Friday 10 March
Writing Reviews: basics and a touch of the unexpected
It was hot in Melbourne on 1 March as members of the GSV Writers Circle gathered for their monthly discussion at Emirates House for the last time. The conversation was initially dominated by the imminent change in location of the Society and some members were recalling previous GSV locations, such as Block Arcade.
The focus of this meeting was on Book Reviews, and under Louise Wilson’s adept leadership books had been selected, reviews planned or pondered on, or already written.
Louise was well prepared and there was much for members of the group to think about. Members’ reasons for choosing books for the session included prior knowledge of the author and personal or research connections to people and places featuring in the selected book. The discussion soon moved to whether our choices were helping us as writers. Discussion emerged on the need to found writing in research and to use citations as members had come across family histories without sources. The cusp between history and creative writing, an area of ongoing interest to writers, was also raised.
The group was challenged by a question regarding the impact on target readers of titles and covers. The newly released Victoria the Queen has a cover appealing to current day readers and is receiving favourable reviews. Louise placed book reviews in time and place. Mary Durack’s Kings in Grass Castles has received less impressive reviews in recent times while continuing to maintain sales.
‘Should authors review books?’ asked Louise after sharing her own experiences as a reviewer. Louise argued that authors bring something extra to reviewing because of their experience and that reviews should incorporate the intellectual and emotional responses of the reviewer. Discussion extended to whether and how authors should respond directly to reviewers. Examples of responses generally considered appropriate, and others not so appropriate, were weighed up.
Most reviews written for this session were based on Ancestor publishing requirements. Discussion of Ancestor’s practice of publishing reviews of (recently released?) genealogical resources rather than family histories may well have sown seeds of change.
A newly animated group of writers dispersed into the Library and the hot city with new thoughts and questions to ponder. The next meeting will be in the new GSV premises.