I’ve invited Emma Kittle-Pey of Colchester WriteNight to tell us more about her WriteNight meetups.
WriteNight came about because I was looking for a writing group for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in October 2012.
NaNoWriMo takes place yearly throughout November. There are meetings at various pubs, cafes and libraries around the country for ‘write-ins’. The write-ins encourage writers on their journey to reach the personal goal of a 50,000 word novel in a month, by motivating each other.
The closest meeting I could find was at Chelmsford library, where I met Stuart Wakefield and Emma Biddulph, NaNo organisers, both of whom were, and continue to be, extremely supportive. I also met Nick Barlow and Sonya Holmes, both writers from Colchester, who said they’d be interested in coming along to a more local group.
Alex Davis at 15 Queen Street (a community working/meeting space) was enthusiastic about the idea too, so we agreed to hold it there, and quickly began to advertise the meetings online and on posters throughout the town. We arranged to meet on Thursday evenings during November. The turnout was higher than I’d expected, about 20 people, and we easily settled into tapping away or scribbling silently, with coffee and biscuit breaks. Some of us finished (Colin, Doug, Jo) some of us (i.e. me) didn’t manage the 50,000 words. But we agreed that writing together, and meeting other local writers, had been a great experience.
So we continued, calling the new group WriteNight.
WriteNight meets on the fourth Monday of the month, at 7.30pm, still at 15 Queen Street. There have been special guests… novelist Liz Trenow explained how she wrote The Forgotten Seamstress, Allen Zuk came to talk to us about self-publishing, local poet Mark Brayley ran a poetry workshop for non-poets, and artist/photographer Polly Alderton visited us and wowed us with her pictorial story of a dying pigeon. I guess you could say we’re integrating ourselves with the local creative talent for writerly purposes. Maybe we need some musical inspiration next Ben Howard?
This summer is our fourth year of writing together, and we are celebrating some real successes at WriteNight: Village Green by Phaedra Bishop, written in the early days of WriteNight, appeared in The Flash Flood Journal; we have self-published our very own anthology – Colchester (available on Amazon); Doug Smith produced the brilliantly compiled and illustrated The Great Idea Generator; Sarah Armstrong has just had her first novel published by Sandstone Press, (several parts of The Insect Rosary were written at WriteNight sessions); Sue Dawes and Sarah Baxter have both won the AM Heath prize for crime writing and some of my stories, both inspired by the group and written at Uni, have been published in Fat Maggie and other stories.
Everyone that comes to WriteNight plays their part and has helped with the anthology, activity ideas, IT support, making coffee or bringing biscuits (Jonathan!). There are participants that are enthusiastic and experienced writers, happy to share their acquired knowledge with the rest of us, and there are beginners enjoying picking up tips. Most people like sharing their writing at the end of the session, although there’s no pressure to read it out.
I’m really proud of what WriteNight is – every session I come home with that warm feeling of being part of a kind and supportive group, and I usually produce some writing that can be developed further. We constantly change the activities and ideas we use – WriteNight continues to evolve. But the aim is still to write together.
Our publications: Village Green by Phaedra Bishop,
Colchester: The Anthology, produced by Colchester WriteNight, 2013
The Insect Rosary by Sarah Armstrong, Sandstone Press 2015
The Great Idea Generator produced by Doug Smith, 2014
Fat Maggie and Other Stories, by Emma Kittle-Pey, Patrician Press 2013
Useful sites: http://nanowrimo.org, http://www.amheath.com/blog/criminal-lines/