Tuesday 29 January 2013

Newcastle University Creative Writing Society

Welcome to my interview with Felicity Powell from Newcastle University Creative Writing Society.


Hello Felicity.  Can you tell us a bit about your writing society?
The Creative Writing Society (CreSoc) of Newcastle University became a registered society last year – this will be our first full year of being official. The idea started in 2011, when a group of friends decided to form the society, and it grew from there really. The meetings are held every Thursday evening, although members don’t have to attend every single one. It is very informal, most just drop in when they feel like it.
How many members, on average, does your society have?
At last count the number of official members was 41 – not bad for our first year.
Who are you and what is your role within the society?
I'm Felicity Powell, President and co-founder.
How are your sessions structured?
Each meeting normally lasts an hour, during which time the group will have a go at some writing activities, and then share and get feedback on what they written.
What types of things do you cover in your group?
Bit of everything really. We use a range of writing prompts and games, we suggest activities and even lead some guided writing exercises. The members can take the activity however they want to, maybe make a poem or story out of it, or even just scribble a few lines. Each to their own.
What have been some of your most popular/successful activities?
The best exercises are often the simplest ones, and they are always better when they are fun to do. For example: everyone writes down three words on separate pieces of paper, the more unusual the better. Then fold up the paper and toss it into the middle. Everyone then takes out three new pieces of paper, and writes something that uses those three words in some way, be it a poem, short story, or anything at all. It’s surprising what people can come up with, and is always interesting to hear what they have written. This activity forces you to associate things together that normally have no connection, it makes you think differently.
What genres do the members of your group write?
The most common forms of writing are poems and short stories, but we also cater to screenwriters, playwrights, journalists, and descriptive prose writers. There’s always diversity, everywhere you look. 
Have you ever written collectively as a group, such as producing an anthology?
Not yet, this is our first year after all, but it would be great to produce some kind of anthology, either in print or online, at the end of a year.
What kind of support does your society provide for its writers?
The main thing is that the society provides a relaxed and informal space for students to practise their writing away from the pressures of the classroom, and getting people to socialise and share ideas with their fellow writers. However, writers can also get feedback on the work that they share, which as well as helping to improve their style, gives them the confidence to read their work aloud.

We also keep members up to date with any cultural events going on in the area, any competitions that they can submit their work to. 
Where do you get your ideas/writing prompts for the group from?
Here and there. If someone remembers an activity that they have done before in a previous workshop, then they put it to the group. Then there is always internet research, or things you just pick up along the grapevine. A good activity starter is to just take an object or animal; person or picture, and then build a description around it and then turn that into a poem or story.
It’s also good to do writing games which get people to work together: perhaps everyone contributes a different element to a story that you write as a group.
What is the best piece of writing advice you've been given?
Not everything you write has to be amazing, the trick is just to get something down onto paper. You can proofread and double check everything later on if you want, but the first time you just have to let your imagination flow. Doesn’t matter how good it is.
What is the best piece of writing advice you give?
The important thing to do is just write, and keep writing. So many cases of writer’s block are due to just being unwilling to put pen to paper, not knowing where to start. That’s what our society is all about – the activities just get you writing, move you past that mental block. The more you write, the better you get.  
Do you have guest speakers at your group?
We haven’t had any speaker’s yet (again, this is our first year). Right now we are working on putting ourselves on the cultural map, which should hopefully develop some interest. It would be great to get some professional writers in to give their advice.
Do you hold open mic events, or spoken word performances?
Working on it! We’d like to host our own open mic sessions, maybe to celebrate the end of the term. We could showcase some of our own talent, and encourage everyone else to have a go too. I’ve been to other such events around Newcastle, and they’ve always gone down really well. 
How would someone go about joining your society?
I’m afraid that it is only available to students of Newcastle University. But if anyone reading this is a Newcastle student, then you need to go to the union website at http://www.nusu.co.uk/ go to activities -> societies, and click on “join a society”.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Keep writing, and don’t give up. Believe in yourself.
Thank you very much Felicity.

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