Writing Groups:West Cork Literary Fest 2016:Danielle Mc Laughlin, Marie Gethins&Bairbre Leahy

Writing Groups:West Cork Literary Fest 2016:Danielle Mc Laughlin, Marie Gethins&Bairbre Leahy

Danielle McLaughin seems to speak a lot about her writing group and how it helped her immensely and still does. She is obviously very talented and very published but her two writing group colleagues are on the up and up having being published and short listed for almost every prize going too!

Danielle McLaughlin, Bairbre Leahy and Marie Gethins talk up the writing group movement
Danielle McLaughlin, Bairbre Leahy and Marie Gethins talk up the writing group movement

How do they get the time and what can we learn from them? Here are my notes from the discussion, this is what works for this group, Danielle was keen to point this out but if I can get any bit of the style and writing skill she has, I am willing to listen up carefully to her!

Here goes:

Writing groups:

  • should try to have┬ásimilar abilities within-don’t have a mix of beginners and more advanced. Or even wriiters at the smae point of the writing journeys.
  • should be closed and small enough of up to 5 max.
  • should submit their work to each other to be read at least twice and fellow group members read, mark up and give critique on the hard copy and then talk through at the meeting. Otherwise, the feedback is not considered or measured and potentially can damage a writer’s thoughts. I totally agree with this one.
  • transcend genres
  • transcend personal tastes of the writers.
  • need to attend regularly. Absenteeism is not cool or useful.
  • meet regularly.
  • should have few aims:improve writing, support rejections, celebrate successes.
  • need to understand how to give and take feedback.
  • Savage and nasty criticism has no place as does the “It’s lovely” or “I do not like it” or “Poetry is not my thing” If you have something to say, offer a suggestion with evidence of whay you lke or do not like.
  • Do not offer ways in which the writer can change or write the story, though tempting. The “how” is up to the writer.
  • Take care when giving feedback, take time to formulate thoughts.
  • Do not tell the writer what to write about, the subject matter is up the writer Do not tell the writer which stories to write.
  • Start with what is RIGHT about the writing. Writers ofetn do not know what is good about their own work and might delete this if not told!
  • Be aware of your own personal biases or likes or tastes in writing.
  • Do not read work our-complete waste of time. Spend the few hours critiqueing the writing NOT the writer!
  • When you receieve feedback, Listen! Be open! Listen! then you cna improve! Improvements are needed in EVERY single piece of work(Danielle believes this, therefore it is true!)
  • Don;t interrupt, listen to the feedback. Don’t be defensive or argue. Be polite.
  • Every submits work and everyone takes feedback. This helps the group dynamics.
  • Danielle showed a story of hers from her collection that benefited from her writing group. They suggested changes in the title, the opening, awkward phrasing, superflous words and phrases, poor word choices, imagery, language registry, general story confusion and times where Danielle was taking the reader out of the story by going bac to the past when the story was moving in the present action.
  • No one member should have the limelight and keep trying to retain your own voice as we don;t want 5 exact same writers.
  • It is about mutual trust and respect, you should feel honoured that someone has shown you their work so respect that and respect their opinion though you may not agree. Go and think about it instead.
  • Sercret to success-shared aims and similar skill set in writing.

This was a different type of talk, it was very interactive with lots of audience members asking questions. I am really looking forward to reading more of Danielle, Bairbre and Maire’s writing. Thanks for this.

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