I've been writing with intent for about five years now and I'm just in the process of editing a novel due to be released on the public by the American publishers Omnium Gatherum. They are a fairly new outfit (definitely what you'd call a 'Small Press'), but they already have a number of exciting authors on their books – and me! I'm trying not to let it go to my head of course, particularly as I have a lot to be modest about when it comes to writing (and editing, as I'm now discovering). One thing that keeps me grounded has been the input of other writers. I'm particularly grateful to that marvelous invention; the writing group.
I've had the privilege to have been on the 'ground floor' as two of the most exciting groups to emerge in Leicester in the past few years have coalesced. Both have their roots in the Writing School Leicester (WSL) in Wellington Street. It was there that I and fellow aspirants took on writing courses that a) taught us valuable lessons about the crafting of words and b) put us in contact with one another. There I met some amazing writers and made long-lasting friends. If you haven't already you should check out the WSL. A truly wonderful institution.
The Speculators is Leicester's first (and only) writers group dedicated to Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror (known collectively as 'speculative fiction'). It emerged from a class called Writing Speculative Fiction at the WSL which started in April 2009. From our regular pub meets after class we forged the beginnings of this group. It has been running for almost four years now and meets every Wednesday for writing, critique, chat and lots of tea. We still visit the pub a lot.
The Phoenix Writers began to form from WSL's Saturday manuscript clinics. There I met Maria Smith, Keith Morley, Keith Large (who now runs Carrotnapper Productions), Pete and Pat Kings, Sheila Kondras, Krys Wysocki, Sally Knight, Brenda Bernard and others who became the backbone of an impromptu writing group. We began to meet during summer holidays and at other times when classes at the WSL weren't running. As I recall, this all happened around 2009 as well, slightly earlier perhaps than the Speculators – though not by much. Usually we commandeered public spaces to carry out our critiques (We had quite a long stint upstairs at a Cafe Nero's!). When the new Phoenix cinema opened we started to meet in the bar. During the first few months we usually had the place to ourselves, so it was an ideal place to read out our stories, novels and do weird writing exercises. In fact we met so regularly we probably kept the bar solvent for a time with our orders of teas, coffees, toast, bacon butties and the like. Eventually, as things got busier as the Phoenix became established, Jake and the staff kindly offered us a room upstairs. Suddenly we had a home.
Four years later and both the writing groups and I have matured considerably (FYI: In my case my only my writing has 'matured' the rest of me has just 'got older'). I'm proud that I helped in my own small way to get these groups of the ground and more than that, grateful for all the help, advice and comradeship I have received from them. I am proud to be a Speculator and a Phoenix-er. Don't think I'd be the writer I am today without them.
[My forthcoming novel has the provisional title of Vampsov 38: A Spectre Haunting Europe. It is the only Stalinist vampire hunting novel you will ever need.]