Networking for fun and profit

A little while back, I spotted that one of the ladies from the ever-lovely Edinburgh NaNoBeans was looking for someone to help out with a new writing group. Having far too much free time on my hands, I volunteered my somewhat amateurish services, and I’m so glad I did.

I’ve probably said it before, but I’m not so much an extrovert as an introvert who’s killed an extrovert and is wearing their skin. So, things like sitting in a room full of strangers chatting about writing still makes me a tad nervous inside. I shouldn’t have worried. There we all were, huddled in the back of the new home of Corstorphine Community Centre, still in our coats because draughty didn’t begin to cover it, but the conversation was warm and friendly.

We started with three local authors: Sheila Perry, a NaNoBean writing under the pen name Cecilia Peartree; Joan Rowe, a historical fiction writer; and Regi Claire, novelist and short story writer. While Sheila and Joan wrote from an early age, Regi only began in earnest when she moved from Switzerland, but what struck me was how wonderful it was that creativity can flourish at any age. A friend sent me this infographic before I headed out the door, and it’s heartening reading.

They discussed the idea of being an outsider and how it influences their work. In Regi’s case, she had to get used to writing in English instead of German; for Joan, it was living in a military family and moving schools many times before she was ten. It was great to hear about the inspiration behind the novels, especially the WWI diary passed down through Joan’s family that inspired Duty. I wish I had a treasure trove like that to work with! We heard readings from all three authors, and my Amazon wishlist has swelled considerably.

And finally, because the theme was Empowering Women, we looked at suffragettes in their work. I loved the free-spirited Marlene in The Waiting, and Kirstie enjoying the bright lights of Edinburgh in Adventure on the Scotch Express. It also transpired that Sheila had taken part in the centenary reenactment of the 1909 suffragette march in Edinburgh, which of course featured the legend that is Flora Drummond:

Sticking it to The Man with retro selfies.

Sticking it to The Man with retro selfies.

The last session was devoted to ‘Getting Started’, which is where yours truly came in, along with local Christian author Joanne Landon. Joanne has published two books of stories with a ‘truth is stranger than fiction’ flavour, and spoke with real passion about her genre. Regi and Joan were singing the praises of the helpful ladies at the Art Library for researching period costumes. As for me? Well, I tried to write down exactly how I got started and decided it might not be quite adequate…

No really, don't ask about those websites.

No really, don’t ask about those websites.

Instead, I promoted NaNoWriMo (and got a few admiring comments for managing 50k words in a month!). I also carried on an earlier discussion with Joan about whether writing classes are ‘essential’. The conclusion was that while they can be useful- and I was lucky to be taught by the fantastic Miranda Landgraf– they’re by no means mandatory. Oh, and my top advice was to always carry a notebook, and write down observations wherever you are. The audience asked questions about getting published, and everyone had different experiences, from purely self-published (Sheila), through to having an agent and trad publishing (Regi). There was an interesting question about whether as a writer you might not feel successful until you get commissions and agents knocking down your door. To be honest, I think most people will be waiting a while for someone to turn up with sacks of cash for the contents of their imagination, but there we go.

Sadly, most of the ladies left fairly sharpish at the end due to the cold, and I didn’t get a chance to chat to Regi or the moderator, but I had a lovely talk to Joanne about book covers, marketing and writing for the love of it rather than money. I know from published friends that you *definitely* don’t go into writing for the stacks of cash…

It’s Pot Noodles all the way, sonny.

I had a fantastic afternoon, and I do hope this writing group continues. It’s early days for it, but I hope loads of you give it some love. Oh, and there are some pictures from the event. Look out for the lady with blue-green-pink hair in stolen husband jeans…


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