Writing West Midlands’ Writers’ Toolkit 2014 began with the award winning novelist, Catherine O’Flynn graciously describing a publicity event in which she was forced to support the weight of an over-sized book that another, more established writer, was crushing her with. Although it’s difficult to imagine that the acclaimed author experienced an awkward event like this in her earlier career, her humorous anecdote addressed a fear that many new, and young writers experience; how are you supposed to make your mark when so many great writers have come before you?
The day was organised into four sessions, allowing attendees to gain insight and knowledge into a world that professional writers had already managed to forage. I opted to take Writing for Television and Screen, Working with Publishers, How to Write across Multiple Genres and Forms, and Outlets for Fiction. The first session of the day, Writing for Television and Screen, was panelled by Andrea Gibb and Stuart Lane. As an avid fan of the Job Lot, an ITV sitcom, I was in awe to be sitting only a few table lengths away from one of the writers, Stuart Lane. Andrea and Stuart were both extremely giving and open with their experience, and the overall feeling of the session was that the writers had identified a gap in the industry with their writing; Andrea felt as if there was little age range in the representation of women on the screen, and Stuart was interested in portraying television that spoke about the difficulties that young people experience in everyday life. The session highlighted the importance of writing the stories that you think need to be told.
The rest of the sessions were just as informative and revealing. Working with Publishers, panelled by O’Flynn and publisher, Rukhsana Yasmin, helped humanise the idea of publishers that writers tend to hold firm in their minds. Gone is the scary image of a red pen wielding dictator, lighting unread manuscripts for warmth, and instead publishers are portrayed as people whose purpose it is to find and help writers reach their full potential. How to Write across Multiple Genres and Forms, and Outlets for Fiction shared similar themes, highlighting how important it is for writers to get their work published and seen, whether through self-publishing, writing contests, or magazine articles. All writing is good exposure, even if it’s not your preferred form.
“The art of writing is putting your arse on a chair,” said Sathnam Sanghera in his closing speech of the day. The award winning writer of The Boy in the Topknot: A Memoir of Love, Secrets and Lies in Wolverhampton and Marriage Material summed up the general tone of Writers’ Toolkit 2014; anyone can be a writer but you actually have to put in the hours, and work to make it happen. Throughout the day I learnt that writing as a career isn’t just an unattainable dream I had been holding onto since my childhood, but a possible and tangible reality. There are plenty of routes into writing, and attending literary events, and networking are crucial tools on the path to becoming a successful writer. But hard work and dedication are the skills that will take you far.
- Start writing, keep writing, and work at it every day. It’s one thing to say you want to be a writer, but to do it you need to sit down and take the time to work on your craft.
- Put yourself out there. Opportunities won’t just appear on your door step. Get out there and meet people, attend poetry readings, go to literary events, immerse yourself in the world you want to be a part of.
- Say yes to every opportunity. It might not be exactly what you’re interested in, but it could lead to something more.
by Jessica Lovett