This year’s Writers’ Group Open Night celebrated the many writing groups that are hosted at Writing NSW. During the course of the evening, we heard from Vicki Laveau-Harvie, award-winning author and member of Seize the Day writing group, and from enthusiastic members and convenors of our active writing groups, both open and closed. Attendees were encouraged to mix and mingle over wine and cheese, and to connect with convenors in person.
Our membership intern, Alina Haque, captured the key points from the night for those who weren’t able to attend.
Writing has widely been regarded as a solitary act, so why bother showing your work to others? All great writers have (privately and not so privately) sought help from fellow writers. From Lord Byron’s challenge to write a ghost story in 1816, for example, came Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Polidari’s The Vampyre, and Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Mont Blanc.
In 2020, Vicki Laveau-Harvie, renowned Australian author and winner of the 2019 Stella Prize, touched on this concept in her keynote address at our Writers’ Group Open Night on Tuesday the 10th of March.
“[A writing group] can provide a sounding-board, a safe place to bury your soul with a group of people who, by miracle, are struggling with the same things you are. And who will probably be generous, and kind, and helpful, with their comments… what may be perfectly clear to you, may not be to others.”
We also heard from the convenors of other writing groups that meet at Writing NSW, with all convenors touching on the importance of community to one’s writing practice. Some common threads that emerged from the convenors’ speeches included:
- The inclusive and warm atmosphere actively fostered by writers’ groups, with members from all different walks of life coming together to write. Open-genre groups in particular emphasised that writing becomes more enjoyable when people of different perspectives and life experiences come together as a group to look over a writer’s draft.
- Unfortunately, family members may not be reliable sources of feedback. “My mum liked everything I wrote,” said Sarah Napier from Allsorts, a popular open-genre group, “and that was the problem.” It is important to find genuine and kind fellow writers to constructively critique your writing—you never know what you might learn!
- Pick a group that has a common goal in mind. Some of our groups are more relaxed, offering time to write, snacks and a supportive environment. Others work towards publication, NSW Children’s Writers in particular showcasing their large number of members with published works. “If you need the incentive of a deadline,” said Marian McGuinness of Monday Night Children’s Writers, “we can provide that!”
- More than anything, convenors expressed that the social aspect of writers’ groups is what make them special. With friends, the novel you have been meaning to write for a decade, the incubating memoir, the seed of poetry, and that idea for a picture book can be developed further with the added benefit of likeminded company.
A standout from the crowd, Scripto Libris writers group, debuted their matching black shirts emblazoned with their name and inauguration year of 2012. The group formed from Alan Mills’ year-long novel writing course have now become lifelong friends. A notable activity prepared by Scripto Libris for the night was a raffle draw, which was drawn for the coveted prize, a single toilet paper roll.
Our Writers’ Groups
Members of Writing NSW have the advantage of joining the diverse range of groups that span many interests and levels of experience. If you would like to know more about joining our writers’ groups, visit our Writing Group information page.
If you are looking to join an established group rather than start afresh, then it’s recommend that you test a few out to see which one is the best fit. Before signing up to a group, ask the convenor if you can attend as a visitor until you find the one that’s right for you.
Haven’t found your dream group yet? Try starting one. We have developed a handy resource with a list of tips that you can find here.
If you have any questions about our writers’ group program, get in touch via our contact page.