Friday, April 15, 2016

FOCUS ON: North Devon Chapter

This month we are given an insight into the commitment of this group, whose members don’t allow the difficulties associated with travelling to deter them

North Devon Chapter meetings mean coffee and sticky buns in the relaxed and friendly cafeteria of a Barnstaple garden centre.  A small, informal group, currently numbering seven, we try to agree diary dates at approximately six week intervals. These aren’t cast in stone because we need to be flexible, especially during winter months. Travelling across Dartmoor, country motorway or winding coastal roads, weather forecasts alert us to possible problems. If all seems well, however, an e-mail the previous day confirms that “we’re on”.

Our Chapter was formed about ten years ago, starting with two members. Very soon it was joined by others, some of whom stayed, others leaving for family reasons or possibly because we didn’t offer quite what they were looking for. Everyone who comes brings life and fresh ideas to our meetings. We’re happy to welcome new members, whether or not RNA, because they always have something to contribute. If at first they’re nervous of speaking, the rest of us are delighted to have a captive audience!

Our meetings last for approximately two hours.  Our initial agenda item is a general ‘catch-up’ of family news, but then we set aside cups and plates and settle to business. Firstly, we work our way around the table and discuss each member’s writing, if any - as everyone knows, life sometimes intervenes!  We talk through any writing problems, offer comments, suggestions and ideas ranging from fantasy to possibility if someone fears she’s reached  a plot dead-end (in the middle of the book, of course). In other words, it’s a ‘carrot, stick, congratulation or sympathy’ session. It’s always good to hear from members who report back on literary festivals they’ve attended, or RNA functions, including the Annual Conference. If someone has spent a week in Derby at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School there’s plenty to discuss, including valuable contacts with publishers, editors or agents.

Our interests are wide-ranging and include many success stories. In these we include:  Regency romance, WW2 family issues and adventures, contemporary pocket novels and, her latest venture, mystery (Anne Holman);  contemporary sagas about family relationships (Patricia Fawcett);  Victorian history and ‘cosy crime’ (Val Gaul and Frances Evesham);  Mills &Boon romance (Amanda Robinson has received her first NWS review and Nerys Gibb will submit a medical romance this year);  romance (Hale), contemporary pocket novels and a hard-to-place Canadian historical (Sheila Daglish).  We’ve stormed the world of e-books and self-publishing, so feel that, although we might be small, we’re certainly progressive.

Our venue and remote location would present problems for invited guest speakers. What we have instead – a supportive, self-motivating group – suits our individual lifestyles, where the principal writing pressure is the one we put on ourselves. We’ve become friends and know there’s always someone there to give help and opinion. Through our meetings and regular e-mail contact we can forget distance, whether across moorland, rugged coastline or sheep-dotted fields. Those ‘coffee and sticky bun’ sessions, cheerful and constructive, send us home with that essential tingle of optimism.

Contact for North Devon Chapter is Sheila Daglish, 01271 850006.

The warmth that generates from this is tangible. The RNA is many things to many people and you have all proved that where there is a will there is a way, even if it is a cross-country way. Thank you for sharing.

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@juliawildauthor said...

What a lovely blog! This chapter sounds so lovely and supportive of individual members - exactly what we're all about. Really enjoyed reading about your meetings and the surroundings. I regularly enjoy that same wonderful warmth at my own local (ish) Chapter meetings!

Rae Cowie said...

Coffee, sticky buns and writing chat - sounds heavenly! Thanks for sharing, ladies.

Natalie Kleinman said...

Members of the group have seen your comments but been unable to respond. They have asked me to say thank you on their behalf for your response and your interest