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The Write Inspiration: Starting a Writing Group

Writing.ie | Resources | Better Fiction Guides | Getting Started

Mary Jo Burke

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Are you thinking about joining a writer’s group? If you are, then you are where I was, two years ago.

My dilemma was finding a group that allowed me to attend but also ticked all of my boxes in terms of family and work commitments. I wanted a morning writers group – but this proved difficult to find. Many established groups meet in the evening times, at weekends, in the cities and towns and communities of Ireland but there were none in my rural area of Carbury, Co. Kildare.

It was time to rethink things! I couldn’t be the only writer in the North Leinster region who was seeking a morning writing group. In a lifechanging moment, the answer to my problem came to me – I decided to start my own writers group and ask for help.

Step One: Now I have decided to start a group what’s next?

The internet abounds with a plethora of information on how to set up a group, how to run a group, meeting planners and everything you could possibly need to know but what I wanted was the human touch.

Step Two: Talk to somebody about your idea.

Among the many contacts, listings of writers groups that I found on Google, I decided to contact the Irish Writers’ Centre. Their good, practical advice has since been echoed by all other groups I’ve been in contact with:

  • Decide on a location for your meeting (typically your local Library, School or Community Hall, even a Local Cafe) anywhere that is convenient, the important thing is to get started; you can always relocate at a later date.
  • Establish your day and time.
  • Advertise, advertise, advertise. Local newspapers, bulletin boards and community newsletters are ideal to let people know about your group, remember to include your name and contact details.
  • Decide on the aims, objectives and purpose of the group and what format the meetings will have. Having these prepared in advance helped me enormously. I got all of my information from the Internet and when people rang up to enquire about my group I was able to discuss what the group aimed to achieve. It established respect and confidence in me from prospective members. If you are looking for a template to use feel free to use ours. You can contact me on Facebook- Mary Josephine Burke
  • Having completed all the above steps just show up at your first meeting prepared and committed to take action.

Contacting Vanessa O’Loughlin at writing.ie was another encouraging step. Working with Dublin UNESCO City of Literature, Vanessa is developing and producing the National Emerging Writer Programme that will be work closely with the library service to support emerging writers. Her advice to contact my local Library was both timely and rewarding. Vanessa’s encouragement to start a writing group and work with my local Library service has resulted in a wonderful partnership. Edenderry Library service is fantastic in assisting me in every way possible to make the group a reality. They provide a heated, well–lit room, assisted in the design and promotion of the group and have offered to support us in the hosting of an Open Mic session later this year.

Step Three: Make people aware of your group so that they can support it.

Our first meeting was in February. Five people attended and it continues to grow as word gets out about its existence. It’s rewarding to receive comments from members who find it enjoyable, and challenges them in new ways. It is a forum to share our passion for writing in the company of new friends.

Step Four: How does it get better than that?

Plan for success.

Our group is aiming to compile our work into a booklet or newsletter by the end of this year. It’s a challenge and a shared common goal that excites us. We are also keen to participate in an “Open Mic” session. This session is an event organised and hosted by a group to facilitate a public platform for writers to share their work.

It is an ambitious step for most of our members, myself included, and we see it as part of our development from our cocoon of oneness with writing to the sharing of our work publicly with others and being prepared to accept their comments and advice. In a sense our writer’s group is deeply embryonic; it is the birthing place of our creative talents and a nurturing environment of friendship and support where we give birth to work that we didn’t think we were capable of!

The Open Mic sessions will be a major challenge to us as individuals and as writers. We are totally united in supporting one another and have accepted an invitation from the Boyne Writers Group to attend theirs later this month. Our intention is to host a session in Edenderry Library by the end of this year.

Step Five: What makes it all worthwhile and possible?

When you share your passion with others you receive abundance in return. Our group members vary in age, background, some are already writing, others just starting out. What unifies us is our love of writing. It is a pure joy meeting up together, feeding on each other’s enthusiasm, energy and ideas.

Our members have enriched my life immeasurably. Our meetings are held in a light hearted atmosphere where we have periods of writing and discussion with fun, banter and friendly conversations. I leave feeling really energised, light and happy.

If you are looking for a class, or thinking about joining a group, or wondering how to take your writing to the next level, think no more! Because thinking is what kept me stuck for over two years.

Be creative, be proactive, if there is no group available locally, start your own, you will not regret it- it’s fun and it’s free!

About the author

(c) Mary Jo Burke March 2012

I was born in England, grew up in Co. Sligo and I now live in Carbury, Co Kildare, and in ‘88 returned to England where I taught English and Drama in the East End. Three years later I followed my heart and Noel, my future husband back to Dublin.

I started teaching English and Geography in Firhouse Community College. A teaching colleague and I in ’93/94, set up and mentored students in the former Very Special Arts Ireland (Arts & Disability Ireland) and City Arts Centre-Young Playwrights Programme. Coming second in ’93 and winning in ‘94 was a credit to the students and so rewarding for all of us. The award winning play “Riders on the Storm” was professionally produced, directed and performed as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival and then toured nationwide. This wonderful year was made more special when Noel and I married that August.

Fast forward to ’09 and three children later, life was busy but the writing bug had seriously bitten. At an Inkwell Writer’s Workshop – Getting Published, I met Dr. Ed Deevy. He was writing a book about the Recession and its effects. He asked would I like to contribute an article. My article focused on the importance of language to children in the current economic climate and was published by The Liffey Press in 2010. How to survive the Great Recession (The Resilient Response)

I am busy finalising my first novel and actively support and run our local writer’s group, Eadan Doire Writer’s Group!

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