Yesterday evening, author and co-founder of Queen Bee Press, spoke to LWC. She was inspiring and informative and gave our members lots to think about.
Miranda’s background was as an editor of nonfiction, a magazine publisher and also a publisher at 21 Publishing (a publisher of art books, co-founded by David Bowie). But following a local writing course, she decided to begin to write novels and her first book was called Masterpiece – about the Brit Art scene. It was sold to Transworld and translated into 12 languages. Her next book was Soulmate – family life about bringing up twins and her most recent book is Meanwhile Street.
When Miranda moved from London, she started up a writing group and they named themselves, The Contemporary Women Writers Club – made up of journalists, published writers and also first time writers. They would meet every three weeks, around Miranda’s kitchen table and used the internet as a documentation tool to share their work before meeting so they were able to criticism each other’s writings – constructively, of course!
Each meeting would have the same format:
*10 mins criticism of each of the writers’ work
* theory of the next writing exercise and then putting it into practice with some writing
* discuss what to do next
The structure meant that they were able to move their writing forward and to use the criticism to shape their writing. One important thing that came out of their meetings was the ability to hear their own voices more clearly through seeing the differences in each others’ writing.
A few tips if you are considering collaborative writing or a writing group:
* don’t use the time as therapy
* prioritise your writing time – don’t meet in the evening unless there is a strict alcohol ban
* criticism can be tough so learn how to give it – and take it – constructively
* take the personal out of the situation – try and always concentrate on the writing
* tensions might arise – talk through them and work them out.
From the ‘kitchen table’ meetings came the idea for a short story collection (to be entitled Leap Year). Each writer wrote two short stories – based on a transformational moment. Each would write about a different month and set the story in a different country. The group then made the decision to self publish – they used Grosvenor House Publishing – this meant their book would be listed on all book buying sites (Amazon etc) and would be available everywhere.
Publicity is vital if you decide to self publish – but by writing and publishing as a group – this means you have more hands on deck (and hopefully more contacts). The publicity was huge for Leap Year – partly because of their existing contacts, but also due to their passion and enthusiasm for the book. The local support was huge in Oxfordshire – just two examples, they gave 20 books to Oxfam and gave a reading there and this generated lots of local press, and they also have been speaking to reading groups which have really supported them. Leap Year hit no.4 on Amazon’s short story bestselling list – a great achievement.
So what is the future for Queen Bee Press?
- they are currently writing their second collection of stories – to be published later this year.
- they are sharing their model for collaborative writing and publishing with others and hope to have an imprint which enables them to publish other collections by groups.
- Miranda is also planning to publish her own novella with the Press.
If you’d like to buy a copy of Leap Year – please click here – it’s a great read and is a wonderful example of what collaborative writing (and great self publishing) can achieve.
Miranda will be writing our first guest blog – so watch this space. She is a thoroughly modern writer – combining all that is good from self publishing and trade publishing – and coming out the other side with a positive beam on her face.