Starting a small writers' group - any ideas?

edited September 2017 in Writing
I'd like to start a small writers' group, about half a dozen at the most meeting in a local cafe. Totally informal. I used to belong to a large formal writers' group and have just finished therapy as a result of my experiences there! Any idea on how to get the word out?

Thanks

Comments

  • Local library? Local newspaper?
  • Community notice board.

  • Check our TN. She might join.
  • Give the details on here too - there might be local TBers you're unaware of.
  • I joined U3A. The group is advertised on the web and I use posters, locally. There's four of us at present.
  • Check our TN. She might join.
    Where are you, Rosie?
  • I lead our U3A group. Starts of with 16 plus a waiting list of 4 or 5 but whittles down to viable group of about 8 by Christmas.
  • Thanks everyone - all helpful. FB looks a good choice. I was in a U3A group which was led by the most helpful, knowledgeable tutor you could ever meet. Then one of the group had her medication changed and suddenly she became noisy, talking over everyone - very sad and a person joined who obviously had ambitions to take over the group by talking about her ideas and her writing all the time and talking over our lovely tutor. It got that you couldn't get peace to do the writing exercises the tutor set there was so much noise, so I left.

    I know there is no guarantee that a wee group in a cafe will be immune, but maybe laying out some ground rules at the start may offset some of that.

    xxxx
  • You do need someone reasonably strong in charge, so they can keep things on track when needed.
  • I allow 15 minutes of general (writing) chit chat at the start and build-in segments that allow people to discuss their own work. Seems to work
  • edited September 2017
    I type an agenda a copy of which is handed to each member at the beginning and we start by telling each other about work in progress and/or reading aloud. Comments and a competitions list are followed by coffee. Then we look at published pieces such as mag features, poetry or a play, whatever's relevant and analyse the text. The content of the meeting depends on members' interests. With that in mind I asked one of them to chair the next meeting.
  • Agree with PM. Was the group run by a university or college? Or the local authority? You should complain to them that the tutor isn't able to hold control. Every public group has someone like that, what the tutor does is say: Sorry (name), if you speak over me other students can't hear what I'm saying and if you do so once more, I'm afraid I'll have to ask you to leave this group, and everyone has 10 minutes (or whatever) of my time to discuss your work, and if they go over that, they should say, sorry, but your time is up, we move on now to (name's) work. Medication person should be taken to one side after and the problem mentioned in private and asked to have it reviewed before they return. You were presumably paying for this service. It isn't a medical service. It's a writing service.
  • edited October 2017
    Liz,It was a U3A group that RosieRabbit was in. The U3a is run by old people for old people and has no connection with formal educational establishments.

    The group leaders are all unpaid volunteers.so it's a case of Grin and Bear It, Like it or Lump it, or Do it Yourself if You Think You Can Do it Better.
  • Oh... gosh, that would be frustrating. My first writing tutor (I say first, the second person I tried, we complained as a group about the first one, he was useless and the course was stopped) had taken a course in how to deal with people like this and also in counselling, so was very adept and stopping trouble in its tracks. She used to write for Writing Magazine in fact.

    I kind of feel like going back to a group sometimes. The feedback is like a drug.
  • I haven't been active on this forum for quite a while, so I do apologise if it seems I'm abruptly butting in - but I've just noticed this discussion and I'm in a similar situation. For a while now I've been thinking of starting a small writers' group - just four or five people would be fine, and I'd be happy to host it at home if necessary. I belong to a Writers' Circle, and I don't intend to give up going just yet as there are some good things about it, but there are some pretty dire things about it too. Some of the members aren't really interested in writing, so far as I can tell, it's just something to get them out of the house. Some members carry on their own conversations when the chairperson's talking, and when asked not to, one woman just says sarcastically, "Ooh, naughty me, put me in the corner!" There's a man who is sexist, homophobic and borderline racist. One woman is unbearably loud and boastful, constantly taking over discussions, talking about herself and how wonderful she is, and trying to tell other people what to do and how to do it. Over the past year we've had quite a lot of new members who haven't lasted more than a few meetings, and though I can't be sure, I wonder if it's because of people like this. There are some lovely people there too, but of course it's the annoying ones who spoil things. Also, though this is no-one's fault, the group is too big to have time for real critique and feedback. The sort of group I'd like to start would be mainly a critique group, giving constructive feedback on one another's work, and sharing info about markets, comps etc. My problem is that I don't really want to approach people I like in my current group about a new group - it would seem like poaching or setting up a rival group. So I've been wondering about a notice at the library or on facebook (once I join facebook!) I'm still thinking, though. I'd have to phrase it so that I'm really clear about what the group is for. It's true there're no guarantees that objectionable people can be completely filtered out.
  • Helen, I would definitely get in touch with the people in your group. If the leader can't keep control or has allowed too many people in, if you vote with your feet that's her/his lookout. As long as you aren't charging, have who YOU want, especially in your own home. If it is to be in your own home, do NOT have an ad anywhere where people can apply that you won't know.

    I feel like Basil Fawlty, putting 'no riff raff' in his ad for his Hotel, but it's the people who make a writing group.

  • Thanks, Liz. Yes, I was thinking too that an advantage of having it at home would be that I can have and refuse exactly who I want. And I won't be putting my address in a public place! Perhaps asking interested people to email me giving a little info about themselves and why they want to join the group and invite those who sound most likely okay? Still don't want to be seen to be poaching writers' circle members or anything like it, but perhaps if I phrase it as a little get-together or meet-up rather than a "group"? As I said, there are some lovely people in the writers' group. It's just a lot of the meetings can be so frustrating for reasons outlined above. Sometimes when annoying members are absent the meetings are brilliant. And I enjoy entering the comps and talking to like-minded members. The chairwoman is someone I like personally, but she's getting on a bit and that may be why she finds the job hard at times - she's already hinted that she may step down if there's someone prepared to take her place. (I won't be volunteering! I realise chairing a group that size needs particular skills.)
  • Gosh, helensme. Sounds dire.
  • I know. Still, it gives me something to talk about after meetings when OH and daughter get home. They always look forward to hearing the latest about some of the particular "characters" (putting it politely) at the group!
  • LizLiz
    edited October 2017
    You could meet up in a coffee shop, perhaps? You could give the ones you want to meet a little note? Then go from there? I really would not get people you don't know, really, to your home. What if your family is out and one of them 'stays behind' talking? And then you feel uncomfortable? And the one that makes you feel uncomfortable then has your address.

    I met many people I really like at my writing groups, and am still friends with three of them, and the tutor of my first group, who is an FB friend and writer (and who did write for Writing Magazine), and another who is a children's poet but who doesn't do FB.

    I was lucky in that all the tutors I had were brilliant at crowd control.
  • edited October 2017
    Yes, Liz, I see what you mean. Or if I get email addresses before the first meet, afterwards message those I'd like to meet again.

    Glad for you that your tutors were good at crowd control. It's always a bit tricky with groups of adults I think. The chair/tutor can't sanction people as a teacher at school would. You just have to hope people are adult enough to behave and of course they're not always. The dynamics of the group are hard to explain. It's a bit weird in some cases - one of the rude members is I think some sort of relative to another member and I get the impression the rather rude one takes advantage of the other's good nature. Then there are members who go way way back - the group's been going for years, and there's a core of six or so members who've been there most of that time - and so there are, in some cases, rivalries and other things all simmering away beneath the surface.
    Just edited this post as I realised I may have inadvertently identified someone before! Should be okay now.
  • Bumping this up for Doglover.
  • Bumping this up for Doglover.
    Thanks, BB.  
  • After reading this, and struggling with behaviour management at work, I don't think I'm prepared at all for chairing my own writer's group if it is full of rude and obnoxious people.  I think I will have to continue searching for a writing group.  
  • Doglover, if you are chairing your own group you have control. People can join on the proviso they show respect, thoughtfulness and kindness for other members, as well as be supportive and helpful to their writing. If anyone breaks that you tell them to leave. 
  • Liz said:
    Doglover, if you are chairing your own group you have control. People can join on the proviso they show respect, thoughtfulness and kindness for other members, as well as be supportive and helpful to their writing. If anyone breaks that you tell them to leave. 
    I have a lack of control at work with teenagers, so I'm not sure I would be able to control any unruly adults in a library.  
  • LizLiz
    edited February 24
    I actually think the library surrounding would give you a certain amount of protection. Loudness for a start. And you'd be surprised what help you get form other, good people in the group. But you wouldn't have to do anything at the time bar ignore and talk to someone else in the group, ie, say something like, now it is XXXs turn, or say, let's get onto our next subject/writing task, or similar. You'd write to the offender by email and ask them not to return due to them breaking the rules set out in the conditions of attendance. And the library staff would support you by making sure they didn't come back. In all the groups I've been to, no-one has been in the slightest like that though - only problems have been people who wanted too much time to read, or pontificate, in which case what you say is, sorry, have to interrupt, we only have time for 2minutes each, it's XXXs turn now. (Crysse our brill tutor used to put out her watch ostentatiously and refer to it if someone looked as if they were set to carry on - people do take hints!). Helensme group sounds like it has been going on for a long time and the members are a clique and the leader a complete numpty. Everything always comes from the top. You be straightforward and fair and kind and everyone will follow your lead. 
  • Liz said:
    I actually think the library surrounding would give you a certain amount of protection. Loudness for a start. And you'd be surprised what help you get form other, good people in the group. But you wouldn't have to do anything at the time bar ignore and talk to someone else in the group, ie, say something like, now it is XXXs turn, or say, let's get onto our next subject/writing task, or similar. You'd write to the offender by email and ask them not to return due to them breaking the rules set out in the conditions of attendance. And the library staff would support you by making sure they didn't come back. In all the groups I've been to, no-one has been in the slightest like that though - only problems have been people who wanted too much time to read, or pontificate, in which case what you say is, sorry, have to interrupt, we only have time for 2minutes each, it's XXXs turn now. (Crysse our brill tutor used to put out her watch ostentatiously and refer to it if someone looked as if they were set to carry on - people do take hints!). Helensme group sounds like it has been going on for a long time and the members are a clique and the leader a complete numpty. Everything always comes from the top. You be straightforward and fair and kind and everyone will follow your lead. 
    It sounds fair, Liz.  How long would you say a session should go on for?  An hour or 90 minutes?  My idea was to bring along something that you've written and then discuss that.  Perhaps even have a writing task, but all that depends on time and how many people turn up.  My aim is to have other writers to give feedback on work.  
  • I can tell you what happened with Crysse. The first week we introduced ourselves and what we wanted to write. We did a couple of writing games and she had brought  a shall which she asked us to describe as closely as we could, focussing on details. Then at the end there was homework, a sentence or short story subject - nowadays you could do flash fiction, but the important thing was word count, stress not too long. The next week, we read out our bits or parts of them and she and the other people commented. She took them home and did more in depth 'marking' or comments. But this of course is not needed in just a writing group. I think writing games are fun and certainly wake brains up and the things brought to write about also take time. I expect others here will have more ideas! Our sessions were an hour and a half. 
  • Liz said:
    I can tell you what happened with Crysse. The first week we introduced ourselves and what we wanted to write. We did a couple of writing games and she had brought  a shall which she asked us to describe as closely as we could, focussing on details. Then at the end there was homework, a sentence or short story subject - nowadays you could do flash fiction, but the important thing was word count, stress not too long. The next week, we read out our bits or parts of them and she and the other people commented. She took them home and did more in depth 'marking' or comments. But this of course is not needed in just a writing group. I think writing games are fun and certainly wake brains up and the things brought to write about also take time. I expect others here will have more ideas! Our sessions were an hour and a half. 
    Thanks for this.  I don't want too much work - as in things for me to mark from others.  But tasks and writing games sounds like a fun thing to do - as long as I can get involved.  
  • In my current group we take it in turns to bring an exercise to the session so that everyone has a chance to participate. We also share the chairperson duties because no one wants to run/be in charge of the group. I would also strongly recommend that you have an agenda to work to. It can be a work in progress while the group is being formed but it will help your chairperson to have a programme to follow. Our two hour session is only held once a month - which is too long a gap between meetings imo. Every fortnight is about right with a minimum of an hour and a half per meeting.
  • However long the meeting is, make sure there is time for everyone to read and feedback. It's very disappointing if everyone else gets a turn and you don't. You can void that by limiting the length of the pieces read and moving on the discussion so the next person can read. 
  • Hello Doglover.  I deliver creative writing courses throughout the year for either 6 weeks or 5 weeks depending on the term.

    The main piece of advice I'd give you is go with a view to having fun.  Enjoy writing and being with people who write.  Some people have nobody at home to share their ideas with (except perhaps a dog or a cat) and others have people at home they'd rather not share their ideas with, so that time at the group will be a life-line to a happier state for many. 

    Secondly I would suggest, as you're not leading the group but as such want a group to exist, at the outset it is made clear that everybody has to lead one week themselves.  This means the work of researching a topic and making sure there is plenty to do with the session is not left to one person.  It should also help you all to bond when you all realise how much background work is needed for a meeting lasting a couple of hours.

    My courses are for two hours weekly.  I make it clear at the outset what behaviour is and isn't acceptable and any other information the group needs.

    Do let us know how you get on. 

  • The library have got back in touch with me about holding the group there and they seem very eager to do that. I suppose I will now have to create a Facebook page, Twitter account and other things for it. If anyone has any ideas who I could contact to publicise this, please let me know.
  • LizLiz
    edited March 1
    Big sign at the library first of all, and tour the libraries in your area and put up a notice in each one. Perhaps, if it's for the public and at the library, your local free paper might put something in it? Or even the not free one. But you don't want too many!
  • edited March 1
    Thanks, Liz. I will do.
  • Size matters - I went to a group in Edinburgh, where I live - I only went once. Those that know me on here know I don't have a lot of free time and although the meetings ran for 2 and a half hours, we only got around to reading 4 bits of work - there were 18 people there and on that work-rate I wouldn't get any feedback on my assessment until week 5!


    I didn't go back,

  • That’s not good, Datco. I want enough people for it to work but not enough that it will be unmanageable.
  • LizLiz
    edited March 6
    You just put another notice up and say the group is now full. Decide on how big you want it and add a couple more as there will always be those who can't make it IF it is an ongoing thing - if it's just for 6 weeks then stick to how many you want and turn anyone else away until a vacancy comes up. this is not a book group - that can be much bigger,
  • It is possible to manage feedback, whatever the size of the group.


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