We met in the café of the beautiful John Rylands library on Deansgate, more or less opposite the branch of Waterstone’s where many a crit group has gathered before.
This proved to be an ideal venue. Not too busy and a little way away from the bustle of the Christmas markets. Those who fancied a glass of wine could indulge whilst those of us who had to drive could keep safe with a luxurious hot chocolate or a fine coffee. And then there was cake, of course. Writers and cake. A common combination.
|A bit of a tea-party?|
Creative Writing Exercise
First up, something to get the creative juices flowing. Marie Basting, the new SCBWI-BI Network Coordinator, led a short creative writing exercise:Write or sketch for a few minutes on one of the following Manchester themes:
- A child visiting the Christmas markets for the first time
- A visit to the Manchester United grounds
- An extra on Corrie
- A dog’s view of the greyhound stadium
This brought a variety of responses, some of them hilarious and others heart-warming - like the picture of the child more interested in the stray dog than all the razzmatazz of the markets. This also broke the ice and allowed us to introduce ourselves as writers / illustrators.
It’s clear that there is a good mix of people in the north west: a balance of illustrators and writers, a balance too of published writers and those still working towards their first publication, as well as some new members and some who have been coming for years. There was an academic slant, too, with several members completing a masters at MMU, some already holding a masters in Creative Writing and one member who teaches children’s lit and writing young adult novels at Salford University. So, although we were having a bit of tea party this time, it’s quite clear we’re all serious about our writing.
We broke out into smaller groups to set some goals. Today these were far-reaching and “bottom-line” goals and perhaps goals for the group rather than individual ones. These include helping each other to:
- write that definitive signature work
- recover from rejection, turning the rejection into a positive
- celebrate success
We also agreed that a more closely defined individual goal-setting routine could be useful.
Ideas for meetings
We looked at holding regular meetings for ten months of the year – leaving out August and December but perhaps organising something social in December. We might meet from 11.00 – 3.00 and include:
- something new
- a creative writing exercise
- sharing business experiences
- a sociable lunch
We’re considering holding regular age-group specific critique groups with limited membership. These would take place at the end of the sessions, so those not involved are free to leave.
Saturday was the favoured day and we’re looking at the John Rylands and the City Library as possible venues.
After the very successful event at the Science Museum in March this year, we’d like to try out some of the other iconic Greater Manchester venues such as:
- the John Rylands
- Ordsall Hall
- the People’s Museum
A reminder perhaps is needed here that it’s perfectly all right to write. You don’t have to draw.
So, a few good plans then. It looks as if the North West is really going to buzz in 2015.
Gill James is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Salford where she specialises in Children's Literature and Writing Novels for Young People. Her latest novel, The House on Schellberg Street, a young adult novel with a new twist on the 1940s, was published in April 2014.