Welcome to my interview with Sarah Oswald from WordCraft Writers' Forum.
Hello Sarah. Can you please tell us a bit about your writing group?
We are WordCraft Writers’ Forum, an inclusive group for writers of all levels in any genre, who meet weekly on Thursdays at the CAMAD centre in Machynlleth, Powys between 7pm-9pm. The group was set up by myself and another local writer, Felicity Knight, in April this year (2012) and is run co-operatively as a non-profit group, so we only charge a nominal fee of £2 per session in order to cover the hire of the room and copying costs. Felicity & I give our time for free and so far between us, we haven’t missed a week!
How many members, on average, does your group have?
We have a core group of six, with two or three other members who attend occasional sessions, but we actively encourage new members to come along by advertising locally.
Who are you and what is your role within the group?
I’m Sarah Oswald, I have published numerous pieces of short fiction in journals & anthologies here in the UK and Canada (where I grew up) and am currently working on a novel. I set up the group with Felicity following a ‘taster’ workshop I ran locally last year. I have several years’ experience of teaching, so I facilitate the sessions and run workshops every other week.
How are your sessions structured?
It varies: I try to run a workshop every other week, which is a more formal writing class aimed at providing tools and techniques, with writing exercises and ideas for further individual work. Other weeks we devote to giving constructive critique/feedback on one another’s work, or to writing exercises, discussions or forums. The group is run as a co-operative so it is whatever the group members agree they would most like to do.
Do members of the group get a chance to run/let a session or part of a session?
Yes, if they want to, but there is no pressure to do so.
What types of things do you cover in your group?
All sorts! – This year I have run a series of fiction-writing workshops covering topics such as dialogue, dense description, creating incident, sense of place, original detail, and structure, and have also run workshops on life writing and psychogeography. We have had forums on flash fiction, point of view, proof-reading and editing. And we have indulged in writing on a single topic, writing in different genre styles, ‘hot-seating’ a character, and various other exercises designed to get your creativity going!
What have been some of your most popular/successful activities?
One of my most popular writing exercises is called ‘story generator’: everyone writes a random object and a random place on two post-it notes and sticks them on the board, then everyone chooses one from each category and comes up with a story based around these! We have done this two or three times now and it’s great fun!Another popular activity is ‘shifting perspectives’, in which everyone chooses a picture or postcard from a general selection and writes from various different perspectives – someone in the picture, the person taking the picture, describing what happened next, etc etc. This was taken from a workshop I attended run by Olive Senior at Arvon.
Do you have guest speakers at your group?
We’ve only had one so far - a woman I know who also used to teach creative writing, called Helen Jones, came and did an excellent guest workshop on ‘spontaneity writing’ for us recently.Unfortunately we don’t really have much money so can’t afford to pay guest speakers, also the room we rent is rather small! I have been trying to coerce some other local writers to come along and speak for us but people do seem to be rather strapped for spare time, sadly.
What genres do the members of your group write? Is there a lot of diversity with regards to your members' writing?
Yes, very much so. We have fiction writers, a screenwriter, life-writers, a non-fiction article writer and a children’s writer. Genres range across the board - horror, historical romance, literary fiction, sci-fi and comedy!
Have you ever written collectively as a group, such as producing an anthology?
We often write collectively, and in fact one very successful exercise involved us creating a scenario from a photograph and each writing from the point of view of a different character – interestingly, all the stories ‘hung together’ surprisingly well and we have thought of performing these as a play for voices.
What kind of support does your writing group provide for its writers?
We are a small, not-for-profit group and have no funds or facilities, so support is really a question of sharing information and knowledge and providing one another with constructive feedback. We do organise a lift-share to and from the weekly sessions, and any other events that we feel we’d like to attend as a group.
Where do you get your ideas/writing prompts from?
I have studied creative writing to MA level and have been teaching it for five years, so I have a good deal of material! I also read a lot of books on the subject and attend workshops and courses, so some ideas come from there. But it is usually a question of thinking about what it is I want people to get out of an exercise, and then designing one around this. We’re very fortunate to have an exceedingly creative group of people in WordCraft as well though, and everyone has great ideas all the time and is always bringing them to the group.
What's the best piece of writing advice you've been given?
a) Write first, edit laterb) Shut up and write! (Natalie Goldberg)
Ha! Brilliant! What is the best piece of writing advice you give?
Get on and write: get the ‘bones’ down first, worry about editing and everything else later.
How would someone go about joining your writing group?
Thank you Sarah.Either email myself or Felicity for details, or just turn up on a Thursdayfirstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com