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The Writers’ Toolkit 2011

The Writers’ Toolkit 2011 took place on Saturday 19 November.

The keynote speaker was TV & radio presenter, author, journalist and columnist (and Patron of Writing West Midlands), Stuart Maconie.

The closing address was delivered by Ruth Borthwick, Director- Arvon Foundation.

2011 programme

Strand 1

11am – 11.45am

Hearing Voices – Writing for Radio Nick Walker, Writer & Producer, Top Dog Productions Mary Ward-Lowery, Radio Producer, BBC Audio & Music

Jenny Stephens, Freelance Theatre Director, Radio Producer & Writer & Partner, Hoopla Productions

Writing for radio – short stories, drama, features – is a part of the work of many writers, although it perhaps does not get the profile it deserves. Even in these straitened times, radio is uniquely welcoming to new voices and innovation. Our three speakers looked at the opportunities for writers to work in this sector.

Gathering Intelligence – Mentoring for Writers Sarah Hymas, Writer & Mentor, The Writing Smithy Charlie Jordan, Writer & Performer Steve Dearden, Director, National Association of Literature Development

Mentoring can offer writers and others in the literature sector a valuable opportunity to benefit from the experience and knowledge of their peers. What are the benefits to individuals and what do those offering mentoring need to consider?

Writing Fiction – The Tindal Street Masterclasses Alan Mahar, Publishing Director, Tindal Street Press

Alan Mahar introduced an initiative from Tindal Street Press, which was aimed at aspiring and emerging writers who wished to develop their talents as fiction writers.

Judging a Digital Device by its Cover – E-Publishing Luke Brown, Senior Editor, Tindal Street Press Wes Brown, Information Manager, National Association of Writers in Education Tracey Geary, Chief Executive Officer, Cyprus Well

E-Publishing is increasingly making an impact on writers’ lives. Many are embracing the possibilities, particularly of finding new ways of offering their work to readers. E-Publishing is also starting to change what we think of as literature, allowing writing to engage with other art forms. Our speakers looked at recent initiatives.

Strand 2

11.55am – 12.40pm

Setting Out Your Stall – Working with Literature Festivals Cathy Bolton, Director, Manchester Literature Festival Matt Holland, Director, Swindon Festival of Literature

Good literature festivals work closely with a great range of writers, and not only those who are already established. Two literature festival directors spoke about how and why they work with writers and how writers can successfully engage with festivals.

Grand Designs – Making Projects Work Jo Bell, Writer & Director, National Poetry Day David Gaffney, Writer Philip Monks, Writer & Chair, Writing West Midlands

A well-managed project is a pleasure to behold. Sadly, plenty of projects end up being life-shortening for those involved. Our panelists discussed the joys and disciplines of making projects work including, doubtless, just how important a well-honed spreadsheet is for general health and welfare.

I am (not) Spartacus – Maintaining Identity as a Writer Roz Goddard, Writer & Board Member, Writing West Midlands Jenn Ashworth, Writer & Mentor, The Writing Smithy Helen Cross, Writer

While most writers want to write, their portfolio lifestyles demand that they earn their living from a range of related activities. How can one be a writer while spending considerable amounts of time not actually writing? Does it matter when a writer is paid more to talk and teach than to think and write?

Avoiding Detention – Working with Schools Campbell Perry, Writer Paul Munden, Director, National Association of Writers in Education Aysha Afridi, Relationship Manager, Learning, Arts Council England, West Midlands

Working in schools – running workshops or sharing writing – is increasingly becoming a part of the lives of many writers. Our panelists looked at the process of getting to work with children and young people and the value of this work, both to the writer and the people they work with.

Strand 3

11am – 11.45am

Staying out of the Slushpile – Working with Publishers Anna Kelly, Assistant Editor, Hamish Hamilton/Penguin Jenn Ashworth, Writer Luke Brown, Senior Editor, Tindal Street Press

Publishers have a vital role to play in the development of many writers. It helps when working with them to have some knowledge of what they expect from writers. Our panelists gave a very quick introduction to a complex subject.

Narrative & Plot – Working with Theatres Amanda Whittington, Playwright David Edgar, Playwright & President, Writers’ Guild of Great Britain Bernie Corbett, General Secretary, Writers’ Guild of Great Britain

From contracts to attachments, there are many ways in which writers work with theatres. This session looked at the impact on writers and considered how a relationship with theatres can be productive.

Getting Around – Networking as a Writer Jo Bell, Writer & Director, National Poetry Day Jane Commane, Poet, Writing Tutor & Co-editor of Nine Arches Press Lara Ratnaraja, Cultural Consultant

Why sit in your garret scribbling masterpieces when you can be ‘getting around’? Real time or virtual time, any time is a good time to be connecting with people and organisations who might be interested in your work as a writer. You may, therefore, already know our panelists, but if not network with them as they talk us through the etiquette of being ubiquitous.

The Not So Secret Agent – The Relationship Between Agent and Writer Laura Longrigg, Joint Managing Director, MBA Literary Agents Clare Morrall, Writer Henderson Mullin, Chief Executive, Writing East Midlands

The relationship between agents and writers is growing more important as the writing industry places increasing demands on writers. Our session looked at how writers work with agents and what agents expect from writers.

Strand 4

1.30pm – 2.15pm

Off the Shelf – Working with Libraries Brian Gambles, Assistant Director: Culture, Birmingham City Council Sandy Mahal, Programme Manager, The Reading Agency Jessica Harris, Relationship Manager, Libraries, Arts Council England, West Midlands

While it is possible to write a three volume novel sat in a cosy corner of your local library, there are plenty of other ways in which working writers can connect with libraries. As centres for literary creativity of all sorts they are increasingly welcoming writers with bright ideas for sharing a love of reading and beyond.

Advanced Firefighting – Managing Workload Ian Kennedy, Writer, Producer & Creative Chris Arnot, Writer & Journalist Ros Robins, Regional Director, Arts Council England

There are ways of managing your workload as a writer that allow you to be calm and productive, so we are told. Our panelists discussed various approaches to do a lot of work in a fixed amount of time while still, we hope, being very creative.

Writing Your Rider – Touring & Performing Your Writing Bohdan Piesecki, West Midlands Coordinator, Apples & Snakes John Laidlaw, Executive Director, Live & Local Philip Monks, Writer & Chair, Writing West Midlands

Writers are increasingly making some of their living out of performing and, we are told, having a great time touring. Some advice, then, from those who are making or performing work and from those who might book it to be performed.

The Nth Degree – Creative Writing in Higher Education Candi Miller, Writer & Lecturer, University of Wolverhampton Professor David Roberts, Head of School of English, Birmingham City University

Higher Education institutions now offers a range of creative writing courses. What will they give the emerging writer and how does the experience of studying creative writing full or part time contribute to a writer’s development?