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.
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.
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/