Welcome to my interview with Ruth Hatfield, from Cambridge Writers' Group: Writing For Children.
Hello Ruth. Can you please tell us a bit about your writing group?
We’re the Writing for Children part of the Cambridge Writers Group (sometimes we’re called Cambridge Children’s Writers, we’ve never formalised anything!) – we meet on the first Thursday of every month in one of the member’s houses. The group was first established when Chris Buckton put a live in the Cambridge Writers newsletter in 2009 asking if anyone wanted to form a Writing for Children group. I answered this advert, we met for the first time in June 2009, and the group grew from there. It was very small to begin with, mostly just Chris and I for the first year or so, but then gradually people started to join and the group now has a small but consistent core of about 6 or 7 members, with many others having come along for the odd meeting or two over the past 3 years.
Who are you and what is your role within the group?
I’m Ruth Hatfield, the original group convenor (as soon as the group grew larger than just Chris Buckton and myself, we decided to have a convenor). These days because I travel a lot for work, Annie Neild does a lot of the convening, and sometimes it is done by whichever person is hosting the meeting that particular month.
How are your sessions structured?
We meet for two hours. Pieces of work for discussion are emailed out to the attendees a few days in advance of the meeting so that everyone has a chance to read and comment before we come together. When we meet, each person reads out a short excerpt from their piece and then the group discusses their views on the piece. It’s generally very informal, and we stress to all new members that we’re a group whose members like constructive criticism, so the discussion is often pretty frank! But always with the emphasis on making practical suggestions about possible edits, rather than just giving personal reactions.
Do members of the group get a chance to run/lead a session or part of a session?
It’s kind of led by us all – we don’t have a ‘leader’ as such during the sessions themselves (only to co-ordinate the meeting and distribute the pieces).
What types of things do you cover in your group?
Mostly it’s just the exchanging of comments on each other’s work. Sometimes we recommend books, websites or competitions to each other.
What have been some of your most popular/successful activities?
The meetings! That’s it for us at the moment… (Cambridge Writers does all sorts of things, but our group exists just to meet and discuss work).
Do you have guest speakers at your group?
Cambridge Writers does, but our group is too small really. What we do seems to suit us at the moment, but it’s entirely possible that we might try and organise other things in the future.
What genres do the members of your group write?
We generally write stories for children, although sometimes work written for adults is also discussed at the meetings. There is a lot of diversity regarding the ages written for and the subjects written about.
Have you ever written collectively as a group, such as producing an anthology?
No, though that’s an interesting idea…
What is the best piece of writing advice you've been given?
Apply bum to seat.
Does your writing group have a website/blog/Facebook/Twitter?
No, although Cambridge Writers, our parent organisation, has a website www.cambridgewriters.net
How would someone go about joining your writing group?
Just email me, firstname.lastname@example.org, or Annie Neild, at email@example.com
Thank you very much Ruth.