Interview with author Frank Ince
Frank Ince is the leader of the Wordsmiths of Melton and Caroline Springs Scribes writing groups. He has many awards and publishing credits for his short stories. During his previous career he wrote a monthly column for Automotive Industry Australia, on industry specific subjects. He lives with his wife and a boisterous dog in a small cottage in Caroline Springs. A completed novel and its sequel await revision, but writing short stories leaves him little time to go back over a road already travelled.
What writing group/s do you belong to?
I am going to draw on experiences gained through association with a few diverse groups over a period of the past decade.
What is the structure of this writing group?
In this next response Frank draws on his past experience with writing groups and his comments are not related to Wordsmiths of Caroline Springs groups.
My first writers’ group collapsed through the lack of supervisory experience of the facilitator. The second group met weekly in various homes and could have been a rewarding experience except the leader, and I use the term loosely, tended to be a bully (can you believe that?) but once the group woke up to the fact number one was using the team to further her own ends, it fell apart also. Next came a stint with a group connected with a State body and should have been a huge success, but more time was spent on internal politics than applying ourselves to the purpose of the group, i.e. developing the individual’s writing skills.
All these groups had a common problem; they functioned as standard model operations. So what is a standard model writing group? It is when a group of writers turn up to a meeting, read a story/poem/essay or something else and the collective membership comment on the piece. If you belong to such a group, leave now! It is unlikely you will achieve your aims in this manner. Unless a reader can SEE what has been written, how in the hell can they recognise faults such as correct placement of punctuation, page layout, spelling, sentence structure and a host of other faults.
Is this writing group associated with a state or national organisation?
The group itself is not, but individual writers have membership with, Writer’s Victoria, FAW, The Australia Society of Authors Ltd and others.
Does this group have affiliations with peak writing associated bodies?
See response to last question.
How many members does this writing group have?
We have ten registered members, but rarely do we experience a full compliment of members.
Does the writing group have a clearly defined goal in writing?
Writing goals are the prerogative of the individual.
Are there any critiquing guidelines to follow?
Yes. Wordsmiths and Caroline Springs Scribes are given a style guide and a statement of purpose on joining. It is made clear to new members that you don’t do a fellow author any favours by complimenting someone for a piece of writing that is more deserving of criticism. We hope a member will use his skills as a writer to critique another’s work without causing offence.
Are there any guidelines for people whose work is being critiqued to follow?
Yes, contained in handout material received when joining.
Does the group have set guidelines for behaviour, and a process to remove members who are disruptive to the smooth running of the group?
Most disruptive people can be pulled into line when a misdemeanour occurs. However, just as one finds on the sporting field, the team is always bigger than the individual, and there have been past occasions when someone has been told it would be in their best interests to resign.
Does everybody contribute to each meeting, or do you only hear from the same few people?
Both groups are at maximum numbers, so there is little time for small talk. We no longer discuss the minutia of someone’s work. We concentrate on structure, plot, readability etc.
How long have you been a member of this writing group?
Wordsmiths is about 2 ½ years. C/S Scribes, restarted in March this year.
What is your role within this group?
I facilitate both groups, although we are fortunate to have the services of Merlene Fawdry who conducts a monthly workshop. Current subject is writing the novel.
What are the benefits to you from attending a writing group?
No matter how many times I edit my work I am in constant awe of the recommendations my fellow scribes discover with my work. I subscribe to the belief that I cannot be offended by a comment delivered in a group meeting. Every comment is important to me.
Why be in a writing group?
There are gifted writers and there are those that have to work hard to structure a sentence correctly. I am one of the latter. If someone points out a fault in my work I am indebted to that person. This is just one of the benefits of being part of a writer’s group.
What do you look for in a writing group?
Sincerity, a willingness to contribute and a preparedness to accept criticism.
Does your writing group give peer critique or general comment?
See above answers.
What is the focus of your writing group – writing or poetry?
Mostly writing. Both our groups would be better balanced if we had a couple of poets in the team.
Can the two be successfully combined in terms of critiquing?
I believe so, however for one to appreciate poetry in all its forms, one really needs to have an understanding of those varied forms.
Is there anything you would like from your writing group that is missing at the moment?
Wordsmiths of Melton has a new member with a definite lean toward poetry. Please God, can you send us one more?
Have you belonged to any other writing groups?
See my opening comments.
Have you had a negative experience in a writing group?
I have no personal gripes here although there was one occasion long ago when a writer took offence at something I said in all innocence. I never set out to upset anyone any more than I am hurt by comments directed toward me. This is life I guess.
Do you have any advice for someone thinking of joining a writing group?
Just join. Win Lose or draw, you will improve quicker by sharing experiences than by travelling a different path on your own
Is there anything you would like to add?
This has been a comprehensive interview and I hope others will gain an insight into writers groups by reading these questions and answers.
Thank you, Frank, for participating