Regular readers (and even those with irregular bowel movements – ah, sorry, can’t resist a poo joke) may be aware that I joined a local writers’ group at the start of 2016 to help me kick on with quantity and quality. It’s probably fair to say that the group, currently run by a smashing bunch of ladies of advancing years, does not have a membership running very far into double figures nor is it particularly engaged with the 21st century, technologically speaking. This all came to a head recently when a meeting was called to look at what needed to be done to turn the group around and I was invited along as ‘the new blood’.
There’s a small but significant part of me that relishes being the young (hah!) rock’n’roll hero, arriving in his black sports car with punky music blaring out and laying down to The Man (or, in this case, The Women) how things around here need to change. In actual fact it’s more relevant to point out that a) I’m still in the cut-throat world of working for a living with US employers who are very focused on the bottom line, and b) I know a reasonable amount about the internet and marketing. Their visibility as a long-standing local arts group is terrible, so most of my suggestions centred around building up the group’s web presence via the blog I’d set up. Take a peek at the current, if rather dormant, site to see the 2016 programme.
But that got me thinking. There are a lot of people out there (150 followers of this blog alone) who may well be members of excellent writing groups who know what works and what doesn’t and we’d be very grateful if any of you had some tips and best practices that you could share.
Things I suggested at the meeting were:
- identify what the group is for (e.g. engage with the local community; encourage new members, especially younger bods; help members improve the craft of writing);
- go beyond the current formula (of offering competitions where you have to pay to enter and submit in hard copy in the hope of winning a small cash prize) and also run free-to-enter competitions submitted electronically (probably to the blog) with nothing but glory and perhaps a certificate to the winner (hopefully resulting in greater engagement with local writers);
- get into the community more, especially with events & readings at libraries and book shops;
- any events attended should be focused on the group’s remit; if we can’t use it to engage with, encourage or help (local) writers we shouldn’t go;
- although some writers don’t want critical feedback, some (including me) do. It’s one of the reasons I joined but the group currently tends to shy away from offering feedback and has no structure to accommodate it. My plan is to have a section on the blog where pieces can be submitted for general critiquing.
So, how does that sound? Am I being overly ambitious? Will something fall flat on its face? Have I missed anything out that is crucial to having a successful and thriving writers’ group? I’ve also got to come up with a logo, which I’m happy to do but again if anyone fancies a pop at designing something with the words “Fosseway Writers” and possibly “Newark-on-Trent” as a smaller strapline, that would be awesome.
Let me know and I’ll take your suggestions to our working group meeting. Thanks guys!