WRITING GROUP

Since 2011, I have been running informal writing groups to share with others the tricks and skills I have gained over thirty years. My experience includes two novels (published in Dublin and London), drama writing, poetry and journalism. Several of my ‘alums’ have become full-time writers, some are working with agents and publishers and others have successfully self-published.

CHURCHILL WRITERS in Churchill College, Cambridge

Who is welcome?

Anyone who has any connection with Churchill College: alums, students, staff, family members.

The range of writing experience (and everything else) is wide, from beginners to published writers. If you are longing to write a book and have no idea where to start, or you have begun, stumbled and would love to find your way again, you are welcome to join us.

Our 2020 anthology gives you an excellent flavour of what we do and is available here.

Cost?

Free.

Where?

Churchill College, Cambridge

When?

Our meeting on Saturday 10 September, 2022 was cancelled out of respect for our late Queen. Our next session will now be on Saturday 8 October, in person in college and online. We will gather over tea and coffee from 3pm as before with the session running between 3.30 and around 5.30pm.

If you would like to join us, please drop me a line on rosiejohnstonwrites@gmail.com with a few lines about yourself so that I can welcome and introduce you.

Throughout the pandemic, we met about once a month by Zoom and are looking forward very much to this, our first blended, in-person session. We will not return to our old schedule just yet (four Saturdays in college each term) and will combine our monthly Zooms with one or two meetings in college per term while we feel our way.

WHAT DO WE DO?

We start with a bit of free-flow writing to get us limbered up. This can be tremendously liberating, no waiting for inspiration, no redrafting, who cares if it’s a bit rough. Like all creativity, writing combines adventure with planning and the quality of what we write in short bursts often surprises us. Something magical can happen when our writing takes off in its own intoxicating direction. Come and try with us and you’ll soon know what I mean.

I do all the exercises alongside you, by the way, and sometimes we read aloud what we’ve written, sometimes we don’t. There is no need to read aloud if you don’t want to. Sometimes, even if you have all the confidence and experience in the world, an exercise can bring up something that should stay private. My advice is to write it as honestly and deeply as you can and decide later if you want to reveal it to anyone else. Your privacy is sacrosanct.

We study the craft. Each session has a theme designed to help you avoid pitfalls I’ve learned the hard way. I guide discussions about where to start your writing, how to develop characters, how to find your theme and through-line, whether to self-publish or find an agent, that sort of thing. Our sessions in the autumn are usually about getting deep into our fictional characters. Spring is one of my favourite times when we look at classic plots and genres. Coming up to the summer, we concentrate on tricks of the craft like the best uses of point of view and dialogue.

Our exercises and discussions help writers of non-fiction as well as fiction. It’s all about how best to engage our readers and hook them in with good narrative drive.

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Each session has a workshop element too. You are invited to bring about three pages (max, 1000 words please) of your writing to read to the group if you’d like to. It doesn’t have to be the best piece you’ve ever produced – work in progress is fine – and I make sure that feedback is positive, constructive and relevant. I do not permit feeding frenzies of criticism in my groups.In October, 2019 the College library featured published work by Churchill’s writing group, a very proud week for us all.

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You’ll see from this site that my experience is wide and I can help and encourage you with most aspects of writing. Exceptions where I have little or no experience and must ask you to look elsewhere are screen-writing, self-publishing and erotica.

Please do NOT send me your unsolicited work. I do not have time to take on script assessments.

FEEDBACK

‘Rosie has a wonderful quality of attention and can grasp and feed back on the positive aspects of the work read by her group members. She is a great encourager of a first-drafter. She has control of the group and will forestall any destructive criticism by other members. I would never have finished my book without her. At the same time she has a comprehensive grasp of the technical aspects of writing and publishing.’ Gervase Vernon

‘A friendly, relaxed and supportive environment in which to create and gain useful feedback from fellow writers. Whatever your previous experience or project, whether it’s a small sketch, short story or novel, you can sense the writing improve week by week.’ Graham Taylor

‘The course is excellent and Rosie’s input as facilitator has been invaluable in encouraging me to progress with my writing. I have grown in confidence because of her encouragement and the generous way she shares knowledge, insight and experience. It has also been useful to hear what others have written and to hear them share their doubts and struggles with the group.’ David Hadland