Friday, May 12, 2017

FOCUS ON: North West Chapter (Sandpipers)

Today we are delighted to welcome Freda Lightfoot who answers our questions and gives us an insight into this long-running chapter

How long has your chapter been running?
Sheila Walsh started the North West meetings way back in the early 1980s being very involved in the RNA. She was RNA chairman and then a Vice President. She held these meetings twice a year at her house. Sheila was also president of Southport Writers’ Circle. She also attended Swanwick, where I can remember her giving me lots of advice and encouragement when I first started writing back in the 80s.

Following the conference at Stoneyhurst College where regional chapters were discussed, it was then that June Francis and I agreed to organise the one in the North West. Sheila Walsh continued to come to our meetings and to organise Southport Writers Circle even though she had to stop writing to care for her sick husband. Sadly she then fell ill and died a few years ago. She was a most helpful, lovely lady.

How often do you meet?
We meet about four times over the course of a year, generally on a Wednesday late in the month of February, May, September and November. Although it does change on occasions for various reasons.

Do you have a regular meeting place
Our venue has been the Scarisbrick Hotel and then the Latin Lounge. This has changed recently because of various problems and is currently at The Office, a good and friendly restaurant. We always have a good lunch and a chat.

How many members attend your meetings?
Our full list of members is over 30, including a considerable number of RNA members. These include Lyn Andrews, Katy Flynn, Lynne Connolly, June Francis, Roger Sanderson, Sheila Riley, Annie Burrows, Val Williamson, Mary Wood and many others. We used to have Anne Baker too before she moved south to her family.

Is your chapter open to non-members of the RNA?
We do welcome non-RNA persons, some from other writer groups in the area, some who were into book selling or are starting to write. Some newbies do then join the RNA.

Do your meetings include a meal?

We do generally have to order the menu in advance, but it’s always good and reasonably priced. What members choose to drink is their choice, not ours.

How long are your meetings?
We generally meet up around 12 noon, start lunch at 12.30 and depart by three o’clock after a good chat or perhaps a speaker.

Can you give an outline of speakers/guests you've had in the past year?
We have had the privilege of many excellent speakers over the years. Recently we’ve had Leah Fleming, Diane Allen and Lyn Andrews.

What do you have planned for 2017?Our next meeting will be May 24, and then a summer break before two in the autumn. We are still looking at other possible locations, in case we find one with more privacy. Right now The Office is most accommodating, friendly and not too expensive. We fill a large table at one end.

What would you say makes your chapter of the RNA so special?The importance of our meetings is to be able to get together with writer friends. Members can promote their latest book, sell or give away freebies, and we have a round-robin chat about how things are going for them. We can also discuss any problems we have and be given good advice and support. We have named it the Sandpipers after a special type of bird who live in Southport.

Does your chapter have a website, Facebook page or Twitter account?We have a Facebook group called the Sandpipers. It’s a closed group where we can exchange information on what we are writing, and when we can meet up again. We also have a Yahoo group, useful for those who are not on Facebook. I have a full list of members and can contact them direct as well, to make sure they are informed of the next meeting.

Who is the contact for new members?

Your chapter carries a lot of history and will surely serve as an inspiration t some of the newer groups. Thanks so much for joining us. Wishing you and your members a successful 2017 and beyond.

Natalie Kleinman writes contemporary and historical romantic novels and has thrown a bit of a mystery into the mix in her recently completed Regency. She is now working on a new contemporary. Her next novel set in the beautiful Cotswolds is with Harper Collins HQ Digital and is due for publication at the end of June. You can follow her blog at

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Sheila Riley said...

Lovely interview Freda and Natalie. Looking forward to our next chapter meeting and having a good old catch up!

Sheila Riley said...

Lovely interview Freda and Natalie. Looking forward to our next chapter meeting and having a good old catch up!

Freda Lightfoot said...

Thanks everyone, glad you enjoyed it. We're an interesting group.

Freda Lightfoot said...

Hope so Annie. Look forward to that.

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