Welcome to my interview with Emma Bevin from Blandford Library Writers.
Hello Emma, can you please tell us a bit about your writing group?
Our writing group is ‘Blandford Library Writers’ and we meet once a month in Blandford Library. It’s a free group, which aims to provide a warm, welcoming atmosphere to anyone interested in writing, especially to people starting out, developing their confidence or coming back to writing. All levels and experience welcome! We have been running for eighteen months now.
How many members, on average, does your group have?
Our meetings do fluctuate. I usually have about thirty people on my mailing list for the group. An attendance of fifteen is as high as we usually go, and ten to twelve is average.
Who are you and what is your role within the group?
I am the Library Manager for Blandford Library and set the group up with my partner. We run it between us.
How are your sessions structured?
Every month I set a challenge for our writers to interpret. I try to make these as varied as possible to encourage people to try out different skills and styles. Sometimes they are more serious than at other times- occasionally we’ve set up group activities or played games to create writing prompts. Each meeting we sit in a circle and take it in turns to read and criticise the work that has been produced. It is very warm and friendly and we try and balance different people’s needs; some people come for the fun and social aspect and don’t want too much criticism whereas some others are very keen to progress.
Do members of the group get a chance to run/lead a session or part of a session?
No, no one else has run a session.
What types of things do you cover in your group?
We really do try and be varied. Some examples have included focussing on voice or description; other times we’ve tried out different styles, such as looking at ghost stories or romance. We try to encourage a bit of lateral thinking, so we often set a title or prompt and ask people to come up with unusual interpretations.
What have been some of your most popular/successful activities?
One of the best activities was where I gave the group a name of a character and asked them to write something detailing who he was. Everyone had a lucky dip in an envelope that gave one detail about this character, which they had to keep secret from the rest of the group. Some of the statements were conflicting, and we hoped to create the feeling of a community talking about all the different interpretations they had of one character. It worked really well; everyone had a really fantastic piece to read out and we had one of the best evenings of story telling we’ve ever had.
Do you have guest speakers at your group?
A local poet, David Caddy, opened our first session for us with a talk about poetry. We have some contacts that we would really like to exploit and would like to have more guest speakers come, but we haven’t progressed any further with this yet.
What genres do the members of your group write? Is there a lot of diversity with regards to your members’ writing?
Our members write very differently. We have sci-fi, horror, comedy, memoir, poetry and historical to name a few. Most of our members are happy to try out new things. We have at least one published poet in our midst, and one author working on developing his manuscript for publication.
Have you ever written collectively as a group, such as producing an anthology?
The closest we’ve come to this was the exercise detailed above. We would really like to put an anthology together but are still working on how to come up with the funding to do this.
What kind of support does your writing group provide for its writers?
Mostly, through finding and passing on information. I use my mailing list to pass on all the details I can find about competitions, workshops, classes and opportunities and encourage people to get in touch with one another. I’m a member of NAWE and always forward the bulletins that I receive from them on to my group. I’ve been able to encourage several of our writers to pass on their work to our librarians who have been involved in a scheme that brings local writers work to the attention of agents and other publishing professionals.
Where do you get your ideas/writing prompts for the group from?
From all sorts of places! I think that it is important to keep the prompts fresh and different and try and keep doing something for everyone. Coming up with ideas can be quite stimulating just by itself!
What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve been given?
Keep writing. Treat writing in the same way as any other discipline, be brave and keep on doing it- do it as much as you can! Write stories, letters, articles, a journal, morning pages, notebooks- it’s all good.
What is the best piece of writing advice you give?
Read everything and write everything- all the time if you can!
Does your writing group have a website/blog/twitter/facebook?
No. Not yet!
How would someone go about joining your writing group?
They would need to contact me through the library. I would add their name and email address to my mailing list and keep them updated as to what the latest challenge was and the date of the next meeting. I’d ideally like to have a quick chat with them before they came so that they knew what to expect.Thank you very much Emma.