Our authors share tips on what helps them in their writing life. Here Eileen Masters, author of A Dangerous Place to Picnic, tells of the support she gets from her writing group.
The memoir inside my head was bursting to pour itself out onto the page, but I had no idea how to write a book, so I did three things: I found someone to coach me; I started an Open University course in creative writing; I joined the Hastings Writers' Group.
Founded in October 1947, the Hastings Writers' Group is one of the longest running in the country. Its most famous member Catherine Cookson joined the group in January 1948. The annual programme has changed little since its inception. We have writing competitions, workshops and manuscript evenings, where any member can read an extract of their work and receive feedback from the group.
The first time I read at a manuscript evening, I wasn't sure whether I had a story that would be of interest to others. I was soon reassured on that point and feedback was helpful and constructive.
“It's an interesting story and a good start, but it sounds a bit like a technical report,” said one member. I wasn't surprised. That was what it taken from.
“You need to build the characters - what did Zia look like? How did he speak? Show us some interaction between you,” said another.
By the end of the evening I felt encouraged, armed with some useful pointers on how to progress my writing.
Two years later, I read again, still not sure it was good enough. Would it ever be? After my reading, there was a moment's silence. “Eileen,” said our chair, “It's ready. When are you going to publish it?” It was exactly the encouragement I needed.
From time to time the group receives contacts from publishers inviting submissions and the end of my book publishing journey came into sight when the publicity secretary circulated a link to Dilliebooks 'that members may find useful.' And so it was.
For me, the help and support of a writing group has been essential in fulfilling my ambition to publish my memoir. Thank you Hastings Writers' Group!
You can get Eileen's memoir A Dangerous Place to Picnic here
A Dangerous Place to Picnic
In 1992 when an opportunity came up to sort out the accounting systems in an Oxfam office, Eileen Masters was happy to volunteer. This was an assignment with a difference though - the office was Kabul in war torn Afghanistan. When Eileen arrived from Oxford, she discovered the city was under heavy bombardment and many aid agencies were actually evacuating their staff. From being threatened with Kalashnikovs, to lying alone in a bunker while being bombed, Eileen's concerns turned out to be a little more than just sorting the finances out. Working with the local team, including 'Mr Fix It' Zia and the determined Nafisa, Eileen kept invaluable aid support going in the most extreme of circumstances - but would she get home to her family in one piece?
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