A couple of months ago I was lucky to be selected for the Room 204 Writer Development Programme. It’s a mentoring scheme for emerging writers, and with only fifteen places each year the competition is tough. I was especially pleased to get a place as I have no shortage of written things…. but I have a big shortage of homes for my own projects despite hustling the crap out of them.
In June I had my first one-to-one with Jonathan Davidson, the Chief Executive of Writing West Midlands. Jonathan’s work has been published and broadcast in just about every creative writerly sphere. He’s a director of plays and literary events, worked in the publishing industry for many years, and so there is no one better placed to point out my failings. Joke. Jonathan is too darn nice to do that. Or if he did it would be in a way that would make me feel all fuzzy and acquiescent.
The session was hugely useful. Jonathan knows everyone and everything; as I went down a tangent he instantly produced targeted information about a related writer’s group, relevant book, connected residency, interesting website, person-who-knows-a-person who I should meet, amusing anecdote or scorching gossip on the topic. He also talks very fast which I like because I talk fast too. Also the session was only an hour and I like to get value for money. He made me laugh which was particularly welcome as I think I cried at one point. He wasn’t laughing at me crying; it was just emotional. I went home red-eyed, stunned and carrying a massive pile of books from the WWM library. That doesn’t happen every day. The massive pile of books I mean. I have two kids. I’ve been red-eyed and stunned on and off since 2007.
The biggest conclusions were:
1. My screenplays are pitched already or will be pitched at networking events so Room 204 won’t concentrate on those.
2. I’ll use their help to concentrate on my prose fiction.
3. Writing for radio isn’t something I want to do for my own projects. I could radiofy my prose fiction … but I’d just rather not. The process of creating broadcast work involves a lot of other people and whilst that doesn’t bother me for my screenplays, for my prose fiction is more intimate and personal and I want to control it.
4. The Challah Tin is my most complete work. I will rewrite some sections and take out others and make it as good as I possibly can.
5. Then, WWM will put me in touch with another writer who may be amenable to reviewing the ms as a private commission, as opposed to having it sent to a literary consultancy who may not “get it.” As we discussed, having people “get it” is very verrrry important. As is having a decent review and feedback on the whole.
6. There is an opportunity to visit or stay at the International Centre for Dialogue in Poland. This would be amazing as my book touches on historical aspects of Poland post WW2. It would also help me infuse and inform the book with detail accurate to the country.
7. I will write more short fiction and enter comps as often as I can for practice and profile.
It all feels manageable, exciting and focused. Thank you WWM and off to work I go.