Monday, 7 January 2013

Novelists' Circle

Welcome to my interview with Sandra O'Grady from Novelists' Circle.


Hello Sandra.  Can you please tell us a bit about your writing group?
Hi, I’m Sandra, the founder of the Novelist’s Circle. I started the group in 2010 to bring like-minded people together in a nurturing environment. 
I previously attended several other writing groups and enjoyed them all, but their members wrote short stories and poetry, not novels. Writing a long piece comes with its own challenges and interacting with other on the same journey is invaluable. 
We meet at 6.30 pm on the second Monday of each month at The Box Factory, 59 Regent St South, Adelaide, South Australia. Members pay a casual rate of AUD $3 per meeting. 
We are a friendly bunch who aim to provide a non-threatening environment and to cater for people who haven’t put pen to paper yet through to those that have a saleable manuscript. Quarterly we meet for a casual dinner, because there are just never enough hours to chat about our passion: writing!
How many members, on average, does your group have?
There are currently a dozen members, writing in a variety of genres and at different skill levels. Each person brings unique and interesting life experiences to the group, which allows sharing from a bank of information and expertise.
How are your sessions structured?
During our sessions, we discuss whatever members need help with, share helpful tips and industry news. Sometimes I bring along a handout with information to help improve our literary techniques. The majority of our time is taken critiquing a few pages of each member’s work-in-progress, which was emailed a week or two prior. 
This kind of open appraisal by a variety of people is invaluable. Not only does it help highlight areas where everyone is confused by the story, or finds a character unbelievable, but also emphasizes differences of opinion. The latter is a vital part of learning to assess feedback, take on board what you feel is valuable, and put aside what you feel isn’t in keeping with your story/voice. The variety of writers in the Novelist’s Circle provides diverse viewpoints to draw on. 
What genres do the members of your group write?
At present all members write fiction, but the genres are diverse, including speculative, sci-fi, fantasy, anthropomorphic, chick-lit, romantic suspense, romantic comedy, erotic romance, women’s fiction and anything else that takes our fancy. Many of us also occasionally write short stories and poetry, although we don’t focus on this in the group.
Do members of the group get a chance to run/lead a session or part of a session?
Although I chair the session—aka keep the conversation moving along—everyone participates equally and we are flexible enough to spend extra time on a topic that interests members. 
What kind of support does your writing group provide for its writers?
We support one another by sharing information and ideas in a respectful and honest way. Comments are offered as suggestions, not expectations. We keep in mind that each member has his/her own style. 
In addition to the meetings, we also communicate via email if:
  • We have a juicy piece of industry information, e.g. publishers accepting unsolicited manuscripts;
  • We heard about a good writing course;
  • We have a problem we need to solve, e.g. plot, character;
  • We need cheering up because editing has blurred our vision, or we received another rejection; but most importantly
  • We squeal with delight when a member has a win, no matter how small, e.g. finished a manuscript or edits, or how grandiose, e.g. signed a publishing contract! 
What is the best piece of writing advice you've been given?
Treat your writing like a business. Act professionally, learn the skills of the trade well and market yourself.
What is the best piece of writing advice you give?
Never, NEVER give up. I truly believe persistence a key element to success in this industry. 
Does your writing group have a website/blog/Twitter/Facebook? 
How would someone go about joining your writing group?
Easy, just complete the ‘contact form’ on our website and provide your email address (preferably) or a phone number. 
Thank you very much Sandra.

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