Along with writing friends Sarah Scally and Fiona Murphy, I spent an excellent day on Saturday at Bournemouth Library learning how to make a living from writing. That is, how to fund your writing through grant applications, residencies and commissions. The workshop was organised by Lit Up! and provided practical advice, presentations and talks by poet Andrew McMillan and project organiser Amy Mason.
Andrew McMillan and Amy Mason
By the end of the day, I’d made several new Twitter friends, generated fresh ideas for projects and came away with inspiration for new pieces of creative writing. The event more than lived up to its billing, a unique day full of tips on putting together bids, planning and executing successful writing sessions. Thank you very much Amy and Andrew for sharing inside information on how to get the most from the Arts Council.
Top tips included
- subscribing to Arts Jobs for regular updates on paid and unpaid writing opportunities
- using the language of the brief to frame your application for residencies and writing opportunities (refer to target audience, outcomes etc)
- drawing upon help from others to support your application, for example, references from other writers, project coordinators etc
- Seek advice and support from the Arts Council. The Relationship Manager for the south-west is firstname.lastname@example.org
- the importance of tangible outcomes from writing sessions and workshops such as a celebration event or production of a pamphlet of work
By drawing on the ideas from the day, and combining these with the experience I’ve gained from workshop delivery at conferences and writing groups, I now feel much more confident in designing and seeking funding for my own literary writing project. The only trouble is having the time to map this out. My full-time work commitment is likely to go on until the end of August but with redundancy possible, I may be well be poring over my notes before too long.
Which skills would you like to develop for a life in writing?
When I booked my ticket for the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s winter party, I had no idea that it was to be held at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. At One Birdcage Walk the building is just around the corner from Westminster Palace and about a 30 minute walk from Waterloo. Fortunately, by the time my train arrived, the wind had died down and the rain had turned to drizzle. Even though I’d been advised to wear glitter tights, my outfit of black trousers and a top seemed appropriate and also suitable for travelling. My only concession to party-wear were my shoes: pointy with kitten heels. Although my toes cried for mercy with every step I managed to see the evening out without crumpling in a corner and although the acoustics in the library were appalling, I was able to chat with a number of writing friends.
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Unlike many reading groups (where members purchase a copy of the book to discuss) in Dorset we are fortunate to have the support of the library service. Book groups in the county can reserve up to twelve copies of available books (there is a list of titles to select from – all texts are over a year old) and the books are loaned for an extended period of eight weeks. Sets of books are collected from a local branch although due to the County Council funding cuts there are considerably fewer libraries than previously.
Enquiries were recently made to all 360 reading groups in Dorset to ask whether members would be willing to make a voluntary financial contribution for this service. 110 reading groups responded to the consultation with 83% indicating that they would be prepared to make a donation. In my reading group much discussion continues. While the service is excellent, there is a concern that donations may subsidise other aspects of the library service rather than being a dedicated support for reading groups. There may also be a review of income generated by voluntary contributions to consider whether a set fee should be applied. Does this lead us along the slippery path of requiring payment for any book loan? Perhaps this is an over-reaction but I’d be interested in hearing your views. Please use the comments box to contribute to the discussion.