Tuesday, 15 December 2009
Getting people to do it!
I spent fifteen minutes this morning chatting to a free-lance journalist writing an article called ‘So you want to be a writer?’ for ‘Cerys’, a magazine for 12-16 year old girls. Inevitably, I was asked for my top 3 tips for budding writers. ‘Read lots!’ is always my number one ‘Do it!’ is probably my second – I meet so many people, some of them in the creative writing class I teach who claim to want to write but don’t actually make the time. But my third – well, there are lots of things I could say. Today we were chewing the fat about what got me into writing in the first place and a big catalyst for me was doing very well in one of those ‘prize is getting your book published’ competitions run by Faber. That boosted my confidence and I went on from there. But I was also reminded that a big encouragement as a child was winning the story writing competitions in our local newspaper, ‘The Stockport Advertiser’. I have no idea how many people entered (probably very few – my brother-in-law is currently a dab hand at winning all sorts of goodies in newspaper competitions because he’s realised that so few people enter them) but I was highly delighted by the publication of my stories and the prize of a book that always followed. Once I even had tea with local author, Joyce Stranger, who generously gave me signed copies of two of her hardbacks. That was very thrilling. Her advice to budding writers was to live a broad and rich life – she didn’t seem too impressed with my plan to go to university to study English and maybe I should have taken heed!
I’m curious about the effect the competition winning had. I am not normally a person who enjoys competition (like Katherine, commenting on Sarah Molloy’s blog, I’d prefer to see us all as colleagues rather than rivals although, being realistic, I appreciate that it really is a competitive market out there and we can’t all be winners!) but it certainly gave me a spur as a young writer, partly, I suppose, because books of my own were scarce and I loved the prizes as well as the publication.
And so I have fallen to wondering about whether we could be encouraging young writers in this way? I’ve done some judging of school and bookshop competitions and it can be a deadly task, bringing back shades of the marking that killed a lot of the joy of being a schoolteacher. But I’m still wondering. Should we be setting competitions on our own web-sites? Occasionally from here? In collaboration with local bookshops? Or papers? Should we be nagging our publishers?
I’m pondering. What can we the writers of now, be doing to encourage the writers of the future? Or doesn’t it matter? Are they all so text happy with their Facebooking and mobiles and MSN that they don’t need any encouragement from us to write, even if the writing they do is not quite like ours?
Now I’m going to go away and consider whether I should be offering recreational creative writing to kids as well as to adults...hmm...about time I did some of own writing too, or I’ll be guilty of what I accuse others of and never actually ‘doing it’! (Though I might go and enter a competition in a local newspaper...hmm...a day at a luxury spa might be nice...and I could take a notebook and pretend I was writing.........!)