Publish and be …happy!

Over the 20 years we’ve been running, Harpenden Writers has attracted members at different levels of writing achievement and working across a variety of genres. We have published authors and poets amongst our ranks, some are prize-winning. We have journalists and researchers. There are people who work or used to work in related industries such as teaching, publishing and marketing. But in many careers and walks of life, words are used, thoughtfully employed, specifically chosen and placed with others in order to make sense and to have an impact on others. And it is this shared interest in selecting and arranging words that binds us together.

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A small selection of publications by our members, past and present.

Whatever our need or desire to write, we find encouragement in the group. It’s a supportive environment in which to express ourselves and even to improve upon our skills. Whether a member is learning how to write poetry after being an engineer writing technical reports for 40 years, or experimenting with the post-modern novel form after decades of successfully following convention, the group can embrace and facilitate a wide range of styles and a multitude of interests and aspirations.
Our calendar of monthly meetings tends to feature Read Arounds of members’ own work alternating with talks by guest speakers. Read Arounds often feature fascinatingly diverse pieces of work. There are occasions where the committee sets a theme to inspire or guide a writing exercise specifically for that week or to direct our choice of work to bring along and share out loud in the circle. We can read an entire work, such as a short story, book chapter, article or poem, or an extract of longer pieces, depending on the length and time allowed that week. The chair of the Read Around manages the time allotted to each of those hoping to read, and keeps a note of who has read and the title of that piece. It can be material that we’ve only recently begun creating and would appreciate feedback on, or equally it’s an opportunity to present completed work. The group is always happy to provide constructive criticism, if requested.

Members also form small, informal working or friendship groups who gather regularly outside of the Harpenden Writers meetings, for more rigorous feedback or editing sessions. The whole idea is to enable local writers to widen their literary circle, to get to know other writers, connect with like-minded people and be encouraged to write; be it to write better, produce different material or just to write more.
The talks that we have had from Guest Speakers over the 20 years so far, have covered topics ranging from writing folk music to digital self-publishing, from travel-writing to Haiku formation, from comedy script-writing to public performance techniques. We have welcomed speakers from the worlds of fiction writing, poetry, book editing, magazine publishing, on-line publishing, theatre, journalism, television and radio and more. Some of our members simply enjoy the stimulation of hearing stories of the professional lives and experiences of our speakers, whilst others are inspired to try new things and venture down new paths.

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A couple of recent examples of our members’ self-publishing achievements.

There’s something for everyone at Harpenden Writers. Traditionally we’ve met on the first Friday morning of each month, taking a summer break in August. We know the weekday morning doesn’t suit everyone who might be interested in joining a local writers group. But we’re aiming to build our online community too, and who knows, if we can muster enough new members to extend our calendar of activities to include events at times that would better suit full-time workers or carers we will.
In the meantime, we shall keep you posted about our anthology launch – which is taking place next week. And do pass by our Facebook page one day:  https://www.facebook.com/HarpendenWriters/

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Harpenden Writers – a place for writers to meet.

Harpenden Writers is a local club that began around 20 years ago following the closure of a WEA creative writing class.  We began by meeting in members’ homes but fairly soon, we had the wherewithal to book and pay for a suitable meeting place for our monthly gatherings. We became a regular fixture at the United Reformed Church meeting rooms. We were upstairs and there was a mums and toddlers group that gathered downstairs. The exuberant and noisy nature of the well-attended toddler group only became a problem for us when, several years on, we needed to change rooms and moved downstairs, to enable a couple of our more infirm members to attend the meetings. We tried putting polite signs up on our door, which did not really help. We had some young mums in the group, aunts, uncle and grandparents, as well as recently-retired teachers at the time, so we all knew only too well, how hard it is to ‘sssssh’ excited little ones.

We coped with sharing this venue to an extent but for a group that spends a lot of time listening carefully to each other reading aloud and discussing our work in the round, it wasn’t really an environment conducive to concentrating.  It had been a very pleasant, centrally located venue but we looked around for somewhere else.

Advised against relocating to the Harpenden Trust Centre in Southdown, which would have meant battling against the sound of amplified music, dozens of adult tapping feet and much chatter and laughter, we discovered the meeting rooms at the Friends Meeting House. The Quakers Centre on Southdown Road in Harpenden perfectly suited our requirements for ensuring accessibility for our members, guests and speakers.  Centrally located near the railway station, this venue has its own small car-park, is near some handy 2-hour on-street parking and within easy access of a couple of public car-parks.

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Carol Hedges speaking to Harpenden Writers in the Friends’ Meeting House, February 2017.

The acoustics aren’t brilliant in there, due to the vaulted ceiling. We suppose that one of the practices of Quakers is to sit quietly in each other’s company and to contemplate the world and life and so forth, but of course, we tend to do that out loud. And another children’s group has started meeting in the room on the other side of the building, but there is a library between us and we are only occasionally disturbed by chatter or excitement in the entrance hall.  Some of our current writers group members are hard of hearing, and do struggle more than the rest of us to keep tuned in, but it is excellent practice for us to speak up and to enunciate properly.

This, we have found is an important element of being a writer; to be confident in presenting one’s work in public. Sharing our work with each other, as well as beyond our group, has provided us with some really useful learning experiences and many joyful memories. With our second ‘proper’ publication soon to be launched, we are putting our work – and ourselves – out there. Quite a nerve-wracking exercise! In the run up to this significant occasion, we will remember on this blog, how we have printed and presented past collections of our work. We invite you to join us on our writer’s journey.

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A Read Around at Harpenden Writers