This was a special WriteNight for us, held during Essex Book Festival as part of their Place weekend, at Firstsite art gallery in Colchester.
I invited three local authors: Sarah Armstrong who comes to WriteNight and has just had her second book, The Devil in the Snow, published by Sandstone Press; Liz Trenow who has been to WriteNight as a guest author before and has just published her fourth novel, The Silk Weaver; and Nicola Werenowska, playwright, whose play Silence is in progress, and Hidden is showing at the Mercury Theatre in April.
I started by introducing WriteNight and I’m going to do that again now – just in case you haven’t been along yet.
We all know that people write for many reasons – to be J. K. Rowling, for creativity, for fun, to earn a living, just to get by…
WriteNight is a fully inclusive group, it’s a community group. So the writing activities we share are suitable for anyone, experienced or not, writing in any genre or for any reason.
The sessions are once a month and stand alone as an event in themselves. Most people share their work at the end, not because they have to – but because it feels like it’s an okay, safe place to share.
We’ve also interviewed authors, an artist, had a guest talk about self-publishing, written and produced an anthology and last year had several ‘genre’ based sessions. Some of the WriteNighters have led an evening based on their specific interests.
Aside from this, we talk. We all have a starting point from which to chat – we’re all writing, or interested in writing.
Nicola Werenowska sharing a piece about place
I asked our guest authors about place, the theme of this weekend at the book festival, and because I knew all of them had powerful places in their current books/plays. What became apparent in their discussion was that the places they had all chosen led them to the family tales and stories that threaded through the fabric of their work.
Nicola shared a great piece of writing about a stay in hospital, and explained a short activity to encourage thinking and writing about a specific place. I wrote myself, but I also watched the audience – they were all writing. She asked people to share and three people, new to the group, stood up and shared what they’d written.
After a biscuit break we reconvened and Liz led the activity on talking with a partner about family stories (we adapted this to fit with what the authors had just said!), and then writing one of these stories, from another perspective. People wrote and people shared. People that were nervous, people that hadn’t dared the first time.
We finally took questions from the audience: What are the difficulties of writing about family/people you know? How did you get an agent? What keeps you writing? Our panel gave us lots of practical and interesting advice based on their experiences.
And although we were a much bigger group than usual, in a much bigger space, the sharing of ideas and producing and sharing of writing felt informal and intimate and that is exactly what WriteNight is always all about.
Sue, Jo, Sarah, Doug, Sarah, Mary
Many thanks to our guests, the WriteNighters that helped as usual (Sue redirecting people from Queen Street, Sarah pointing them towards Learning Room A, Tom bearing biscuit gifts…) and to everyone that came along. Thank you Essex Book Festival and Firstsite, and everyone who shared details of our event.
Join the Colchester WriteNight community on Facebook, like our WriteNight page or follow us on twitter @ColWriteNight
Nicola Werenowska is appearing here, Sarah Armstrong here and Liz Trenow here during Essex Book Festival, Doug Smith will be here, I will be here along with some of the other WriteNighters, and here with Patrician Press. See you there!
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