Hello Helene, can you please tell us a bit about your writing group?
Williamstown Writers. We meet at 16 Bruce St, Newport, Victoria, at 8 p.m. on the first Tuesday of each month (there is no meeting in January).
How many members, on average, does your group have?
Officially, we have 23 members but there are a core group of regular attendees – around 8 to 10 – and the others come intermittently.
Who are you and what is your role within the group?
My name is Helene Richards, I was one of three founding members and I coordinated the group for the first decade (meeting were held in my home for that initial period). I have recently taken over again as coordinator.
How are your sessions structured?
Our meetings begin with a short open forum, allowing members to share achievements, i.e., any work published or accepted for publishing in the previous month, and to give information on upcoming events and opportunities. Then we focus on workshopping: members take turns to read a piece of writing, which is then critiqued in a friendly, non-judgmental way; the writing can be a current item of work or something prompted by our optional ‘homework’ topics.
What types of things do you cover in your group?
There is no restriction on the type of writing or the genre, so our writers’ work includes poetry, short stories, novels, science fiction, articles for print media and online publishing, children’s stories, and even manga (Japanese-style sequencial art).
What have been some of your most popular/successful activities?
Irregularly we publish an anthology of our work, which we have entered in the annual Fellowship of Australian Writers (FAW) Literary Awards. Twice (2009 and 2011) our anthology has won the FAW Community Writers Award and we have also been short-listed several times.
What kind of support does your writing group provide for its writers?
We help each other by giving details of publishing opportunity, sharing competition entry forms, giving honest feedback (not necessarily always positive) on each other’s work, and generally supporting each other.
Where do you get your ideas/writing prompts for the group from?
I put them together. We have three ‘homework’ topics per month to choose from.
What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve been given?
Don’t worry too much about the detail and the editing with your first draft – just write and ‘go with the flow’. The fine-tuning can be done later.
Do you have guest speakers at your group?
We have had an occasional guest speaker in the past, e.g., the poet Peter Bakowski, but not recently. The main reason is cost. Writers need to be recompensed for their time and the group does not have the funds to afford them. We are fortunate in Williamstown to have the annual Literary Festival where we can listen to a variety of good writers.
Do members of the group get a chance to run/lead a session or part of a session?
When the group began, the idea was that each member took it in turns to run the meetings but we found that very few were keen to do so. So it became the norm for the current coordinator to chair the sessions. In his/her absence, of course, someone else takes the chair.
How would someone go about joining your writing group?
Our contact details are listed on the Victorian Writers’ Centre website, in their monthly newsletter, with all libraries in the western suburbs and with Victoria University. Interested writers just need to email or telephone, or just come to the next meeting.
Thank you Helene.