Writing groups help people in Stamford and around Lincolnshire become published authors
They say ‘everyone has a book in them’.
But if this is true, very few people have managed to get theirs out.
Fortunately, help is at hand for those who want to see their work in print - or on Kindle - from the informal groups that meet in cafes and community halls across the area.
One is Stamford Creative Writing Group, which gets together once a week for coffee and cake, and to discuss story ideas, come up with characters, and debate ways to make the leap from laptop to bookshop.
It was set up by Danielle Lauren, a published author of two fantasy novels, Spiritchild and Earthchild, who started it as a writing workshop in November 2022.
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Sitting down with the group at The Blonde Beet café in St Paul’s Street, Stamford, she introduces the concept to Kate McEwen-Smith, attending for the first time, as “a really informal group”.
“Sometimes we write, sometimes we talk…”
She is interrupted by some good-humoured banter around the table, picking up a debate from a previous session about if Die Hard constitutes being called a Christmas film.
The conversation slides on to whether a recent Netflix adaptation of a Harlen Coben novel really worked, then touches on which other published authors’ work has been improved - or otherwise - by being on screen.
Kate shares that her favourite genre is crime fiction and that she already has ideas for three novels. But as a working mum of twin boys aged seven, what she lacks is time.
“I’ve tried writing at night but I was running myself down,” she tells the group.
“I need to be sticking with one idea and not getting distracted.”
Letting life get in the way of writing is a theme shared by several of those who meet up.
Ashleigh Underwood set herself the target of finishing her novel - about a woman who embarks on new life in New York - before her 30th birthday last year.
She met the self-imposed deadline in July but admits she then closed her manuscript and “didn’t touch it until this year”.
Ashleigh, a self-employed writer for business clients, faces perhaps the trickiest task for a fiction writer - finding a publisher.
This is the stage Ann Littler has reached too.
A qualified school teacher and parent who lives in South Witham, she is in the process of ‘querying’ publishing agents - pitching to them details of her dystopian thriller for young adults.
“I wrote a book last year for an American competition and I’m trying to query that,” she said.
“My book is a cross between The Hunger Games and Five Survive [Holly Jackson’s New York Times and Sunday Times bestseller].
“It’s with a few agents and is being considered by a publisher – but I have grown such thick skin getting to this stage, I’m like an armadillo.”
It’s a tough process. Some agents receive about a thousand queries a month.
For Ann, getting together with other local writers helps her through the sometimes lonely and frustrating world of being an author.
“I love the group,” she said. “At first I was worried about coming along but I’m so glad I did. At the beginning of last year I had no links with other writers.”
Hamdy Taha, an IT manager for 29 years, wanted write but didn’t have enough spare time.
After retiring two years ago, he took it up as a hobby and uses nuggets from his own life and character traits from people he meets to come up with ideas.
The heavy metal music fan is writing a contemporary novel about a shy secretary who is secretly in a heavy metal band.
“I’ve been involved in the music world and nearly everyone in it has a day job – and not all of their jobs fit the image of their band,” he smiles.
“I decided on quite an extreme example for my book.”
Before settling on this character and plot, Hamdy had an idea for a historical novel set in early 20th Century Ireland. But having disappeared down several ‘rabbit holes’ of research while seeking to ensure his work was a true reflection of the past, he has found it a tricky book to complete.
Stephen Moore, a former GP at Empingham Medical Centre who has scaled down his working hours enough to give him time to write, has just self-published a children’s book called Pangolin, which takes a quirky look at endangered animals.
Meanwhile, Jamie Goldthorpe, communications manager for a medical firm based near Stamford, is writing a play called Sunlight, a dark comedy about grief that was inspired by the death of his mother last year.
“I read an article that said if you want to know whether or not you’ve got it then write a play, because when it goes on stage your reputation will live or die by the audience's response,” he said.
Jamie hopes to see Sunlight put to that test in Stamford next year.
Anyone wishing to find out more about Stamford Creative Writing Group can message Danielle on Instagram @dani_is_writing
The group usually meets upstairs at The Blonde Beet in St Paul’s Street from 9.30am on Wednesdays, although occasional venue changes means it is worth contacting Danielle or The Blonde Beet before coming along.
The Deepings Literary Festival also holds events and workshops for linked to creative writing, and this year it will be from May 2 to May 5. Details will be announced later in the year.