Monday, November 30, 2015

The Value of Small Groups by Nola Passmore

We’ve had a few posts lately about the value of being involved in writing groups such as Christian Writers Downunder, Australasian Christian Writers, FaithWriters and Omega Writers.  These groups all provide encouragement, inspiration and tips for writers and those in related areas.  They’ve all developed great online communities and I’ve met a number of members through conferences and other writers’ events. 

However, social media can’t provide me with one thing I cherish—actual face-to-face interactions with others who share my interests and passions.  There’s something special about being able to sit across from someone in a café and discuss the manuscript that’s actually in front of you (along with the peppermint tea and gluten-free brownie).  That’s where small groups can be so beneficial.

I didn’t know I needed other writers around me for support until Adele Jones and I both turned up to a poetry reading in 2008.  We’d met some years before but neither of us knew the other was a writer.

‘Oh, we should have a coffee sometime to chat about writing?’

‘Great idea.  When are you free?’

That one-off coffee date turned into a regular writing chat.  We had a mutual friend Janelle who was also interested in writing so we invited her along.  Then I discovered that my friend Pamela had started to write, so she joined the group.  Before long Rachel, Cathie and Sandra were sharing the fun, and Quirky Quills was born.



So what does a typical meeting look like?  Well, I’m not sure there’s such a thing as a typical meeting. We’ve done spontaneous free-writing activities based on excursions or prompts, we’ve passed our writing around for critique, we’ve shared our goals and projects and prayed over them.  We’ve taken turns setting homework exercises that have sometimes had surprising results, like the time we had to write a 200-word story that included the word callipygian (i.e. having a well-shaped derriere).  And no, I didn’t think of that one!  I’ve also had a ‘nagging’ ministry in which I’ve encouraged everyone to submit work to various competitions, anthologies and magazines.

There have been some tangible outcomes in the form of publications, but there have also been the more intangible results—close friendships, the building of skills, learning from constructive feedback, the sparking of creative juices and the never-ending supply of delectable food.

More recently, Adele and I started up the Toowoomba chapter of Omega Writers where we’ve had the opportunity to run workshops for a wider audience.  It’s been exciting to see other Christian writers come together to encourage each other and learn from one another.  We’ve even had our first writer’s retreat.  And yes, there was more yummy food.  Mmm … I think there’s a theme here.



We can all beaver away in our own writing hutches, but with God and the support of others, there’s no limit to what we can achieve for the Kingdom.  Afterall, ‘as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another’ (Proverbs 27:17).

If you’re not a member of a face-to-face writing group, why not give it a try?  Perhaps something is already available in your area.  Your state writers’ centre may have a list of groups available or you could ask at your local library.  If there are no suitable groups nearby, you could start your own.  See if there are members of CWD, ACW, FaithWriters or Omega Writers in your area and invite people to meet up. 

The content of the meetings will vary depending on members’ interests.  Some groups may be in a position to invite guest speakers or attend writing events together.  Others may wish to have more of a critique group or support group.  Some may wish to start a group around a particular theme (e.g. children’s writing or memoir).  If you’re not sure what to cover in your meetings, you could even choose a good writing book and work through the chapters and exercises.  Self-editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King is one of my favourites, but there are tons more on the market depending on your needs. 

And remember that you don’t have to start big.  It can be as easy as saying to another writing friend, ‘Hey, how about we meet for a cuppa and talk about writing?’  You never know where that conversation will lead.

Have any of you discovered the value of face-to-face writing groups?  I’d love to hear about your experiences.



Nola Passmore is a freelance writer who has had more than 150 short pieces published, including devotionals, true stories, magazine articles, academic papers, poetry and short fiction.  She loves sharing what God has done in her life and encouraging others to do the same.  She and her husband Tim have their own freelance writing and editing business called The Write Flourish.  You can find her writing tips blog at their website:  http://www.thewriteflourish.com.au  


17 comments:

  1. Wow! I now know someone with a "nagging ministry"!

    Great post, Nola.

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    1. LOL Iola. It's a gift. I've discovered there's sometimes a fine line between encouragement and nagging. Just ask the other Quills :)

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  2. Good to read this, thanks Nola. About 2001 I started and convened for three years a small writers group. Enjoyed it, learned a lot and had lots of bits published as a result. We all wrote and discussed a huge lot, some of which was published! we used to email our work to one another before the meeting. Your group sounds great. Thanks for sharing about it.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your experiences Jeanette. We often email material to each other too, especially on those days when we spend more time chatting and eating than critiquing - LOL It's amazing how much you can learn from a group over time.

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  3. Great post Nola. Loved to hear how Quirky Quills began! :) And yes, we writers do need one another to learn from don't we? It's actually scriptural since all of life is meant to be lived in community. That's the best way to learn and encourage one another on. And yep! Nothing like face to face contact is there? Thanks Nola! Bless you for obeying God - first a one on one meeting with Adele - then the Quirky Quills, next an Omega Writers retreat. Wonder what the next step would be. The mind boggles (but in a great way)! :)

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    1. Thanks Anusha. My mind has certainly been boggling for the last few months. Lots of great experiences though and yes, I'm looking forward to seeing what God will do next :) Bless you xx

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  4. If you lovely people weren't a few hours' drive away I'd love to join you, especially as my busy year has ended and there are two months to find new writing directions. If anyone in Brisbane Western suburbs would like to get together for a coffee on my deck, give a call. Ruth Bonetti

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    1. Thanks for that Ruth. We're hoping to have the retreat in May next year, so hopefully you can join us then. Would be great to catch up with you. And good on you for putting out the call for other Brisbanites. Hopefully you'll get some nibbles.

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    2. I have a daughter in KIngaroy who could be interested. I might even fly up to visit her and come, too!

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  5. I'm with Ruth, I'd almost consider moving to Toowoomba though I do have a great critique group lead by Raelene in the northern suburbs. And the retreat was a blast :) Thanks for your post Nola.

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    1. Thanks Jenny. It was fun having you at the retreat. we'll have to come down the mountain and visit you next time. What do you usually do in your group?

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    2. Critiques, talk about what we have been doing & sometimes writing exercises. Raelene was going through Browne and King at one stage.

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  6. This has been the main motivator for some of us 'reluctant writers' - it is amazing to find that you can write, and the QQ have been a major part of my writing journey.
    Thanks Nola

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    1. Thanks to all the Quirky Quills. I think we've all helped each other and it's great to see how everyone's grown (and not just from the treats) :)

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  7. I love the name Quirky Quills. Wish I could join. Of course, that would be some drive. Haha. Nola, I don't have any writers near me. I'd have to drive well over an hour. *sigh* This is a fabulous post. Maybe I'll search for some writers closer. Right now, it's me and the horses. ;-)

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    1. Robyn, we would so love to have you join our group! It would be great if you could find some people nearby. Do you have a local library? They sometimes have writers' groups or they might not mind if you started one? In the meantime, those horses could be great inspiration. Take care xx

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  8. So grateful for that "catch up over a cuppa" all those years ago, Nola. Little did we know it was the beginning of a very quilly, very quirky, association. Using callipygian (and the other words of that writing challenge) in a short work was fun, but I found your 'When I Went Skydiving' piece particularly memorable. ;-) So much nagging ... er ... encouragement and constructive support between group members, and so exciting as we saw each one attain publication. You just never know the unexpected paths poetry can lead you down ... especially when the poetry gathering involves two people with common interests who can talk faster than the speed of light ... THANKS!

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