Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Boroondara Writers Group

Welcome to my interview with Caroline Carruthers from Boroondara Writers Group.


Hello Caroline, can you please tell us a bit about your writing group?
Boroondara Writers Group, meet at Balwyn Library last Saturday of each month Feb-Nov, 1.30-4.30pm. The group is about 17-18 years old. Saturday is open to all comers, we also have a Wednesday meeting once a month with restricted membership so that we can work on longer pieces and/or in more depth.
How many members, on average, does your group have?
Average attendance is about 12-15 on Saturdays, and 4-6 on Wednesdays.
Who are you and what is your role within the group?
I'm the coordinator, which means I do everything to keep the group running, organise meeting rooms, write monthly newsletter, manage finances, project manage anthology production every 2 years, catering.
How are your sessions structured?
We guarantee that every attendee will have their work workshopped, so we ask for only 1000 words max at a time. On arrival members put copies of their piece on table in order of arrival. We workshop pieces in order of arrival. Copies are distributed and then the author reads their piece aloud. Members write comments on the written copies and then I invite some members to comment aloud, preferably with 1 example of what is working and 1 example of what could be improved. Copies are returned to the author so that s/he can review the comments and see if they are useful.
We have a refreshment break midway through.
What types of things do you cover in your group?
Anything that occurs to the workshop members. I try to keep the focus on the writing and discourage critiques of spelling and punctuation or discussions of what people are reminded of by the piece. What is the author trying to achieve and how successful is s/he?
What have been some of your most popular/successful activities?
We have run reading events in association with family history week.
We run skills development workshops.
Book launches.
What genres do the members of your group write?  Is there a lot of diversity with regards to your members’ writing?
We have no restrictions on genre. The group started as a family history writing group but now we have poetry, memoir, non-fiction, historical novels, essays, humour, fantasy, travel, anything.
Have you ever written collectively as a group, such as producing an anthology?
We produce an anthology every 2 years for members who wish to be included.
What kind of support does your writing group provide for its writers?
Mutual help, support and skills development. We are a self-help group receiving no funding other than our miniscule attendance fee. We provide friendship with like minded people, experienced advice – our members range from beginners to published writers, individual members help one another as requested outside of the group meetings.
Where do you get your ideas/writing prompts for the group from?
I’m not sure what you mean. I offer a suggested topic in the monthly newsletter for members lacking inspiration which comes out of the ether into my head when needed. I sometimes google things to help me out.
What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve been given?
Stop prevaricating and write.
What is the best piece of writing advice you give?
Read your work aloud you’ll see what isn’t working immediately.
Does your writing group have a website/blog/twitter/facebook?
We have an old website that hasn’t been updated since our webmaster left and I can’t access the site now.
Do you have guest speakers at your group?  
The previous coordinator did this but we have no money for speakers and so those who came usually had something to ‘sell’. This is not necessarily bad but it’s not a path I’ve taken.
They were locally based authors speaking about their experiences.
Do members of the group get a chance to run/lead a session or part of a session?
They certainly could if they wanted to. Currently this happens occasionally when I cannot attend.
How would someone go about joining your writing group?
People usually phone or email me having found us on the web, by word of mouth or through the Victorian Writers’ Centre. I send them information and put them on the newsletter list, then they turn up whenever suits them. We have never needed to close our membership as people usually don’t need to come every month for a critique although I do encourage people to attend to share the benefit of their opinions as well as to workshop their own work.
Thank you very much Caroline. 

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