Welcome to my interview with Shirley DeKelver, from Shuswap Writers' Group.
Hello Shirley. Can you please tell us a bit about your writing group?
The Shuswap Writers’ Group was formed in 1988. Our meetings are held the first and third Wednesday of each month (excluding the summer months of June, July and August), at 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. (subject to change) in the meeting room at Piccadilly Mall. We host a public Writers Coffee House every fourth Friday of the month.
How many members, on average, does your group have?
Our current membership is 22 paid-up members and 6 drop-in members.
Who are you and what is your role within the group?
My name is
Shirley DeKelver, and I am the President of SWG.
How are your sessions structured?
We usually spend half an hour going over group business and the remainder of the time is spent reading and doing quick writes.
What types of things do you cover in your group?
We have our members read their homework assignments, which consist of fiction and non-fiction short stories, and poetry, or they may read from writings or novels they are working on. If a critique is requested, we will provide input. If time allows, we have a quick write exercise, and sometimes we talk about other issues, such as copy rights, writers block, etc. We also discuss books that our members recommend.
What have been some of your most popular/successful activities?
We have sponsored literary writing contests and other public events, such as workshops, entertainment evenings, plays, and the Old Window Project with the
. Each year we hold a Special Coffee House, which we hold in conjunction with the Shuswap Association of Writers. The coffee house launches their three day writer’s festival, Word on the Art Gallery Lake. The presenters at the coffee house are published writers, editors, publishers, etc. who are guests at our Festival, as well as local talent. We usually have an attendance of around 100 people.
What genres do the members of your group write?
We have a large diversification of writers in our group. Some write memoirs, short stories and articles, magazine articles, non-fiction novels (autobiographies, First Nations, travel) and fiction novels (historical, fantasy and science fiction (children and young adult), romance, and script writing.
Have you ever written collectively as a group, such as producing an anthology?
Over the years SWG has published five anthology books. They are called “Kaleidoscope” and numbered accordingly. We also published a collection of stories about the 1998 Salmon Arm fire called “Out of the Ashes”. Kaleidoscope V was released in April. 2012. The cover photo for this collection was taken by me, and the group photo was taken David Docherty, who is one of our members.
What kind of support does your writing group provide for its writers?
Many of our writers have backgrounds in various areas, legal, editing, teaching (English teachers), reporting, script writing, graphic designers, and we often draw on their expertise and knowledge in those areas. As well, we attend coffee houses and book launches where our members will be reading or releasing a novel. I receive numerous email about upcoming events as well as writing contests, and newsletters from other writing organizations, which I pass on to the members.
Where do you get your ideas/writing prompts for the group from?
I look up ideas on the Internet, or I often ask the members to provide them. I spend a lot of time trying to find interesting ideas that will appeal to the majority of the members.
What is the best piece of writing advice you've been given?
Write, write, and then write some more.
What is the best piece of writing advice you give?
No matter what you are writing, be it a novel or your homework assignment, always produce your best work, even if you have to edit it twenty times.
Do you have guest speakers at your writing group?
We have had a number of speakers. We had one guest give an elocution seminar. At that time she was working for CBC, and worked many years as a radio announcer. We also had two guests who talked about our community radio, which is presently in the process of being installed. Another guest we had was a retired bookbinder. We have also had workshops on MS Word.
Do members of the group get a chance to run/lead a session or part of a session?
I have asked, but so far no takers. Should I be absent, our elected Vice-President would fill the role.
Does your writing group have a website?
How would someone go about joining your group?
I advertise in the local newspapers twice a month advising when our meetings will be held, and to contact me if they are interested. We also hand out pamphlets at writers’ festivals, readings, book sales, etc. People often go to our website, and send an email to our webmail address. As well, referrals form a large part of our current membership.
Thank you very much Shirley.