I'd like to welcome you to this Writing Group interview, with Judie Jones from The Writers' Study.
Hello Judie. Can you tell us a bit about your writing group?
The Writers' Study was established in 2005. It is a non-profit-making, self-help group for those who wish to write, from the complete novice to the more experienced writer. There are three terms of six fortnightly sessions a year. Currently we meet at The West Moors Memorial Hall in West Moors on Thursday evenings, from 7pm thru 9pm with a break for refreshments.
How many members, on average, does your group have?
I restrict numbers to twelve if possible.
Who are you and what is your role within the group?
I am Judie Jones and I run the group independently. I am not a qualified creative writing teacher, but my aim is to encourage writers in a way that makes writing fun as well as instructive/constructive.
You don't need to be qualified in order to inspire and encourage. How are your sessions structured?
During our two hour evening sessions, a standard agenda would be: welcome, any news, updates, etc. any item a member wishes to discuss, manuscript reading and critique, any other business. Each year I arrange one workshop by a professional and one talk by an author, publisher or agent, etc.
What types of things do you cover in your group?
Mainly encouraging writing in all genres. This is short stories/poems/articles, though some members are writing novels. Finding suitable competitions to enter and magazines they can submit their work to. I issue homework on a given subject/theme. Each summer we have a Round Robin, to which each member contributes a short chapter by e-mail, which results in a story of around 3000+ words. We hold an End of Term Competition on a given theme with standard rules. The group choose the winner, who receives an engraved trophy, and gift vouchers for the first three. For the middle term of each year, I arrange a professional judge to judge the End of Term Competition entries. We have a library of around 30 books on all aspects of writing.
What have been some of your most popular/successful activities?
Popular activities are certainly the End of Term Competition, the talks and workshops. Our Christmas Dinner get-together is great fun. Successful activities – difficult to define, but I would say it’s what we learn as a group from workshops etc. Successes obviously are when members of the group win a competition or have something published.
Where do you get your ideas/writing prompts from?
I guess I pick up some ideas from Writing Magazines. I have interaction with organisers of other writing groups and we exchange ideas. I think I have a big imagination, so I've not yet run out of ideas.
Do members of the group get a chance to run/lead a session or part of a session?
One member gave us a lively workshop on using vegetables to promote writing and another an in-depth workshop/talk on viewpoint. I do encourage anyone who has a 'take' on any subject to tell us about it. Also, because I run the group on my own, one member holds a spare key to the hall and two others are prepared to chair a meeting, should I be unable to attend. Luckily I've not missed a meeting in seven years.
Vegetables to promote writing? That sounds, hmm, interesting! Do you have guest speakers at your group?
Yes we have guest speakers. Bob Sharpe on the History of Crime. Pam Fudge on writing general fiction. Tim Bowler (Carnegie medallist) on writing for young adults. Penny Legge on writing local history. Della Galton on creative writing. John Jenkins on getting published. Helen Corner on finding an agent. Kev Reynolds on travel. Lynne Hackles on her writing career. The late Fred Smith in his writings.
What genres do the members of your group write? Is there a lot of diversity with regards to your members' writing?
Apart from general fiction, we try to cover all genres. Three of the group are excellent poets. Two members excel in writing for children and young adults. Give them a theme and the group will produce. I would say the overall standard of writing is high in respect of presentation, punctuation, viewpoint etc.
Have you ever written collectively as a group, such as producing an anthology?
In 2007 my one time colleague and I, entirely on our own via our computers, produced an extremely professional looking anthology in booklet form entitled Three Cross Words. This consisted of 40 items. Short stories, poems, anecdotes etc., complete with illustrations. We produced 100 copies and sold out immediately.
What kind of support does your writing group provide for its writers?
We are a self-help group, but via the meetings, e-mail or our private website, I’ll answer, or find out the answer, to any questions or give advice when I can.
What is the best piece of writing advice you've been given?
PROOF READ, PROOF READ, THEN PROOF READ AGAIN. This is now our mantra.
What is the best piece of writing advice you give?
If you can write a shopping list, you can write anything, so get on and do it!
Does your writing group have a website/blog/Twitter/Facebook?
We have a private website for paid up members only. This allows interaction between members and I use it to post information, ideas, photographs of competition winners, etc. One of our group has a blog on which he posts his manuscripts and the group can comment. As far as I know not one of the group, including me, has Facebook.
How would someone go about joining your writing group?
Anyone interested in joining a writing group should ask at their local library. You can Google Writing Groups in whatever area you reside. Go to NAWG [National Association of Writers' Groups] website – a comprehensive list in all areas. Local village hall, local giveaway magazine advertisements. I have a waiting list but I’ll always recommend other groups in the area if I can’t take them on. Three of my group have been with me since 2005.
Thank you very much, Judie.