Welcome to my interview with Pauline Masurel from Company of Writers.
Hello Mazzy. Can you tell us a bit about your writing group?
Our group is called Company of Writers and we meet once a month in a hotel bar in Bath on Monday evenings. Our very first meeting was on 4th February 2008 at my flat, where we used to meet until I moved from Bath.
How many members, on average, does your group have?
We generally have about a dozen current members and typically 6-8 of these attend each meeting. At one of our very early gatherings absolutely no one else turned up...so I had a very jolly evening alone drinking wine, eating cheese and doing a spot of writing.
Sounds lovely! Who are you and what is your role within the group?
My name is Mazzy and I write under the pen name Pauline Masurel. I started the group because I had enjoyed being a member of writing groups in the past and realised that I really missed the company of other writers. I continue to be the main contact point and co-ordinator. I set meeting dates, reserve a table at the venue, communicate news to members and solicit and circulate writing for feedback to the group. I don't see myself as its leader, more as its main reminder-issuer. I really should let the power go to my head a bit more and institute a series of random, despotic rules.
That could be a creative writing task for the group there! How are your sessions structured?
We normally gather at 7.30 for a chat and a catch-up and then from around 8 o'clock onwards we workshop two or three pieces of writing from members of the group. We aim to go 'round the table' on this so that everyone gets a turn to offer feedback, but we're a chatty, informal group and inevitably sometimes the conversation wanders. But I don't think this is a bad thing, although that might be because I'm one of the main culprits.
I think that everything can be used as research/inspiration for writing, so I'm sure there have been some interesting conversations that could lead to something creative. What types of things do you cover in your group?
Offering feedback on each others writing is our main activity. There's also a strong social element to the group and a chance to share news about our successes and any advice and information about writing events and opportunities.
What is the most popular aspect of your group?
You'd have to ask the members that. For myself, it's the fact that the group really 'does what it says on the tin'. I think that writers make great company. I enjoy our evenings together and it's a real act of generosity when someone reads your work and offers considered, writerly feedback on how it has struck them. Over the years I've found this hugely valuable. I'm really pleased that the group has gone from strength to strength.
What genres do the members of your group write?
Probably the majority of the writing we share is short fiction for adults, but the group also includes novelists, poets, playwrights and writers for children, flash fiction writers, writers for performance, those who write realist fiction and those who include elements of fantasy in their work.
Sounds like an eclectic bunch! Have you ever written collectively as a group, such as producing an anthology?
No, not yet. The closest we've got so far is that three of our group were featured in the same book earlier this year, a collection of flash fiction by writers from the South West.
Are any of your members participating (or have they already participated) in NaNoWriMo [National Novel Writing Month]?
I've certainly had a go at this and a while ago we had an impromptu presentation from the organiser of a local NaNoWriMo group when he overheard us talking about writing. It's not something that I'd try again at the moment, since I don't self-identify as a novelist, but I'm sure that group members would be keen to cheer each other on if any of us wanted to participate.
What kind of support does your writing group provide for its writers?
I hope that it provides a valuable feedback mechanism, friendship and encouragement.
What's the best piece of writing advice you've been given?
Always make sure that you've got something else 'out there.' That way, whenever you receive a rejection for a piece of work you can always shrug it off and be optimistic about your chances for some other submission or competition.
What's the best piece of writing advice you give?
I stole it from Margot Fonteyn, who said, “The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. ”
Do you have guest speakers at your group?
This year, for the first time, we've invited a couple of guest writers along to meetings. I asked a member of Thornbury Writers Circle to join us for an exchange of ideas and next month an ex-member of our own group will re-join us for a discussion about e-publishing. Neither of these were intended to be formal 'speaking' events, simply asking someone along for a chat. This is something we might do again in future if members of the group find it useful.
Do the members of your group get a chance to run/lead a session or part of a session?
Not formally. No one leads our gatherings. I tend to see it as my role to keep an eye on the time and invite someone to kick off the feedback, but the key point is that everyone gets their 'say'. The group is eminently capable of self-organising this sort of thing in my absence and managed perfectly well when I disappeared off to New Zealand for a couple of months earlier this year.
Does your writing group have a website/blog/Twitter/Facebook?
No, we tend to keep a low profile....like badgers. We have a listing on Diana Hayden's Directory of Writers' Groups and get referrals from a few other places, which tends to produce at least one enquiry every month or two.
How would someone go about joining your writing group?
Well, at the moment we have a list of people already waiting for the chance to do this and so we're not actively recruiting. In the past people have simply sent me an email and I've invited them along to the next meeting to see if the group was for them. Writers are still welcome to drop me a line though as I can suggest contacts who run other groups in Bath, Bristol and Thornbury which might be able to accommodate new members.
Thank you Pauline.