Welcome to my interview with Su Bristow, from Exeter Writers.
Hello Su, can you please tell us a bit about your writing group?
We are called Exeter Writers, and we meet once a fortnight in central Exeter, in Devon, on a Saturday afternoon. Our website is www.exeterwriters.org.uk
The group was founded in 1950, but changed its name to Exeter Writers in 2007.
How many members, on average, does your group have?
We aim for a maximum of 25. Right now there are about 22.
Who are you and what is your role within the group?
My name is Su Bristow, and I am the Secretary.
How are your sessions structured?
This year we’ve decided on a rotating programme of three different kinds of meeting: manuscript readings and critiques, ‘write-ins’, and workshops, usually led by one of our members. About once a term we have a workshop with a visiting writer. Exchanging news, about writing and otherwise, drinking tea and eating biscuits are also involved.
What types of things do you cover in your group?
Anything to do with writing, and quite a lot that isn’t. Besides working on our writing itself, we exchange news of events and competitions, we run our own annual short story competition, and have occasional outings – though the last one, by steam train to Agatha Christie’s home, Greenway, had to be called off because extreme weather (ie rain) caused a landslide on the train line!
Oh dear, but that does seem like a good opening for a story right there. What have been some of your most popular/successful activities?
The short story competition is growing year by year.Our first anthology won joint first prize in the David St John Thomas Anthology Competition. We have produced two anthologies in recent years, and are now planning a third.
Congratulations. What genres do the members of your group write?
Novels, short stories, screenplays, plays, poetry, non-fiction…We don’t exclude any genres, so most are represented by at least one member.
What kind of support does your writing group provide for its writers?
Members can bring manuscripts to read in session, and they can ask other members for one-to-one critique at any time. And support can take many forms, from robust criticism to visiting in hospital…(no causal connection between the two).
Ha! Where do you get your ideas/writing prompts from?
Our current Chair, Cathie Hartigan, runs http://www.creativewritingmatters.co.uk, and teaches adult education classes in creative writing, so she is a fund of inspirational ideas and materials. And ideas can come from anywhere…
What is best piece of writing advice you've been given?
JUST DO IT!
Ma'am, yes Ma'am! And what is the best piece of writing advice you give?
Probably the same, though I can’t speak for the whole group. Don’t be afraid to get it wrong, and be prepared to learn from your readers.
Do you have guest speakers at your group?
Most recently, we’ve had Karen Hayes, not so much to speak as to run a workshop with lots of useful pointers in between exercises. Jane Bidder aka Sophie King aka Janey Fraser is taking a workshop in November.
How would someone go about joining your writing group?
They apply, and go on the waiting list. Until recently it was quite long, but several members have moved on for various reasons, so we do now have room for new people. We ask them to submit two pieces of fiction of up to 3000 words, and these are read by our reading panel. If they ‘pass’, we ask them to come to a meeting so that we can all meet each other. Then the group decides whether to invite them to join.
Thank you very much, Su.