Tuesday, March 22, 2016

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.

The RNA blog is brought to you by,

Elaine Everest & Natalie Kleinman

If you would like to write for the blog please contact us on elaineeverest@aol.com


Janice Preston said...

Great interview, Marilyn! The Birmingham chapter is brilliant, and I'm not only proud to be a member, but also very grateful. There's nothing quite like talking to fellow writers to boost the morale and replenish the energy! xx

Unknown said...

As someone who managed to join the NWS this January I feel privileged to be part of the Birmingham Chapter. They made us newbies so welcome at the first meeting of the year. The writing day at the Radisson Bleu was fantastic. I learned such a lot. Chatting to people at the first meeting was really informative too as well as great fun. My thanks go to Marilyn for her terrific organisation. I'm really looking forward to our next meeting.

Marilyn Rodwell said...

It is a pleasure to be part of the Birmingham RNA Chapter. I have always felt this, even before I took over organizing it. And we have been lucky to have all lovely members, who realise the mutual support we share is so valuable. Thank you ladies and chaps. Yes, we have 2 men amongst us whom we try not to embarrass too much... until the chat veers towards the erotic end of romance!

June Kearns said...

Great interview. I've segued over from the Leicester Chapter several times, was made very welcome and had a really interesting day. Lovely setting for the meeting, too.

Anne L Harvey said...

I've been a member of the Birmingham chapter for a good few years now and they're all lovely people. Perhaps because we don't meet often, it's always brilliant and everyone is so encouraging, even though I'm a self-published author. And Marilyn does a fantastic job organising us all!

Jane said...

Loved this and the photos, thanks, Marilyn! As a former Brum member, it was great to hear what you've all been up to.

Much love to everyone 'up North!'

Jane x

Marilyn Rodwell said...

It's been great having you as a member, Janice, and watching you go from strength to strength. Thank you for your support. We're all proud of you recent nomination for the RoNAs!

Lizzie Lamb said...

Well done, Marilyn on answering the interview questions so succinctly. As the co-organiser of the Leicester Chapter I have been happy to welcome Brummie members to our meetings and workshops. Its a great train connection between Leicester and Birmingham and the members in both groups are great fun and very welcoming. I enjoyed talking at the recent workshop you organised and listening to the wealth of information and tips from the other speakers. See you all very soon.

Marilyn Rodwell said...

Great seeing you all on here! Josie Bonham, one of our newer members, but is so communicative since joining, that it feels as if she's been with us for years. And we have had the pleasure of having June Kearn from the Leicester Chapter, chatting with us over lunch. Anne comes from further up north, and it is always nice to see her when she can make it. Looking forward to seeing you at our Spring meeting, Anne. And lovely Jane Holland - We miss your bright and sparkling personality. Please try to come up and visit us sometime soon.

Sheryl Browne said...

Proud to be a member of such a supportive group. Thank you so much, Marilyn, for your superb organisation and for keeping members so well informed. I have to say that the 'Brilliant Brummies' (I'm liking that!) and lovely members of the RNA in general kept me going last year when I was juggling my writing with my partner's hospital issues. THANKS to all! :)

Marilyn Rodwell said...

Lizzie Lamb, a special thank you for presenting to us at our recent Writer's Day at the Radisson Blu. It is always a great to see you, but it was a real treat to listen to how you tirelessly self published and marketed your three books in such a short space of time. Not forgetting actually writing them too! So very well done!!

Marilyn Rodwell said...

Sheryl Browne, thank you so much. I'm not sure how we helped you at that difficult time, but our thoughts and prayers were with you both. Hope to see more of you this year.

Tora Williams said...

It's a joy to be a member of such a supportive group. Thanks, Marilyn, for all you've done for the Birmingham chapter (or the Brilliant Brummies, as I think we should be known from now on).

Anonymous said...

Gosh, Marilyn I didn't realise it was so long ago that you took over the organisation from Frances. Doesn't time fly when you're having fun! After every one of our meet-ups I go home buzzing with new enthusiam. Thank you 'Brilliant Brummies' for keeping me inspired!

linda said...

A lovely blog and you sound like a lovely group. Met some of you at Writers' day and it was a great supportive atmosphere. Glad to part of a RNA group as a newbie. Always something new to learn and love hearing about other people's successes.

Ann Evans said...

Excellent interview, Marilyn, and a really enjoyable blog. Loved the Writers Day at the Radison Blu a few weeks ago. All the RNA speakers were fantastic, and the information and tips they gave everyone were worth their weight in gold. Looking forward to the next get-together.
Thank you, for all the hard work!

Anonymous said...

What a great interview, Marilyn - and I'm proud to be a member of the Birmingham chapter as well as the Leicester chapter. Both are wonderfully friendly and supportive groups and I've learned a lot even though I only joined RNA as an NWS newbie last January (2015). I gained full RNA member status this time last year, and I can truly say that the encouragement and information I have gleaned from the chapter played a large part in that. It is lovely to have 'chatty lunches' with fellow authors - I really look forward to them - and of course to visiting my old home town of Birmingham where I grew up. Thanks for all you do to organise us and keep us in order, Marilyn! x

Natalie Kleinman said...

What a wonderful response to this post. Thank you all. I'm so glad you enjoyed it.

Lizzie Lamb said...

Thanks Marilyn