Another Harpenden Writers’ year draws to a close.

Phew! Harpenden Writers have had another busy year and we’re in a reflective mood as we approach our AGM on 5th July (we always meet on the first Friday morning of each month).

Our programme sticks to an academic timetable, running from September through until July. We kicked off the season with a focused writing session to encourage members to do concentrated bursts of writing in a communal setting, but in silence; quite hard for us as we all enjoy our gatherings which are great opportunities to share thoughts and discuss our various writing projects and challenges. We had set a theme to encourage creativity, ‘Transformations’, so that members might have work to submit to Janet Berenson, a local writer/tutor, in advance of her visit to our group in the October. Janet was able to critique the work that was submitted both in poetry and prose form. We encourage all sorts of writing in our group and support our members whatever level they are writing at, whether it’s with a view to publishing or for personal satisfaction.

Janet Berenson

Janet Berenson critiquing our work at a Harpenden Writers Meeting

November was a Read Around with the optional theme of ‘Behind the wall’. These sessions are a chance for everyone to read out work in progress, or share a short piece written specially on the suggested theme – even if it was a means of just getting those writing juices flowing. As a group we aim to promote best writing practice, providing mutual support and constructive criticism; these Read Arounds are a great way to ensure this. And so are the sessions led by the Guest Speakers and Tutors we get in, particularly as their views on our work aren’t skewed by over-familiarity. This protocol works brilliantly also for our annual Prose and Poetry Competition. The optional theme for this year was ‘Subversion’ and our Judge was local poet John Mole. The entries are always passed on to the judge anonymously, so he would have had no idea whose work he was reading, critiquing and ‘scoring’.

December’s meeting was the ‘Writing a Monologue for Radio’ workshop, covered in a previous blog.  Then in January’s meeting, which was also our annual New Year Party, we had a visit from Carol Hedges, a local crime fiction writer. Carol is always honest about how much work goes into writing and getting published, but also about how much one is likely to make out of doing so – the moral of the tale? Don’t give up your day job too soon!

Carol Hedges at Harpenden Writers_Jan 2019

Carol Hedges at Harpenden Writers, Jan 2019

In February we were due to welcome former Harpenden Writer, Author and Tutor Suzie Dean back to the group to deliver a talk on short story writing but unfortunately, we had to postpone it to March due to the dreadful wintry weather conditions and traffic chaos. We made up for that lost meeting with another trial session of our exciting new ‘Meet-to-Write’ initiative in early March.  Envisaged as a floating hub, Meet-to-Write is an opportunity for Harpenden Writers to gather regularly outside of our monthly meetings, to simply write. The aim is to create a friendly space to meet for timed, focused writing. Generally, we arrange for three half hour segments, each incorporating a break of a few minutes for a chat and comfort break. Our next one will take place on Saturday 22nd June, 9:45 am at the brand-new Park House Café, Harpenden.

I digress – our April meeting was the occasion of the Big Announcement of who our winning writers were for 2019. John Mole gave a wonderfully inspiring talk. Actually, he waxed lyrical about writing and reminisced about his own career. We wished we had recorded the whole thing. We didn’t, but you can hear snippets of the morning’s proceedings on dropbox here  and here.

John Mole at HW 2019

HW Membership and Competition Secretary, Rania (l), Jo Coleman, Publicity Assistant (r), with our esteemed judge, John Mole, in the centre.

The meeting we held on the first Friday of May was another Read Around. The optional theme this time was ‘Disposal’. Some of us gave writing in flash fiction style a go, another improvised a limerick, with hilarious results. Not sure why, but we always have a laugh at these meetings.  In June, Michael King gave a Poetry tutorial and encouraged us to think about the role of the Poet Laureate in the light of Simon Armitage having taken on the mantle. And as I mentioned earlier, the July meeting on Friday 5th will be our AGM followed by a Read Around and our Summer Party. We welcome newcomers and are always happy to have you come along to try us out. We charge just £18 a year currently for annual membership, then £2 per meeting you attend. Non-members pay an attendance fee of £4 for a Read Around or £5 if we have a Guest Speaker. Our Meet-to-Write sessions are free to attend as we have no permanent home for them, but we ask that you do purchase refreshments from our host venue on each occasion.

Park House Cafe.

The approach to Park House Cafe, from Leyton Road.

If you would like to come and write in silence alongside us, a few Harpenden Writers are planning to Meet-to-Write for a couple of hours on the morning of Saturday 22nd June, from 9:45am in the Park House Café, Park House, Rothamsted Park, Leyton Road, Harpenden Town Centre. You can let me know in advance or ask any questions by leaving a comment here or email this address: jofc13@gmail.com

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