch, it's life writing day!

Lynda Waterhouse said...

I have been a member of Islington Writers for Children group for ten years. We follow the guidelines for giving feedback established by Elizabeth Hawkins at her City Lit witing for children course. hearing someone else read out your work is an invaluable experience.

Sue Purkiss said...

How lovely to have a group that's kept going so long! Congratulations on the book, too.

Ann Evans said...

Thank you for your comments. I do feel lucky to have found our writing group and it's good to know Jo and Lynda that you both belong to supportive groups too. Thank you Sue for your congrats about Coventry Tales.

Rosalie Warren said...

Love the picture, Ann :)

Miriam Halahmy said...

Lovely post. I've been a member of The Highgate Poets for over 20 years and without them I would truly not have made the progress I made in writing poetry. The group has been going for 34 years and publishes a bi-annual anthology, Kites. Many members have won prizes and had collections published. Their website is