Angela L. Garratt: Why I Started the Oldbury Writing Group

Angela L. Garratt: Why I Joined Oldbury Writing Group

  1. When did you start writing?
  2. I have always loved the feel of a pen in my hand, so to tell you the truth, I don’t know when I started writing. I can’t remember the first story I wrote. I do remember, however having a very active imagination as a child, and I started writing non-fiction when I was about 12ish. I have a love and fascination of the natural world, so when I was very young, I started learning about Zoology. I kept notebooks and scrapbooks, and I read a lot of books and watched a lot of nature programs (to this day people like Sir David Attenborough, Simon King, Chris Packham and Michaela Stratton are still my heroes). I got out as much as possible to learn about all the different types of wildlife and by the time I was in my late teens, I knew (and I still do know) the complexities and connections between behaviour, physiology, and classification of the different species of animals. When I got to 21 years old, I finished writing my first 162-page book, Wildlife in Colour. I drew all the illustrations myself, and it was like a little encyclopaedia of wildlife, Latin included. Writing got me through a very difficult childhood; it allowed me to escape to another world. Even though I made the transition from non-fiction to fiction, about seven years ago, I have never looked back from it, writing is my life, it always has been, and it always will be.

  3. What do you write?
  4. As mentioned above, I started writing non-fiction. I have always had, and I still do have a massive, love, fascination, and respect for the natural world. I grew up watching David Attenborough, Wildlife on one/two, The Really Wild Show, and Bill Oddy. My mom used to get me wildlife cards that I would collect, and when I had the chance (which was not very often) I could sit and watch birds and other wildlife for hours. I loved it. I plan to write a memoir, based on my love of wildlife and how it helped me to get through my childhood.

    However, now, I write fiction. When my dad passed away, I knew I had to do something with my writing skills. I still did not class myself as a writer then, but I knew I could write. The transition from non-fiction to fiction was not easy, in fact, everything I wrote for quite a while was a load of rubbish at first, but the more I wrote, the better I got at it. At one point I needed to write a poem for my book. I loved poetry, and I still do, but I had never written one before. So, I tried, and I did it, not only that, but I enjoyed it, and I fell in love with poetry. Now I am not only a published writer, but I am also a performance poet. That is why I say; never say never, never give up and never say, “I can’t” if you have never tried. You might just surprise yourself.

  5. Why did you decide to start a writing group?
  6. Only a writer knows what it is like to be a writer. When I started writing my book, I told my family what I was doing, and they laughed. They were far from supportive, and they thought it was just a phase I was going through, another silly idea that I had, and it would pass. I had no one to talk to, and if I had not have been so strong willed and so damn stubborn, there is a chance that I could have given up on the idea of a novel. But I didn’t, and that so-called silly idea is now my published novel, Innocent Spirits. I spoke to Samantha Goode, who then managed Wednesbury library (among others), and I put to her the idea of me starting up a writing group at Oldbury library. She loved the idea, and hey ho, The Oldbury Writing Group was born.

    We writers need other writers, whether it is to moan about not getting the support they need from others, to vent about publishers, to help develop their own skills with the ideas of others, to learn from mistakes, to improve written language, to be supported when submitting to a competition, magazine, etc. or simply talk to other writers and get a better understanding of the written word. In truth the list goes on, there are many reasons why someone would join a writing group, and each reason is personal to the writer, but the one thing that you can guarantee is that in a writing group such as ours, there is always someone there that has either been down or is going down the same road as you.

  7. Have you joined a writing group before? If yes, then which one?
  8. No, is the short answer to that one. I had no idea how to start up a writing group when I started the OWG. I just wanted to speak to other writers, and I was amazed at the response. It seemed like other writers wanted to speak to me too.

  9. What do you enjoy about being part of the Oldbury Writing Group?
  10. Everything. I love meeting new people that have the same interests as me. I love how the OWG has developed into a family of writers. I love the outings, the inspiration that we bring to each other. Members like Nicole, she is great at supporting us, and she doesn’t put up with excuses either, which is one of the things I love about her – she is very supportive. Andy, he is writing his first novel, and I love his persistence, he never gives up, and he has a very open mind, he is always willing to try new things, and he is not afraid to write about the subjects that would make other writers cringe, I admire him for that. Nicole and Andy are just two examples of the lovely people that come each week to the OWG, and I am very lucky to know them.

  11. How have you benefitted from being part of the Oldbury Writing Group?
  12. Believe it or not, writing is hard work, it is time-consuming and at times, it gets you so frustrated it makes you feel like you could jack the whole lot in. The OWG has kept me strong. Having said that, I couldn’t stop writing if I wanted to. You see, there is a difference between being someone who writes and someone who is a writer. Writers have writing in their blood; it is a part of who they are. I could not give up writing no more than I could give up my skin or my bones. Writing is in me, but my goodness me, it’s hard work. I think I would have gone crazy if it were not for the OWG, and the beauty of it all is that each and every one of us in this group has what it takes to get a publishing deal. Talent, skill, persistence, and downright stubbornness, those are qualities that we all share.

  13. Have you learned anything new from the other Oldbury Writing Group members? If yes, then what have you learned?
  14. Yes, I am learning new stuff all of the time. I organise my plan for the group every Friday. During this time, I am looking for new ideas and different ways of writing. At the moment, we are writing an anthology based on different aspects of World War Two. Everyone is coming up with their own style of writing, it is fun and interesting to listen to people like Jackie Adams, who writes like she is writing from memory, but the truth is, the majority of it is coming from her imagination; she is very good at writing in the eyes of a child. Both Percy and Dave are very intellectual. It’s almost like they have swallowed an encyclopaedia between them. Andy and Nicole have fantastic imaginations. Andy writes about things that others may find hard to write about, and Nicole has no qualms whatsoever in scaring the life out of you; she is a very good horror writer, and one day I hope she will be up there with the greats like Stephen King and James Herbert, she really is good enough. It is impossible to spend time with such talented people and not get inspired or learn something new.

  15. Has setting up the Oldbury Writing Group changed your writing life?
  16. Yes and no.

    Yes, because of the support that we give each other. Writers need writers because only a writer knows what it is like to be a writer. If you are a writer, and you are reading this, then it is quite possible you know what it feels like to be ridiculed by family and/or friends. I have been laughed at, told it is only a phase, and I’ll get over it. I have had so-called professionals tell me I am not a performance poet when I have seen how this person has only got to where he is now by riding on the backs of others. What you have to remember is it is easy to climb a mountain when it is the donkey doing the climbing. So, putting together this group has made me climb several mountains, and I have done it without any hypothetical donkeys. We are not the type of writing group that takes advantage of each other’s skills, but we celebrate them, harness them, and share them. We support each other when the people closest to us just don’t understand what we do and why we do it.

    And yet no, because writing is my life. I would write with or without the OWG, but I am glad with all my heart that I did start this writing group because not only have I created something beautiful, but I have made some wonderful friends in the process and those friends come in the form of the members of this group.

  17. What future plans do you have for the Oldbury Writing Group?
  18. Through hard work, determination, persistence, and downright stubbornness, I plan to put the OWG on the map. However, before that, there are some very important issues that need to be sorted out. One of them is equality: I believe that all writers, no matter their financial situation, race, language, the level they are at, or what genre they write, deserve the same chances. Unfortunately, at the moment, that is not always the case. Many writers are held back because of barriers put up by governments and public services. This takes money, so funding is a major factor that needs to be sorted out. So, for example, if we as a group organise a trip, and the tickets are £10 plus travel, should it be right that people either on benefits or in lower paid incomes should be excluded from this particular trip if its sole purpose is to teach and inspire? The answer is no, it is not right and this needs to be addressed.

    I would like us to be published together, and with this WW2 anthology, there is no reason why we cannot be. We will be trying our hand at writing a play after our publication, and I would like us to go to different events together to show others exactly who we are and what we do. One such event will be our 2nd birthday party in August 2016. There will be more coming up about that on this website and our Facebook page.

    I would like to see us put together some workshops, but these workshops will be to show how to develop your imagination (this only comes with time, so if you want to develop your imagination, you must never give up) and to show you how much work you have to do and to provide support for all of those who choose to write. All writers know how much hard work writing is, especially when it comes to providing yourself with the time you need and the persistence of publishing. Since I have started the writing group, I have seen people come and go because they have realised that writing is something that you have to do yourself. No one can write your story for you. How many times have you had someone say to you, ‘I would love to write, but I don’t know where to start’ or ‘I haven’t got an imagination’ or ‘I haven’t got the time’ and the classic, ‘Could you write my story for me?’ All of these people have it in them to be a writer, they just don’t know it yet, and you can bet that the reason is either that they have not tried, or they have written a couple of pages and then gave up.

    Anyway, I could go on and on with this, but I’m not going to. I have many plans for the OWG’s future, some will work out, some won’t, but one thing I can say is, I will be giving my all to it, and I will not be giving up.

  19. Why should people join the Oldbury Writing Group?
  20. The OWG is first and foremost a support group for writers. It matters not of your writing ability or level of writing. It does not matter whether you have been published or not, and it does not matter what genre you prefer to write in. We all support one another by being constructive (not cruel, cruelty is not constructive, and it is not welcome in our group), and we give advice when needed. We help each other to develop our imaginations, we learn new language techniques, we go through editing exercises, we go on group outings to find inspiration, and learn new things and skills. We have even done basic computer skills.

    When the group gets together, it is at a time that is accessible to most people as we convene on a Saturday morning between 10-11.30ish. Having said that, I do understand that people have to work weekends too, so don’t worry if you can’t make it every week. We do have an online community here, and our Facebook page welcomes everyone, so you can always keep up to date with us online if you can’t make it to our meetings every week. All of our members have said how their confidence has grown since being in the group. We support you in stepping through comfort zones and taking your place in the writing world.

    There are many, many benefits to joining our group, we are not the average writing group, we do not get together every week and write, and what we do is talk about our writing, we read out our writing and share our skills as writers. We celebrate together when one of us gets published, and no one thinks they are better than anyone else. There is no red tape, no jealousy, and no ill feelings towards each other, we are not a competition, but we do support you and encourage you to submit to as many competitions as you like. Andy Lines, one of our founding members has recently submitted his novel to a competition, and I hope with all my heart that he wins because he deserves it – he works hard. We all recognise how hard it is to write, and we know how much we deserve it when we win something or get published.

    So, why should you join the OWG? The answer is because you’re a writer, and all writers need support from other writers.

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