â€˜Make an effort to seek out people who love writing and make friends with them. It helps to confirm your writing life.â€™ Natalie Goldberg
I keep hearing from emerging writers how important their writers groups have been to them but I have had trouble finding one of my own. I had a semi formal group at university that fell apart when a large section of the group graduated. I didnâ€™t have writing colleagues in London so I hadnâ€™t been a part of a group for years. There are so many writing groups to choose from in Perth but I was specific about what I wanted to gain from the group;
- people working on a full length piece with the intention of publishing it
- members with a writing background rather than writers just starting out
- writers I could relate to, whom I felt would give me honest feedback, but whom I also liked as people.
These may sound a bit unfair, especially the one about writers who are just getting started as many would argue, myself included, that everyone needs support in their writing and those just starting out probably have the most trouble finding avenues to get their work heard. However, in this case I decided to be selfish, especially after attending a few groups with a large beginner contingent.
I started my search looking at WritingWA as they list a large number of groups throughout Perth as well as the Writers Centres. I did try out one of the groups from their list. The participants were friendly and experienced, however the group was also long term established and I wasnâ€™t sure I was going to break my way into their clique. I probably wouldâ€™ve persevered but for their daytime meeting resulting in a requirement for babysitting every time I wanted to attend.
I took a look at the groups run by the Writers Centres, of which there are many covering off a large range of genres but decided to try some smaller groups. I attended a group who showed excessive concern that another group only a few suburbs away was running on the same night (competition is rife in writers groups apparently), I did homework for one group and I went to another group who seemed more a social group who talked about writing than an actual writers group. But my favourite was actually a lovely group, bar for the regular member who arrived 30 minutes late, large as life, at least 6â€6 tall and weighing in at 150kg +. This member announced their arrival, dragged a chair loudly across the floor while another member was trying to read their work out and sat down in their King Gee shorts and wife beater singlet, legs spread (inconveniently in my direction). They whipped out their phone, bashed a few keys, settled into their seat with some wise cracks aimed at other group members before returning to their phone which they then typed furiously on for the rest of the session, laughing occasionally to themselves when something witty obviously appeared on their screen.
I stared, I was fascinated, this person would make such an interesting character. However when the group ended I slipped out as fast as I could as there was no way I could face a group with this level of rudeness in it on an on going basis.
Then at the publishing course I attended (mentioned last time here) I swapped email addresses with a few of the other participants who seemed to be friendly, non King Gee wearing, homework adverse type writers. So I emailed them and we organised a catch up. Last week I met with one of the ladies for a coffee/tea and we officially had our first laissez faire writers group meeting. Admittedly no writing happened that time but we discussed our works in progress and our reading habits as well as our dislike for certain writing styles and a bond was formed. We are going to meet again and try to drag another lady from the class in and see how we go from there. So it seems I have found fellow writers and we have our informal group under way. Unfortunately for my poor husband he has since had to listen as I regale tales from my rare evening out with a lovely writer/reader, who seemed happy that I didnâ€™t have two heads or a wife beater singlet (at least not on that evening)!
For all of my remarks above there are so many great writers groups in Perth that just didnâ€™t work for me mainly due to time or location restrictions. If you are looking for a group check out WritingWA FAQ’s for a list of groups throughout the state or try your local writers centre to find out what’s on offer.