The write stuff

PUBLISHED: 07:11 31 March 2014

The Norwich Writers' Circle who meet at the Assembly House in Norwich.

The Norwich Writers' Circle who meet at the Assembly House in Norwich. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

Archant Norfolk

Started in 1943, in the midst of Second World War, the Norwich Writers’ Circle became a place where people could gather and express their creativity during the most oppressive and difficult of times.

The aim of the founders was “to encourage the art and craft of writing and promote good fellowship amongst Norfolk and Norwich writers generally” – and that spirit remains today.

As it continues its 70th anniversary celebrations, the society has a series of events and guests speakers during the coming months which it hopes will continue to inspire and entertain its writers and attract new members. Publicity officer James Dimelow says the group - which has around 40 members - gives keen writers the chance to hone their skills and gain confidence.

“I joined about 10 years ago after seeing some of the interesting writers who were giving talks and sharing their experiences at the meetings. Personally I write plays but everyone has different specialities. Even if it is not your kind of thing you, it can still inspire you. I work nine to five as a legal cashier, so I do numbers in the day and words in the evening, but it is obviously my ambition to write as a career. Coming here definitely opens up opportunities.”

Chairman Adrian Dearnley has been at the helm for three years; an accountant and councillor, he is also a keen writer.

“I think the reason the circle continues to flourish after all these years is that it is incredibly welcoming and has members of all ages, writing all genres, which is fantastic as you get lots of different perspectives. Some people are published, some people aren’t, but those different experiences make it very special.”

The group meets on the first and third Tuesday of every month at The Assembly House in Norwich. Over the years, the circle has seen many famous guest speakers, who often help set and judge its regular in-house competitions. Past visitors include P D James, Ruth Rendell, Rose Tremain, John Timpson, Malcolm Bradbury and Louis de Bernières.

This year, the Writers’ Circle has already welcomed Eastern Daily Press columnist and pantomime writer Lynne Mortimer and best-selling young adult writer Alexander Gordon Smith will be speaking at the meeting on April 1. Historic writer and genealogist Gill Blanchard, who is about to have her third book published, says that it is important to dispel the myth that writers’ circles are just for fiction writers.

“They are for anyone who writes, whatever the genres,” she says. “I, like most members, am a reader as well as a writer, so for me it is fascinating hearing what people are working on. The principles of good writing are the same whatever the style. The supportive atmosphere here is not only very creative but also it enables you to get really good constructive feedback.”

Phyllida Scrivens is currently studying for a creative writing MA at the University of East Anglia, specialising in biography. She says the circle has been an invaluable learning experience.

“The two things – my course and my role at the writer’s circle - have been very symbiotic. I love the group dynamic because I find writing to be a very solitary experience. It is a great way of learning new things, I don’t know anything about writing science fiction for example, but a couple of guys here do it very well, and it is the same with poetry. I think that is why the group works so well, and of course it is a lot of fun.”

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