Welcome to my interview with Paul Malone from Vienna Writers.
Hello Paul. Can you please tell us a bit about your writing group?
Vienna Writers was formed in January 2010. We meet in Vienna, Austria, the second Friday of every month.
How many members, on average, does your group have?
The group is capped at ten participants. If numbers fall below ten we invite new participants. To keep things flowing reasonably smooth (introductions take up considerable meeting time) we only take on new participants twice per year.
Who are you and what is your role within the group?
My name is Paul Malone. I am an Australian writer based in Austria. I am one of the group’s founding participants.
How are your sessions structured?
First half hour is general socialising. We then critique: Stories are sent out a few weeks before the meeting to allow people time to give feedback. Each person then reads out or summarises their feedback, while other participants (including the author of the piece) listen. At the end there is time for a general discussion, and time for the author to respond.
What types of things do you cover in your group?
Generally people are working on short stories, novels, plays, screenplays, or memoirs. So we critique these--as a whole, or in chapters.
What have been some of your most popular/successful activities?
We held a small writers retreat at Wolfgang See earlier this year. Everyone involved was very productive, produced short stores and novel chapters.
What genres do the members of your group write?
Some write general or “literary” fiction. Others (me included) sometimes dabble in speculative fiction, fantasy, or crime.
Have you ever written collectively as a group, such as producing an anthology?
We’re in the early stages of producing an anthology. It’s all rather top secret right now! We hope to have the anthology out by late 2013 / early 2014.
What kind of support does your writing group provide for its writers?
Aside from feedback on writing, we form a supportive network. Naturally we all look out for writing opportunities. One of our writers won a highly commended prize in the prestigious Bridport competition this year. She became aware of the competition through the group. A US College recently held a free two day fiction writing workshop in Vienna, to promote their new MFA program. Once again, a Vienna Writer participant got wind of this, and many of us turned up for the workshop. We’re always scratching one another’s backs!
Where do you get your ideas/writing prompts for the group from?
We’re all working on our own things. So we don’t really worry about group ideas. The anthology is the exception: we’re exploring a common theme or thread for the anthology. Even then though we’ll leave maximum space for creativity.
What is the best piece of writing advice you've been given?
That’s a tough question! I’m not sure one particular things stands out. Write regularly, is probably very good advice. If you want to be productive as a writer then the habit of writing regularly will at least get those words on the page. Maybe in the process you might even improve.
What is the best piece of writing advice you give?
Hmm, I rarely give advice. I might tell someone what works most effectively for me: Start by writing creatively, unconcerned with any aspects of craft, ignoring logic, setting aside any preconceived ideas about there the piece might be headed. Once a “draft” is complete or feels like it has reached some sort of end, then sit back and start to consider what the piece is really about, where the story lies. If you can broadly define this, it might then be possible to go back and write a compelling story.
Do you have guest speakers at your group?
No we don’t. We do enough speaking as it is, some of us are exceptionally gifted in this department! Right now we don’t have the forum for guest speakers. We’re only 10 and we’ve got our plates full getting though our stories each month.
Do members of the group get a chance to run/lead a session or part of a session?
People have different roles: time keeper, cook (not kidding), person who keeps track of stories submitted, updater of blogsite, etc.
We could do with a cook at our writing group! Does your group have a website/blog/Twitter/Facebook?
How would someone go about joining your writing group?
They would email us, expressing their interest in joining. They would outline their writing experience in the email. They would have to live in Vienna or near Vienna. If we think they might be a good fit, we might meet them and take things from there. Generally, new participants are given the Vienna Writers critiquing guidelines, and a copy of our mission statement. The mission statement really defines the group, our ethics, what we’re hoping to achieve. It is important to us that potential participants support the mission statement.
Thank you very much, Paul.