Interview / playwriting / Poetry / short story / writers group

Making a Writers Group Happen

ACT Writers Centre intern Laura Bartlett has been investigating

the benefits and processes surrounding starting a

writers group, particularly here at the Centre.

Here’s what she found —

we’d say she’s saved you a bit of research (hint, hint).

If you are looking for a supportive environment where you, as a writer, can challenge yourself and be open to constructive criticism and improve your writing then a writers group might just be what you’re after. Anyone who is interested in the creative writing, both fiction and non-fiction and is a member of the ACT Writers Centre can join or start a writers group to help improve their writing and seek feedback.

Eight years ago, after identifying herself as exactly the kind of writer who needed conversation surrounding her work, Sylvia Alston co-founded the group the Canberra Writers with Dr Don McKinen,
‘I decided to start a group for people who were writing novels as I couldn’t find an existing group in the ACT. The group has evolved over time and now caters for anyone with an interest in creative writing.’

Alston reflects that, ‘the purpose of a writers group is to share ideas, experience and knowledge to others, may it be about blogs, websites, marketing or even publishing options, all can be discussed for your benefit.’ If you’re looking for support or wish to discuss relevant material and tips, foster creativity or undertake and lead writing exercises and workshops than a writers group is the place. Above all though, a writers group is about having fun and embracing yourself as a writer, refining your skills and let your imagination be expressed.

A writers group is there to create a productive environment for everyone to feel comfortable articulating opinion and sharing their own work, with respectful interaction between each member. Support and honest, constructive feedback is important to every writer, and with these requisites, it will allow each member of the group to gain something that they can use and reflect on. ‘I’ve found the group friendly and supportive and it gives me the motivation (and permission) to keep writing. Most of us have had work published in magazines or online and have won or been placed in writing competitions.’

Don McKinen (who writes under the name of Donald McMaster) has been a recent member of the Canberra Writers Group who had his novel Provocation published and is one of the many who has gained invaluable feedback and knowledge.

The Canberra Writers Group meets fortnightly, the second and fourth Thursday of the month at the ACT Writers Centre workshop room. Each member is to bring no more than 3,000 words to workshop with a brief synopsis of the piece and specify what type of feedback you are looking from (eg. Advice about a character, tone, setting.)

Anyone can start a writers group. All you need is an interest in writing and somewhere to meet. It’s free to hire a room at the ACT Writers Centre for groups that meet there. The only condition is that at least one member of the group must be a member of the Centre.

The ACT Writers Centre doesn’t ‘officially’ run any writers group at this time, but if you are interested in starting one up all you need to do is contact the Centre. A call would be put in the e-news, magazine and website, allowing members of the Centre can use the meeting room free of charge. The Centre would love to see more writers groups, especially during the day, and would help facilitate these in any way they could. The Centre is also available to help you find a writers group that will fit the needs that you are looking for and, if you are seeking advice to start your own writers group. Take a look at the back interior of the ACTWrite magazine sometime! There’s plenty on offer.

Writing Groups are not only there to allow your creative writing reach its potential but allows you to meet new people who share the same passion for writing.

A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.― Maya Angelou

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