|Some of the motley crew making up Hornsea Writers.|
Welcome to my interview with Linda Acaster from Hornsea Writers.
Hello Linda. Can you please tell us a bit about your writing group?
Hi Rebeccah, thanks for inviting us to participate. We’re based in a seaside town in East Yorkshire, but we pull our small membership from across the Riding because we aren’t your usual writing group.
Ooh that sounds interesting.
How are you different?
Hornsea Writers is a support group for professional writers. Among our membership we have a Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger winner who is also the current chair of the Authors’ Licensing & Collecting Society, two past winners of the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme, and winners of various national writing competitions. Individually we’ve written and had published/produced radio plays, a plethora of newspaper and magazine articles in the UK and overseas, how-to and academic books, short fiction in a variety of genres, and historical, fantasy, SF, crime and romance novels. The very last thing we do at our weekly meetings is write.
If you don't write, what do you do?
After gaining a drink at the bar – all writing groups should have access to a bar, even if it sells only tea – it’s a round-table news and hard copy information exchange to augment the closed Yahoogroup we maintain for fast exchanges of hyperlinks to anything pertinent to our business. To members, writing is a business; no one at Hornsea Writers carries the attitude that it’s a pleasant hobby. For most it’s a big part of our working day; for some there are deadlines implicit in publishers’ contracts.
The reason we turn up weekly – Christmas off for good behaviour – is for the detailed criticism of read aloud work-in-progress. This is where prospective new members wilt just listening to the measured but detailed exchanges, and why we are now an invitation-only group. We feel we’ve put off for life too many beginner writers, even when they’ve never read out a word of their own fiction.
What kind of feedback do you give each other?
No one says that’s nice or didn’t like that. Because individually we work with agents and publishers’ editors we evaluate our work through that level of filter: if the character does x and y there, why is he doing z further on? Why would that character think in those terms at that point? If no cast-iron answer is forthcoming the work is deconstructed across the table and suggestions offered. There are always suggestions for remedies or new routes when a possible problem is recognised. No member is ever left hanging, and it takes as long as it takes, so we might spend an entire evening on one person’s work. This is rare, but it can be beneficial at the opening of, say, a novel where a better starting point might be identified thus later saving hours, or even days of rewriting when cracks start appearing in the structure. The beauty of such a diverse group of individuals is that we each have our areas of expertise borne from experience.
Do you have any advice for new writers?
Hornsea Writers’ tip: find a writing group that both supports your level of engagement and challenges your current expertise. Most of all we urge you to never stop writing.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
I used to be a creative writing tutor and still critique novels for a London agency. My Reading A Writer’s Mind: Exploring Short Fiction – First Thought to Finished Story does what it says on its e-cover, and it’ll soon be a paperback. Penny Grubb, our crime-writer, has distilled her university and conference teaching intoThe Writers’ Toolkit – A Handbook for Writers of Commercial Fiction. Making up the trilogy, April Taylor has condensed her librarian skills into the very useful Internet Research for Fiction Writers after continually having to explain the easiest way of gaining the research members needed. We embody the ‘write about what you know’.
Readers of Rebeccah Writes may well find of use the blog of SF/F writer Stuart Aken where, among other interesting content, he maintains a comprehensive and useful list of current writing competitions.
Does your writing group have a website/blog/Twitter/Facebook?
Hornsea Writers has no internet presence but has produced a group e-anthology of prize-winning short fiction, A Sackful of Shorts. Connect with members mentioned above at:
Linda Acaster: how-to, historical, supernatural thriller, fantasy and short fiction
Penny Grubb: crime, academic, how-to, short fiction
April Taylor: how-to, alternative history (Tudor), short fiction
Stuart Aken: SF/F; literary, romance, horror, SF short fiction and a useful blog
Thank you very much Linda.
To Linda's thanks, I'd like to add my own, Rebeccah. This was generous of you and all group members appreciate the opportunity for exposure.