Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Focus on The Birmingham RNA Chapter : Interview

FOCUS ON: The Birmingham Chapter

Next in our tour of the UK, Marilyn Rodwell answers my questions about the Birmingham Chapter

Thank you for inviting me to take part on the RNA Facebook blog. It's a pleasure to come on here and tell you about our Birmingham Chapter. We don't have a fancy name, because Birmingham speaks for itself! But you never know what will happen in the future.

How long has the Chapter been running and where do you meet?
I have no idea how long we've been running, but I started attending in 2003, and took over the organising of it almost 5 years ago. We meet for lunch in the Edwardian Tea Rooms of the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Chamberlin Square, Birmingham, which has lovely new d├ęcor and fabulous ambience.

How many members usually attend your meetings and do they, as with so many of our groups, revolve around a meal?
When I started, we had about 8 members and sometimes it would be just 4 or 5 of us at meetings. In the last few years we have grown, and now have 30 members on our books. We also have visitors from the Leicester Belmont Belles pretty often. We usually have between 15-22 attend meetings. 

Meals are definitely included. We have lunch between 12 noon and 2.30pm. We mainly chat about our writing over lunch, tell of our successes, and share our woes.

It’s lovely to see such an increase in your membership. Is your Chapter open to non-members of the RNA?
Yes and no. We tend to welcome people whose membership has lapsed. Some of these were unable to get into the New Writers's Scheme. However, we do not actively seek out non-RNA members to join us. We have had a lot of new RNA members join us over the last couple of years.  

Can you tell us about any speakers or guests you've had in the past year?
We tend not to do much of this, as we meet in a very busy place that can be noisy. However, we have had the pleasure of having Jean Fullerton last year who visited us and sprinkled some of her pearls of writing wisdom over us, for which we are grateful.

We also had Sue Moorcroft the previous year, to run an all-day Writer's Workshop, which was fabulous, at the new Library of Birmingham. We used the RNA grant to help fund this event.

Previous to that, I had a Writer's Day at my home and one of our members, Emma Daley, presented to us the ins and outs on publishing on Amazon.

What do you have lined up for the rest of 2016?
We have just had our Writers Day on March 5th, at a lovely venue, The Radisson Blu Hotel, in the centre of Birmingham. The day went very well, and we had 25 attending from 3 Chapters. We used our RNA Grant left over from last year to subsidise our brilliant speakers - Alison May, Sally Jenkins, Bella Osborne, Helen Barrell, and Lizzie Lamb. The feedback I had from the attendees was excellent. Thank you to the RNA for facilitating this.
What in your opinion makes your RNA Chapter so special?
That is a hard question to answer without bragging! In fact, I may suggest that we can rename ourselves, The Brilliant Brummies. We have grown quite fast in a short space of time, and at times it seems overwhelming, particularly when we try to organise events. But we really appreciate our meetings because we meet only a few times a year. This is due mainly because some our members come from as far as Shropshire and Cheshire. 

A couple of years ago I started the (closed) Writers' Support Station Facebook Group. It isn't RNA affiliated but now has 167 members of writers of any genre. So any writer wanting to join can send a request.
The most exciting thing about our Chapter is that with our growth and our support to each other we have had a number of success of all sizes. This year, we have three people nominated for Romantic Novel of the Year Award in March - Alison May, Bella Osborne, and Janice Preston. All three started at the Birmingham Chapter in the New Writer's Scheme, and we have watched them become multiple published, and win various awards over the last few years. But the Chapter has also recently seen other successes, such as short story publications, long listed and short listed for various prizes and competitions, self-publications and traditional publications, prizes, articles published in magazines, and non-fiction publications.

What a thriving group you are - and I love idea of The Brilliant Brummies! Who is the contact for new members? 

Thank you for having me on your blog! Telling you about us has been a pleasure. Don't forget, we welcome all visitors.

Thank you for joining us, Marilyn. I have no doubt you will receive many applications to join your Facebook group.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

World Book Day

On World Book Day, March 5th, I was one of three writers from Bardstown Writers Group, who went along to Myton School to talk to Year 7 pupils about Creative Writing. We were asked to talk to these pupils, age 11-12, about our writing journey, and what made us start writing. All three of us were as nervous as if we were about to meet the Queen. And our fears grew when we learnt that instead of the initial number of about 12-20 pupils, for 20 mins, there was now going to be 60 pupils for one hour, along with the English teachers, the Librarians, and the Deputy Head. But we were brave. We accepted the challenge, even though none of us had ever done an author talk at a school before.

When we got there, the staff tried to put us at our ease, and offered us tea and a selection of home made cakes! But alas, we were too nervous even to eat cake! However, as soon as we got started, we realised that this very large group of pupils were keen to learn from us, and really listened to what we had to say to them about writing. I was amazed at their responsiveness and interaction. They had no fears about participating in the little imaginative exercises we gave them. They had no problem generating a plot from the one sentence. 

We did some readings of flash fiction, poetry, and from my novel, which they applauded. So I was pleased they weren't too bored. They seemed a bright lot, who are very interested in Creative Writing, and write their own stories in different genres - Fantasy, Young Adult, Science Fiction, and more serious topics, such as racism. I gave them a handout of my Top Tips for Writing, and some Writing Magazines.

The school later got in touch with positive feedback. The pupils enjoyed our visit, and the school hopes to invite us back next year. I say that hour spent there was well worth it, and I hope that our visit creates a positive memory for them. I would not be surprised if one of two of them turn out to take up writing seriously. Seriously! I was impressed.