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Writing in Circles

October 30th, 2020

I’d wanted to write for some years but it was only as the children got older and we moved up to the Midlands in 1999 that I felt I might have the time. A character in my head kept saying ‘Write my story!’ and I’d even begun to draft a novel for her, but I couldn’t get past chapter three. The thought of sharing my writing with a group of strangers, who no doubt had years of experience, was very intimidating so it took a degree of courage to go along to the local Writers’ Circle that I’d seen advertised in a free paper. The group turned out to be quite small, eight that day, with a range of ages and abilities. The speaker was a local historian who gave us a slide presentation about his work and a month later there was a manuscript evening where members read out a passage of work in progress and were given constructive feedback by the members. I didn’t feel up to sharing my story but several months later I took the plunge, and was pleased by the advice and encouragement I received. It gave me the confidence to carry on writing.

Since then, the group has grown and at one stage had more than thirty members. The programme of speakers, workshops, competitions and feedback evenings continues and now has the addition of occasional writing retreats. Covid has naturally caused some problems. Unable to meet in person, we’ve gone digital and have been holding Skype meetings twice a month. For those who don’t do digital, we’ve created round robin stories and we’re running editing workshops based on that work with the ultimate aim of publishing them. Over the years, we’ve produced three anthologies and the idea of a fourth to showcase work produced during Lockdown is hugely appealing.

Twenty years on, I’m still on the Committee of Walsall Writers’ Circle and have met many wonderful people from whom I have learned a lot. My love of poetry came about through an inspirational speaker and my first published novel sprang up out of a workshop on ‘beginnings’. The Circle plays a huge part in my life and I get tremendous enjoyment from being involved in it. In light of my own experience, I would encourage anyone starting out in writing to join a group.

Writing Circles and groups vary: some are very specialist – eg Science Fiction or poetry – whereas others are general and offer advice and support across all genres, but the one thing they have in common is that both experienced and novice writers attend these meetings. Writing by its nature tends to be a solitary occupation so being able to talk to other writers to get feedback on work in progress helps tremendously. Lists of groups are available online, and your local library might also have information. It could be worth finding out what’s available in your area – what have you got to lose?


Alison R Reed is a jack-of-all-trades, so her writing includes history books, Regency adventures, a technothriller, short stories and poetry. She produces and publishes books as well as proofreads for a local Neighbourhood Watch magazine and runs occasional workshops. If it involves words, she’s interested! When she’s not writing or working in a school office, she is knitting, crocheting, stitching, gardening or dancing (Latin, ballroom, sequence, lindy hop) – even her hobbies are diverse – fortunately, her husband likes dancing and hand-knitted jumpers!


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