I joined Nottingham Writers’ Studio with a bit of trepidation. Despite the fact that my entire career (all 47 years of it! Can I really be that old??) has been devoted to helping craft the work of other writers and writing on commission, I was hesitant to call myself “a writer.” The impetus for most of my professional writing came from other people, not from me.
Over the last five years, though, I began doing less professional work, intending to pay more attention to my many unfinished pieces and story ideas languishing in notebooks and computer files. I attended a couple of workshops and took an online course. I wrote more.
I knew the Writers’ Studio was there – I’d been following the Facebook page for some years – but I hesitated. I still had painful memories, even after all these decades, of joining the editorial staff of my university literary magazine and being confronted by a triumvirate of young men who seemed to think they were the next James Joyce / Franz Kafka / Allen Ginsberg. They were so arrogant and scathing about other people’s work there was no chance I would ever show them mine. “What if everyone at the Writers’ Studio is like them?” I thought… Too risky.
Then NWS moved to Hockley, and I now saw a big, bright sign, smiling at me each time I went into town. “Come on!” it seemed to say, in all its warm yellowness. “I’m friendly!”
So… I joined. And was welcomed warmly. I did not encounter a single arrogant, scathing pseudo–James Joyce. I did meet other writers, take courses and workshops, and join a crit group. My confidence started to grow a bit.
When the opportunity arose to submit a piece for the April NWS Journal, I thought of a story I had written years ago that fit the journal’s “Never” theme. I pulled it out, polished it up, and before I could talk myself out of it, sent it in. I then tried to forget about it, telling myself that if it was rejected, I would not be discouraged from submitting again.
I took a while, but finally… I got The E-mail saying my piece had been accepted. I actually whooped with delight! I felt as if I’d won the Lottery. Better, even! This was validation of my work – MY work, not something I’d written to someone else’s brief – by people whose judgement and opinions I respected and admired. I was deeply chuffed, and very proud.
I worried a bit when I got the copy edited piece to check. I think I must have been born clutching a blue pencil – I copy edit everything I read, whether I want to or not. I was trained in the old school, and have trained other copy editors. I know how important skilled copy editing is – and how damaging bad copy editing can be! So I was a little nervous.
I needn’t have been. Whoever copy edited my story did it with skill, sensitivity, exactly the right touch. If I wore hats, I would take one off to him or her.
I was very grateful for the opportunity to see the entire journal online before it was printed. Not only did it give me a chance to see exactly how my story would look, it also meant I could read everyone else’s work. What a great selection – we have a LOT of talent at NWS. I feel even more proud to have been included, now that I have seen the company I’m in.
I haven’t yet seen the actual, printed journal – that’s a pleasure yet to come – but I will of course be buying several copies. And I am looking forward to submitting to future journals. I will probably always be a little nervous about it – but more and more in a good way!
Ronne Randall was born in New York and has lived in Nottinghamshire since 1985. She has worked in publishing since the late 1960s,
and for the last 35 years has written, edited, and Americanized scores of mass-market children’s books. She has an MA in Folklore from the University of Sheffield, and has been a volunteer counsellor with ChildLine. Ronne joined the Writers’ Studio in 2014 and is currently working on a memoir of her childhood in Brooklyn.