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Permission to Write - A Guest Blog from Escalatee Kyra Karmiloff
Kyra Karmiloff, 2012 Escalator Winner, blogs about writing nerves, her experience of Escalator and how the programme helped her to improve as a writer.
It was about this time last year that my lovely friend, the talented novelist and past Escalatee, Susan Sellers
, started breathing down my neck to enter this year’s Escalator Literature Writing competition
. I was feeling very despondent about my writing – ready to give up on it all after 10 long years of heartache and two novels withering away in the lightless files of my laptop. Reluctantly, I agreed to give it a bash and set out revisiting old pieces, tossing one after another into the bottomless bin on my screen.
A pointless endeavor, I told myself, as I picked the chosen one and started dusting it down. Two weeks and eight-hundred edits later, I had my five thousand words ready. Or so I thought. With just days to go before the closing date, I printed out my competition piece, read it aloud for the nth time, made a few last changes and printed it again. Sixteen prints and two ink cartridges later, I put the blasted thing in an A4 envelope, addressed it, stamped it and put it in my bag. I dressed to go to the post office, took one final look at the words still humming on-screen, made a very final change, opened up the envelope, threw its contents away, printed out a fresh copy containing the much-improved first line, and sealed up the envelope again. I got in my car, started the engine, turned it off, went inside and repeated the whole process again, all for one word which was never going to make the difference between success and failure, but the opening sentence really was better in its original form.
It was a blessed relief to finally push the heavily-sellotaped envelope into the post box. It was out of my hands now. “All done,” I told Susan. Then silence. For weeks. Then an email, one morning before Christmas, telling me that I had made the shortlist and would hear in the New Year if I was one of the ten winners. Weeks of worry followed. A flicker of hope had been reignited: perhaps I would become a real writer after all. No no, said my brain. My bank balance agreed. Yes, yes, said my long-suffering friends and family.
And so it was that I became one of the 10 Chosen Ones
. For this year at least.
What ensued was the most amazing, nurturing and spirit-lifting experience I have had as a writer. Writers’ Centre Norwich provided us not only with wonderful support and guidance, it gave us a stamp of approval, a permission to write. We received help applying for funding from the Arts Council
, allowing us to cut down on work in order to focus on our projects, and were given months of invaluable mentoring. I was lucky enough to have been chosen by the amazing Tobias Hill, who not only helped me turn a scruffy idea into a fully-fledged story, but gave me back my confidence as a writer. Most of all, what the scheme provided us with was a license to be who we are – writers – and do what we love doing best: writing. No longer solitary scribblers, tossing hour after hour at a pursuit that felt like little more than pure indulgence, we were now recognized talent, bona fide novelists. It was like receiving Dumbo’s feather and jumping off a cliff, knowing we would fly.
I took my little competition piece, looked it in the face and decided that it deserved some limbs, a beating heart, a personality or two, and a name. What started as a few paragraphs bullied onto a page by a well-meaning friend now became the beginning of a novel, my third and hopefully the lucky one. The one that will make it onto the shelves of Waterstones, where there is space: I’ve checked. In fact, last time I went to peruse the rows of K’s, a thoughtful shop assistant had cleared a great big gap precisely in the spot where The Witchfinder’s Lover
will, with any luck, sit one day. Yes, yes, said my brain!
Find out more about Escalator Literature Writing Competition.
View all the 2012 Escalator Winners.
About Kyra Karmiloff
Half-English, half-Russian, I did most of my growing up in London. After completing my degrees at UCL, I set up as a freelance writer and researcher, mainly in the field of Language and Child Development, while continuing to dedicate as much time as possible to my fiction. I am the author of three non-fiction books and have had many articles published in magazines and online. During tough times I have also been a DJ, a dog-groomer, a stable-girl and cleaner – anything to stay self-employed and keep writing. I live in Fen Ditton with my boys and my partner, Rocky, a film director with whom I collaborate. I now make a living writing film treatments and researching new material, while continuing to pursue my novelist ambitions.
The Witchfinder’s Lover
is a coming-of-age story of two siblings growing up in Cambridge during the turbulent years of the Civil War, whose lives are transformed by the arrival of Matthew Hopkins, the man responsible for mounting the deadliest witch-hunt in British history.
Visit Kyra's blog.
Follow Kyra on Twitter @KKarmiloff
A Lovely Bunch- Celebrating the 2012 Escalatees at the Showcase
Escalator Literature offers ten winning writers a year of professional development, including one-to-one mentorship with a professional writer, a series of workshops designed to help the writers improve all aspects of their craft, support on applying for an Arts Council England Grants for the Arts award and the ever essential peer support.
Laura Stimson, Programme Manager at WCN, writes on our Escalator Literature Showcase, an evening event where our ten Escalatees read short extracts from their work to an audience of friends, family and literary agents.
On Friday we celebrated the end of the Escalator Literature programme with a showcase event in London. This sounds rather final but in fact, it felt like the beginning of things, with the ten Escalator winners spending the evening talking to agents and each other about what comes next. I came into the Escalator programme half way through, having been on maternity leave, but feel I’ve gotten to know the ten writers quickly. They feel like a group, each of them integral to the dynamic, each of them glad to be part of a cohort. They’re a lovely bunch.
Chair of Mentors Michelle Spring kicked off the readings by introducing her mentees. First, Mary Nathan, whose novel Michelle described as having a vivid sense of time and place. Mary read from a scene of her intricately visualized book that was rather aptly set just the other side of Charing Cross Road, where the showcase took place. ‘I smile widely enough so that it will reach my eyes,’ she read, as her protagonist battles inner torment in Georgian England. Next up, Bridport short story prize winner Lynsey White, whom Michelle described as having moved ‘confidently into the role of novelist’. Lynsey’s almost Dickensian story, gleaming with curses and extraordinary characters, nods towards gothic fantasy. The chapter she read from, entitled ‘Glass Worm’, contains the unique description of glass harpsichord, its melody ‘thin as a needle’.
Mentor Cathi Unsworth introduced her mentees with trademark wit, vigour and lyrical dexterity. Cathi mentored talented namesakes Megan and Meghan. UEA graduate Megan Bradbury
’s book is a fact/fiction mash-up; perhaps too casual a term for her agile, sophisticated prose. Amongst other things, it is a sparkling psychogeography of New York city; weaving the reader through this ‘gap toothed’ city. ‘How long will it sit like this, straddling the seasons,’ one line asks. Cathi describes Meghan Purvis
’ prose as ‘muscular’, a perfect expression for her book, a vampire novel which ‘swaggers the badlands’ between gothic contemporary noir. Meghan read from a scene which snagged us all; visceral, vibrant, menacing; a real cliff-hanger.
Like many of her Escalator contemporaries, L.E. Yates
’ book re-tells history. Her novel From the Mountains Descended Night
is framed by one of the greatest literary scandals of the eighteenth century, a story which her mentor David Rain described as ‘highly original, grippingly readable.’ Her scene describes an interaction between James McPherson and Samuel Johnson, in which Johnson first accuses McPherson of having created fiction. Jonathan Curran
’s book is another fiction underpinned by real events; the fall of Baghdad in the 13th Century. Told through the eyes of a boy, it describes what was once a city bright with science, philosophy, and learning, destroyed by cataclysmic political events. As his protagonist daydreams the horrors to come, he imagines fires burning ‘high and bright inside his eyelids’.
Tobias Hill’s first mentee, Kyra Karmiloff
also uses real world scandal to frame her novel. Set in the days of the Witchfinder, her book unpicks the delicate and destructive relationship between siblings. Kyra read from a scene describing ‘barber surgeons’, the game the siblings play, which involves lathering their bodies with lye suds and ‘shaving’ their bodies, removing the soap. Sue Healy
, Tobias’ second mentee, read a hilarious, beautifully constructed scene from her book, The Hole in the Moon
. It’s a vivacious, funny, often sad story of dwarfism, brotherhood, pornography, love and destruction. ‘Abroad shouldn’t be rainy,’ protagonist Dan P contemplates, on arriving into Hungary, ‘abroad should be roasting.’
Mentor Natasha Cooper worked with two historical novelists. Ian Madden
’s story is a fictional look at the real life relationship between artist JMW Turner and ‘the woman who was not his wife’, whom he lived with. The scene he read from, a wonderful illustration of the passion and eccentricity of an artist, did something rather clever; it allowed the listener to omit the male voice and transport firmly into the mind of the female protagonist. We finished the night’s readings with Linda Spurr
, whose story set in ancient Arabia, tells of woman’s struggle for autonomy. Using scent as its driving force, which she writes about with great agility and beauty, hers is a love story to frankincense and one woman’s ambition to capture it.
It was a special evening. Special because it marked the culmination of the programme. Special because it allowed the authors to meet and talk with agents. Special because they genuinely enjoy each others' company and have formed a true cohort. Special because listening to ten authors read may, on paper, sound excessive but was in reality a delight. One which was over all too soon.
Find out more about each of our Escalator winners, and read extracts of their work
Read Sue Healy’s blog on the Escalator experience
Find out more about Escalator Literature
Writing and Redemption: Sue Healy on Escalator Writing Competition
Sue Healy was chosen as one of our ten Escalator Winners in 2012. Through Escalator Sue has received a year of professional development, including one-to-one mentorship with writer Tobias Hill, a series of workshops designed to help her writing career, peer support, and advice and support on applying for an Arts Council Grant.
This time last year I was looking at ten-or-so pages of notes for a story idea I had about a guilt-ridden, embittered dwarf and a cult in Hungary. I was fretting about how I could whip these scraps of writing into some sort of shape as a proposal for the Writers’ Centre 2013 Escalator Award for a genre novel. It was pretty raw material, but somehow, I did. I was selected and twelve months on, that angry dwarf has found redemption via the completed manuscript of my debut novel The Hole in the Moon
. Moreover, I have the draft of a screenplay of the same story which has been selected for write2screen
’s Script HotHouse, also supported by the Writers’ Centre. This progress is entirely down to the support and professional development I’ve received over the past year.
I’d had success as a creative writer before embarking on the Escalator Scheme. By that time, I had already won a number of national awards for my short stories, which have all been published in various anthologies, and I’d had my first radio play broadcast, and a play staged. However, my end goal had always been to write a novel but since graduating from my 2009 MA in Creative Writing from UEA, mustering the focus, determination and dedication to do so whilst working full-time, was proving difficult. Then along came the Escalator.
The first gift the Escalator provided was affirmation. If my project was good enough to be selected, then this tale of an angry challenged man and his (comic) journey towards self-acceptance, deserved my time and respect.
As part of the scheme, you are provided with a number of one-on-one mentoring sessions with an established writer. This writer selects the project with which they wish to work and mine was chosen by novelist Tobias Hill. Tobias was a perfect mentor, providing me with just the right balance of challenge and encouragement – and he ‘got’ my humour. Moreover, the deadlines we set of 10,000 words per month were achievable but enough of a stretch to help me keep on pace. I had the story down by the early summer and the present draft by autumn.
The financial support provided by a Grants for the Arts bursary was heaven-sent. The Escalator Award does not provide the funds, rather you are coached through the Grants for the Arts application – a Herculean task. However, rather like childbirth, the laborious application process dims in the bright light of reward. In my case, the grant meant I could cut down on the day job, book time at a writers retreat and travel to Hungary to research.
Throughout all this time, my Escalator peers and I kept in contact via email and occasional informal Norwich based meet-ups when we advised, cajoled and bolstered each other through the challenges the year provided and cheered for each other as the rewards began to notch up (successful grant applications, finished novels, agent interest etc…). We were also more formally assembled for the series of helpful professional development workshops that took place over the year. And we’re not done yet. I’m looking forward to a showcase presentation of our work at Foyle’s Bookshop in London, which will see us winding up the year in style.
Looking back over my journey from last September to today, I have a sense that I have made five years’ worth of progression as a writer. Perhaps my embittered dwarf is not the only one who’s found redemption via the Escalator Scheme.
About Sue Healy
From Ireland via Hungary but currently living in the U.K., I find both my homeland and Hungary mesmerising theatres, forming the backdrop of my novel, The Hole in the Moon
I graduated from UEA’s MA in Creative Writing. My short stories and drama have won the Molly Keane Memorial Award, the HISSAC Prize, the Sussex Playwrights’ Prize, the Meridian Prize, the Waterford-Annaghmakerrig Award and the Ted O’Regan Arts Award. I have also been short-listed for the Fish Short Story Competition, and the BBC International Playwriting Award, amongst fourteen other prizes and my prose has been published in seven literary publications. My BAI funded radio drama ‘Cow’ was broadcast earlier this year and my radio drama series ‘The Daffodil’ will be broadcast in 2014. My screenplay adaptation of ‘The Hole in the Moon’ has been selected for Write2Screen’s Scripit HotHouse. I currently teach creative writing at a Norfolk prison.
Read a sample from The Hole in the Moon online
Follow Sue on Twitter @SueHealy
Visit Sue's website
Why Enter Our Escalator Literature Writing Competition?
More to the point, why wouldn’t you enter Escalator? Escalator isn’t your ordinary writing competition- it offers so much more than prize money or a one-off publication. Escalator helps you develop as a writer, and it offers you the tools to carve out a writing career. Open to genre writers living in the East of England, Escalator is looking for high-quality entries.
If you are one of our ten Escalator winners (that gives you pretty good odds by the way) then you get a years mentorship with an established professional writer. This year’s judges and mentors are Natasha Cooper, Tobias Hill, David Rain Michelle Spring and Cathi Unsworth. (Read their biographies)
You will also receive a series of professional development workshops, which will help you improve your writing, and navigate the tricky route towards publication. Of course, your fellow Escalatees will also provide peer support, and feedback, meaning that you always have your fellow winners to depend on.
Wait, there’s more!
Writers’ Centre Norwich will give you advice on how to apply for Arts Council grants, and coach you through the process as well as helping you with the always intimidating form-filling. Your work will also benefit from exposure to agents and publishers.
And after you’ve completed your year’s mentorship, you get to celebrate. Last years winners commemorated their achievement at Foyles, in the company of agents, publishers and of course, WCN staff. There are some lovely pictures from the launch, and an account of the evening on our latest news page.
Still not sure whether or not to enter?
Three of our past Escalator winners have very kindly each written us a blog which combined, are sure to convince you. Hayley Webster writes about how Escalator helped her discover her writing style, and made her realise that she didn’t have to conform to others expectations of her writing. Belona Greenwood blogged about how winning Escalator meant she could make her living from words, and Emma Sweeney’s piece is a moving exploration of her writing motivation.
This year we’re looking for entries from genre writers living in the East of England (that’s Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk).
Whether you’ve completed your novel or just begun it, we’re looking to see your entries! Send in your best piece of work by Wednesday 28th November 5pm.
And remember, we’re looking for genre writing, so crime, thriller, horror, fantasy, science-fiction, romance, historical fiction, genre mash-ups and a whole host of other genres are all welcome.
Visit our Escalator homepage to find out more.
Past Escalator Winner Hayley Webster Blogs About Finding Her Writing Style
Hayley Webster, Escalator winner in 2005, has kindly written us a blog about her writing experiences:
I remember how I felt when I found out I'd won an Escalator award. Jubilant, excited, and a bit scared. Maybe a bit smug too, although I wouldn't have admitted that. I had about ten pages of Jar Baby written and no plan of where it was going. I like to write without planning, to surprise myself, but being backed by a prize felt very serious. Which, it turned out, was a good thing.
I'd already been writing for a long time when I got the award. I had been a magazine journalist and completed my MA in Creative Writing at UEA the year before. The best thing about Escalator was the time it gave me to dedicate to writing nearly the whole book, and also the chance I had to meet some really inspiring and interesting other writers. It also gave me an extra boost to be 'taken seriously'. Filling in the grant forms was hellish – but being an Escalator winner meant we had help with that. Which, for me who can barely read a train timetable, was invaluable.
Having 6 months to do nothing but write was wonderful, challenging and, in the end a struggle for me – which was another benefit of Escalator – it helped me find the sort of writer I am, and helped me get into a rhythm that suited me.
I think, the best advice a published writer can give an unpublished one is that there are no exact rules or ways of getting published. You have to be honest with yourself about the sort of person and sort of writer you are. We met various agents and publishers through my MA and Escalator but I met my publisher, Robert Hastings of Dexter Haven, at a reading I was doing, unrelated to Escalator. We signed a three book deal. I am lucky to have found a publisher who champions and 'gets' the work. This is invaluable too.
You hear the advice 'write 1000 words a day, without fail, if you are serious about writing'. I've never done that. During Escalator I discovered I like to write nothing for two months. Then 10,000 words in three days. Then some serious editing. Then maybe nothing for four months. Then another 10,000 words. I'm happy with that. At least I will be when I've finished the next one...
Hayley Webster was born in 1977 and grew up in Burghclere, Hampshire and Thatcham, Berkshire. She is a graduate of the prestigious MA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, where she was awarded a distinction. She was given an Escalator Award for Literature in 2005 and the writing of Jar Baby was backed by Arts Council East, who gave her a grant in 2006 to help in its completion. She has worked in women’s magazines, and now lives in Norfolk with her family. Jar Baby was released on the 25th October of this year.
Follow Hayley on Twitter.
Find out more about Escalator Literature Competition, currently open for entries. (Closing date 28th November)
Up the Escalator: Two Years On
Belona Greenwood has very kindly written us a blog about her experience of being an Escalator winner and how it changed her writing career:
I don’t know if it is a writer thing but I find it very uncomfortable when I tot up the passage of time. I have always managed to smudge the edges of dates, forget the anniversaries of things, lose my way in any calculation of when and where so it comes as a shock to realise that two years have passed since my year of mentoring on the Escalator scheme.
My still-ongoing book is a creative non-fiction book, Shadow Madonnas, an Exploration of the Map of Spite; a history of unmarried mothers. My Escalator year was invaluable but nipped past at quite a rate. The danger is that research flowers into procrastination. Personally too, in those two years I struggled with writing my own narrative as a single mother as the spine on which to hang the histories of others. I have now turned the book on its head and I am writing it as a lively account of the lives of others. I watch very carefully the new months that pass and impose new deadlines on myself. It is a relief that although some books do get written very quickly with knife-sharp focus, some take years to complete. It is a relief that I am not alone in having to answer the question, ‘is it finished yet?’ and say almost sheepishly, ‘No, not yet, ‘I’m still writing it.’ After a while nobody asks anymore and in a perverse kind of way there is a freedom in that sideline state and the only pressure on its long walk to the final full stop is my own.
For those of us of an impatient nature, I think it takes a particular ability not to panic but to hold back and keep faith with a long project. It is easy to feel scared as those years creep past and a book is still not ready to slip into the current of words streaming into publication. Sometimes, I do panic, other times I add up everything else I am doing and don’t give myself such a hard time.
Since my Escalator year I have been lucky to earn my living with words in one form or another. I have written a non-fiction How To Write A Play book, thousands of words on features, plays and a children’s novel for 9-12 year olds, The Circus of Miracles, finally edited and broken into chapters. Writing features for the excellent, independent Norwich Magazine and for a less excellent lifestyle magazine plus a monthly column with an Italian Magazine, has been like a flexing of writing muscle, a daily workout. Writing plays is a passion and my world is happily full of words. The trick I am still trying to work out is how to make sure it is also full of the time I need for the diet of writing that has a deadline measured in years rather than weeks or days.
The Writers’ Centre is a great support for emerging writers because it doesn’t measure your work only on short timescales. What a relief! It keeps faith in all the chrysalids it has seen start the transformative process into professional writers.
Our new Escalator Literature Writing Competition will be opening soon. Keep an eye on the Escalator homepage and sign up for our e-newsletter to be the first in the know.
A Novel's Progress: A Guest Blog Post from TLC Free Reads Winner Tracy Ann Baines
Tracy Ann Baines blogs about writers' fears, novel-writing and the benefits that a TLC Free Read can provide:
Every writer’s different. We all have our own way of working. There’s no right or wrong way - no right place to start. But my novel started with NaNoWriMo. I sat at my computer, stared at the blank virtual paper, and realised - I had no idea what to write. But write I did. I had to. I’d taken up the challenge - write at least 50,000 words in a month.
A character came to me - he had a name, a little brother, but he didn’t have a story. I made it up as I went along. No plan, no synopsis, nothing. I let the story lead me into all kinds of places. Things I’d read or seen; newspaper reports, advertisements, a TV documentary all wove themselves into the narrative. And then I stopped. Something wasn’t right. I started all over again.
The story stayed the same but the POV changed. The story needed to be told from different perspectives, each character as important as the next. Five different characters = five different voices; two teenage boys, a teenage girl, a ten-year-old boy and a grandfather. Each voice needed to be distinctive and believable. Occasionally I’d write something which moved me to tears and I’d wonder- Is this real or am I deluding myself? Would others care about the characters I’d grown to love. And so it began….
The voice of self-doubt, growing ever louder… It’s too complicated. I don’t know what I’m doing. It’s rubbish. I can’t write. The voices don’t work. The story doesn’t work. Just give up now!
The self-doubt remained but I kept on going until finally I’d typed ‘The End.’ I’d done it. I’d finished my novel in a month. Hurrah! But now what?
I left it to gather dust. But then I heard about Writers’ Centre Norwich offering six writers the chance of a free manuscript report from TLC. This was an opportunity I’d be foolish to miss. Anyway, I knew I wouldn’t win. So with the deadline looming, and with no time to talk myself out of it, I posted my submission.
I won! I was awarded a TLC FreeRead. Thrilled to be chosen, I edited my manuscript and sent it away. Nothing to lose. Everything to gain.
I opened the report with nervous anticipation…
‘an awful lot of potential… I enjoyed reading it.’
‘Your main characters are believable and likeable… your writing style is, for the most part, eloquent and commanding.’
‘Overall I think you demonstrate an excellent command of dialogue.’
‘I found your plot entertaining and well conceived.’
‘Overall your manuscript shows a keen attention to narrative, both in terms of style and substance… it’s an engaging and, in parts, genuinely moving story.’
Fantastic! Vindication that perhaps my writing wasn’t as bad as I’d feared. That’s not to say there wasn’t work to be done. The reader thought I could do a little more to make the voices as distinctive as possible. I could perhaps streamline the plot and make it less hurried in the final third.
‘teenage first person narratives are hard to write at the best of times… multiple narrators is even more of a complicated task…’
To have your self-doubts dismissed or confirmed by a professional provides an important stepping stone. When we sit at our computers, staring at the words we’ve written, sometimes it’s hard to see things clearly. Sometimes, the only way to find the courage to move forward is to have a professional read your work and suggest ways to proceed.
So be brave. Grasp the opportunity. Because who knows where a TLC Free Read may lead…
Tracy worked for several years in the film industry but now focuses on writing novels and scripts. Her writing has achieved some recognition with a variety of achievements. Her first children's novel, Pig-Boy & the Quest for the Cinnamon Forest, was shortlisted in Cornerstones Wowfactor competition 2007 and received an Honorary Mention in SCBWI-BI's Undiscovered Voices anthology competition 2008. Her children's fantasy, Escape From Above, was chosen as a promising entry in the 2011 Times/Chicken House competition and an extract published on The Times website. In 2011 Writers' Centre Norwich awarded her YA novel, Scarred, with a manuscript assessment from The Literary Consultancy. Her blog, tall tales & short stories, has been rated as one of the UK's Top 10 Children's Literature Blogs for the second time.
Read Tracy's blog.
Follow Tracy on Twitter.
Visit the TLC Free Reads Submissions Page to find out more.
Not Sure What Step to Take Next With Your Writing? Submit Your Manuscript to our TLC Free Reads Scheme.
So you’ve written a book. Or a collection of short stories, or a play, or a treatment, or a collection of poetry...
Now, what’s next?
It is difficult to negotiate the tricky world of publishing- what in the past was complicated is now made infinitely more so with the advent of online self-publishing. The TLC Free Reads scheme helps you to develop and promote your manuscript by providing you with sage industry advice and honest and constructive feedback.
Writers’ Centre Norwich, The Literary Consultancy and Arts Council England have teamed up to provide you with the opportunity to have your manuscript entered into the scheme. Specifically geared towards those on a low income (find out more about what low-income means) the TLC Free Reads provides a valuable service for aspiring writers across all genres in the East of England. If you don’t fit exactly into the low-income criteria but feel that the service would otherwise be out of your financial reach then please do still apply and just attach an explanation!
Writing is, by necessity, a lonely activity, but eventually you will need someone else’s opinion- unless you are marvellously self-assured. You get to the stage when you’ve sweated blood to write something which you love (or you reach the stage where, actually, you hate everything you’ve written and think it’s the biggest load of rubbish ever typed) and you need somebody neutral to read it and give their opinion and advice. That’s the service that TLC Free Reads provide: constructive criticism and counsel.
And it helps! Here’s what a few of our previous Free Reads winners had to say:
‘The TLC Free Read was constructive;...the whole process sharpened my writing and has been really positive and encouraging. I'm very grateful for the opportunity you gave and the belief you extended to my work!’
Tista Austin, Winner, 2011/12
‘It was a huge motivation and encouragement to be offered the free read... the free read report on my book was helpful, and answered the questions I had. I particularly appreciated having a writer looking at my work and I found their perspective and analysis useful.’
You can visit The Literary Consultancy’s website for more testimonials and success stories.
What are you waiting for? Give your writing a chance to shine with the TLC Free Reads scheme!
Find out more information on our TLC Free Reads submissions page.
Visit The Literary Consultancy’s Website
For writing tips visit our Pinterest page.
Taking the Leap: A Guest Blog Post from Author Carol Rifka Brunt
Carol Rifka Brunt was a runner-up for the New Writing Ventures Award in 2006, organised by Writers' Centre Norwich in our previous incarnation of New Writing Partnership. Carol began writing her debut novel, Tell the Wolves I'm Home because of the support and mentorship she received through the New Writing Ventures Award . Tell the Wolves I'm Home was published in the UK by Pan Macmillan in June of this year and was chosen as an Oprah Summer Reading book.
Carol's kindly written WCN a blog about her writing career, and the jump from writing short stories to creating novels:
I’m thinking about those times when you have to jump across a chasm. Maybe ‘chasm’ is a bit melodramatic, so let’s just say gap. I’m thinking of the kind of gap that’s just a few inches wider than feels comfortable. Something in your mind is not letting your body take the risk, so you wobble on the edge, almost leaping, but then pulling back again and again. I’m thinking about how there are lots of things in life that have that exact same feel. One of those things for me was the leap from writing short stories to becoming a novelist.
I’d been writing short fiction for about ten years. Short stories are difficult to master. It’s hard to get enough in each one without overloading it with too much. It’s a balancing act. This meant that I could spend a lot of time tweaking and tinkering. And once all that was done I could spend a lot of time submitting to the best journals and being rejected. I contend to this day that it’s harder to get a story accepted at one of the top tier UK or American journals than it is to get a novel published. And the thing is, even when stories were accepted or shortlisted for prizes like New Writing Ventures, I knew a relatively small number of people would read them.
What I didn’t realise until years later, was that there was a comfort in that. I was on the safe side of success. Nothing could change if I stuck to shorts. It was easy to tell myself that a novel was too daunting. That I wasn’t suited to the form. That was the chasm, the gap. That was my brain telling me not to take the risk.
Being shortlisted for the New Writing Ventures award in fiction came with the wonderful prize of a year-long mentorship program. Three times over the year I would be able to submit up to 20,000 words to my mentor. For someone who hadn’t had the opportunity to enroll in an MA program, this was a true gift. At first I calculated the number of short stories I would be able to turn in. And during the first submission period I did turn in three well-polished short stories. I hovered on the edge of the chasm.
Then something clicked. This was it. If I couldn’t take the leap under these circumstances, with all this support in place, when would I do it? What was I waiting for? I looked at what I had. There was one story that wouldn’t leave me alone. There was a dying uncle painting a final portrait of his niece. I could smell the lavender and orange in the air of the Manhattan apartment. I could feel the tension between the two of them. What was the uncle dying of? Why was the girl so defensive? Seven hundred words turned into a few thousand and the pages kept mounting. I wasn’t really writing a novel, I told myself. I was just seeing where this took me. And then, before I knew I was doing it, I had jumped to the other side of the gap. I was standing there looking back, understanding that if things went the way of my wildest dreams, many, many people might read my work.
At the time I wasn’t sure how I had done it. The moment of jumping the gap was a blur. But looking back I think maybe it wasn’t a leap at all. Maybe when the right support is in place, it’s more like building a bridge.
Visit Carol's website.
Follow Carol on Twitter @CarolRifka
Find out more about the Writers Services WCN provides.
Discover Escalator, our yearly creative writing competition.
The Greenhouse Funny Prize
Julia Churchil from the Greenhouse Literary Agency got in touch to tell us all about The Greenhouse Funny Prize earlier on in the month. We thought it sounded brilliant, so we asked her to write us a blog telling us all about the prize and what Greenhouse are looking for. If your writing gets kids giggling, guffawing or cackling with glee, then read on!
Here's what Julia has to say about the Greenhouse Funny Prize:
Are you funny?
At the Greenhouse Literary Agency we love all sorts of writing for children. We love edgy, wincingly close-to-the-bone YA fiction, we love thrilling, commercial concepts with big surprises, and beautiful and heartfelt younger stories. I could keep going, but in short, we love quality. And there’s something that Sarah and I agree that we don’t see enough of: Funny.
I had the idea for a prize because every time I sit down with an editor and ask what they’re looking for, they generally say, ‘Funny. We need humour’. When I was little, half of my reading was humour – Dahl, the Ahlbergs, Just William, Mr Majeika, What-A-Mess, Fudge, Asterix. And there is loads of great humour on the market today - Wimpy Kid, Andy Stanton, Lauren Child, Dave Pilkey, David Walliams. Funny is selling in the shops, publishers are wide open to it, and yet we don’t see that represented in our submissions inbox. We want more laughs.
The Greenhouse Funny prize is open to un-agented writers who are currently resident in the UK and Ireland. Entries will be judged by me and guest judge Leah Thaxton, Publishing Director of Egmont Children’s Books (and discoverer of Andy Stanton).
The winner will get an offer of representation from the Greenhouse and a full weekend ticket to the wonderful Festival of Writing that runs 7-9 September ’12 (worth £525). The winner will also be presented with a bottle of champagne at the Festival’s gala dinner on the Saturday night. The runners up will each get five of my favourite funny books, and maybe even a comedy mug.
Our judging criteria is very simple. Funny, and we are wide open to all ages. The winner may be a picture book like Olivia or Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, or a young series à la Horrid Henry, Flat Stanley, The Great Hamster Massacre or Undead Pets, or for 8-12 year olds like Lemony Snicket or Ramona. It could even be for teen readers, like Louise Rennison, Does My Head Look Big in This? or The Princess Diaries. It’s going to be the person with funny in their DNA.
Funny is subjective, of course. Perhaps the winner will have a slow-burning, gentle wit. Perhaps a Python-esque sense of the absurd. Or maybe the concept, and the freshness and immediacy of it, will do much of the heavy lifting. Entry guidelines:
1) To get a good sense of the voice and where the character is headed, we’d like to see the first 5,000 words PLUS a short description (a few lines) of the book AND a one page outline that shows the spine of the plot. The book does not need to be completed at the time of entry.
2) Please attach the 5,000 words to a word document and send your entries to firstname.lastname@example.org If you are submitting a picture book (or shorter fiction that comes in under 5,000 words), then send the complete text in a word document. The short description of the book and outline should be in the body of the email. PLEASE NOTE: This is different to our general Greenhouse submissions policy. If submitting work to the Greenhouse in the future (outside of the Greenhouse Prize), visit the How to Submit section of the website to find our submission guidelines.
3) You must be resident in the UK or Ireland.
4) The deadline for submissions is Monday 30 July.
The shortlist will be announced Monday 6 August. We anticipate that 6 writers will be shortlisted.
The winner will be announced Monday 13 August. If we get two or more outstanding entries, we may offer representation to more than one writer.
Entrants will not be acknowledged on receipt, but all entrants will be emailed when the shortlist is announced.
I’ll confess it feels a bit disingenuous to offer representation as a prize, because when those great books come along, I’d offer to represent anyway. It also feels a bit reckless. What happens if it’s all unfunny?! But I’m confident that at least one brilliant new voice will come to me if I open my arms and say out loud, ‘Show me the funny’. I’m happy to be transparent and say this is a totally self-serving competition.
We just want to wave the flag to all those new writers tapping away in their sheds and spare rooms, and say, ‘Hey! If it’s funny, send to us! That’s what we’re looking for.’
Find out more on the Greenhouse Website.
Follow me on Twitter:@juliachurchill
Escalator Fiction: Meet our Ten Winning Writers
At last we have our ten winning writers!View biogs and read extracts of their writing.
Before I introduce you, let’s begin with a quick rundown on how they got here, and what they have to look forward to.
In October 2011 we once again put the call out to talented, unpublished novelists from the East of England, asking them to submit their writing for the Escalator Fiction Competition. Rather than the usual cash prize normally associated with literary competitions, the winners enjoy a year’s worth of development from professional writers including one-to-one mentoring and professional development workshops, culminating in a showcase event in London in September 2012. Not bad, eh?
It’s a unique offer, so we were absolutely delighted to receive the highest number of Escalator applications yet, and not only that, the quality across the board was outstanding.
Escalator winners have a satisfying habit of impressing agents and publishers (previous winners include Guy Saville, Helen Ivory, Ruth Dugdall, Susan Sellers and Nicola Upson) and our judges/mentors and all here at WCN have no doubt this year’s winners will follow in their tracks.
Enough of the context, let’s meet our winners.
Our Ten 2011/12 Escalator Literature Novel Writing Competition Winners Are:
K J Packer
Commended Writers Are:
Mary Jane Riley
We’ll be keeping you up-to-date with their progress throughout the year and beyond. If you have any questions about our winners or the Escalator scheme, email: email@example.com
More Good News: Catching Up With Escalator Writer Liz Ferretti
"I would never have even thought about writing without Escalator!"
One of the nicest parts of my job is the constant flow of updates that ping into the WCN inbox from past Escalator graduates as to their progress.
The writers update us on their literary developments which makes for gratifying reading, and quite perks one up (especially if what you're working on is Access Database related).
This news is just in from Elizabeth Ferretti, who went through the Escalator Literature programme in 2007. Rather than paraphrase her news, here it is direct from Liz herself:
"Having 'finished' Archipelago at the end of this summer I started sending it out into the big wide world. Last week, I found out that the novel has been longlisted for the Mslexia Novel Competition. I was doubly pleased when Guy Saville told me that 100 books had been longlisted out of 1800 entries! I have also been shortlisted for a competition run by Words With Jam. The extract I sent in will be published in the December issue I think.
The book is currently with an agent who I am waiting to hear from...
I always think with great gratitude of the work you all did for me through Escalator...I would never have even thought about writing without Escalator!"
Ahhhh. Warm glow.
If you're someone who'd like to join the long list of Escalator Alumni who continue to perk us all up with their good news, then it's not too late to get on board the 20011/12 Escalator Fiction Competition.
Deadline November 29th. Come on - what are you waiting for?
The 2012 Café Writers Norfolk Commission is open for submissions
The Café Writers Norfolk Commission is an annual prize awarded to a Norfolk poet to produce a pamphlet of poems in response to Norfolk. Previously only open to recent graduates, we now welcome submissions from anyone who lives in the county or has an NR postcode. The prize includes £3,000 and the publication of a pamphlet by Gatehouse Press. This year’s judges are George Szirtes, Helen Ivory, Kate Birch and Chris Gribble.
The prize is to encourage an emerging poet in the difficult early stages of establishing their writing career. Café Writers supports writers at all stages of their development from beginners right through to well established names. The Commission Patrons are Kate Birch and Dominic Christian. Kate says: “The Commission has proved to be an ideal way to celebrate the richness and variety of Norfolk, while at the same time promoting and supporting at least some of the many talented poets who are inspired by it. We are very proud to be part of it all.”
The Commission is a strand of Café Writers, which holds monthly live literature events
upstairs at Take 5, Tombland. Past winners of the Commission include Meirion Jordan (Strangers Hall
), Laura Elliott (Bridge
) and Angus Sinclair (Another Use of Canvas
) who have all been short-listed for the East Anglian Book Award.
How to Enter
Entries should include 12 pages of your poetry (this need not be on the topic of Norfolk) and a 400 word proposal that outlines your approach to creating the work for the pamphlet. Please provide 4 copies of your entry.
The deadline for submission is 7th December 2011. The winner will be announced in March 2012. Please mark your envelope clearly as ‘Café Writers Norfolk Commission’ and send your submission and £5 handling fee to Café Writers, The Butchery, 168a Silver Road, Norwich, NR3 4TH
The Escalator Literature Fiction Competition is Open!
Deadline: Tuesday 29th November
Yes, that’s right, Escalator Literature is back. A year of delicious literary development could be yours and this time we’re looking at you, fiction writers!
If you’re resident in the East region, write high quality long-form fiction and think that a period of structured support would enable you to develop artistically then read on – we look forward to hearing from you.
Enter the Escalator Literature Fiction Competition
"Thank you for all the wonderful events and opportunities to learn along the way. These were terrific days, greatly appreciated, always inspirational, and insightfully chosen.”
Martin Ungless, Winner 2009/10
Are You A Novelist Ready To Get Professional?
The Escalator Literature is a unique writing competition which offers you much more than the usual cash prize.
About the Competition
Open now, the Escalator Literature Competition 2011 is for you if you are a novelist from the East of England who wants to get professional. Enter now if you think you would benefit from:
• One-To-One Mentoring
A year’s worth of support from professional writers (Tobias Hill, Joanna Hines, Bernardine Evaristo, Katharine McMahon and Michelle Spring) – invaluable. Read their biogs here.
• Supported Applications For Grant
You will be coached through an application for an Arts Council England Grant for the Arts award.
• Professional Development Workshops
A tailored range of workshops designed to give you the information you need to get ahead in the writing world.
• Introductions To Agents and Publishers
Your work will be introduced to agents, publishers and other industry professionals and you will take part in a special London reception at the end of the year promoting you and your work.
• Peer Support
Across 2012, ten winning fiction writers will be supported through Escalator Literature. Many of our Escalator graduates are still in touch with their group and find it of invaluable benefit to go through the year talking to each other.
The Escalator Literature Fiction Competition is open now. Submissions must reach us by Tuesday 29th November.
Escalator Literature is an Arts Council funded initiative and has been running for six years. Many Escalator Literature prize winners have gone on to find agents and get published: Guy Saville, Helen Ivory, Susan Sellers and Nicola Upson are all graduates of the scheme.
Case Study: Guy Saville
“So, four years on from winning Escalator, things couldn’t be going better. Now all I need to do is finish book two...”
“Afrika Reich did really well in hardback, selling more than 10,000 copies which makes me the 11th best selling debut of 2011. It also reached number three in Spain’s charts (no doubt helped by a week long publicity tour of Madrid and Barcelona) and the paperback has also got off to a flying start. All in all, not bad for a book which the majority of publishers in this country said had no commercial appeal!...I’ve also just had some more good news... The book has now sold to America in a major two-book deal with Henry Holt, part of Macmillan. It will be published next year in the US.”
Who Can Apply?
We welcome applications from writers of ambitious, high quality long-form fiction, which may include genre or teen novels but not children’s or non-fiction. Escalator Literature is open to writers currently resident in the East of England, who think that a period of structured support would enable them to develop artistically. Successful applicants will demonstrate considerable creative talent and potential for development and will commit to the Escalator Literature scheme and the work they undertake as part of it.
• Be over the age of 18 years old
• Be resident in the East of England (Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk)
• Application must be in written in English
• Submit single authored works only
• Demonstrate creative talent and potential for development
• Be available to attend a mentoring session on 21 January 2012
Applicants must not
• Be studying for a full time academic qualification in creative writing at the time of applying for the GFTA (January 2012)
• Applicants must not have previously published or self published a full length work of fiction.
• Applicants must not have received an Arts Council Grant for the Arts in the previous three years
• Applicants must not be employees of Writers’ Centre Norwich
Want to Apply? Here’s How:
Apply and Pay Online:
Please pay online here
, filling in the questionnaire and then printing out your e-receipt. You will need to pay a processing fee of £5 online, and we accept credit and debit cards.
Applicants may not apply more than once.
If you have not already registered with Writers’ Centre Norwich you will be asked to register.
If you are unable to pay online please contact us on 01603 877177.
Then Send Us Your Application:
Once you have paid online please submit the following by post:
• A Sample Of Your Work (3 x copies)*
Up to 3000 words typed (hand-written submissions will not be accepted), single-spaced 12pt on A4. Note – this sample of work should be a sample of work that demonstrates the quality of your writing and should be an extract from a piece of longer writing.
• An Application Letter (3 x copies)*
Please send a type-written covering letter no longer than one side of A4 paper including:
• The context and scope of your writing submission
• A short biography of your writing history
• An explanation of where you are in your writing life and how you would benefit from Escalator Literature
• The Receipt From Your Online Payment
*Please include your online booking reference number on all copies of your documentation. You can include your name on your application letter, but please do not include it on your writing submission.
Please send the receipt for your online payment along with three copies of your writing sample and three copies of your covering letter to:
Writers’ Centre Norwich
14 Princes Street
DEADLINE: Tuesday 29th November 2011
Your application must reach our office by this date
If you need further information
about the Escalator Fiction Competition then we are very happy to talk to you informally and answer any questions:
Please contact: Laura Stimson on 01603 877177. Email: Laura.firstname.lastname@example.org
Last year’s Escalator was for poets and it was open nationally. Visit the 2010/11 project page or alternatively, find out how they got on in this short film:
What Happens Next?
The ten Escalator winners and commended applicants will be notified by Friday 13th January 2012. Good luck!!
TLC Free Reads: Deadline approaches for our free manuscript appraisal service for serious writers
A reminder of the TLC Free Reads opportunity, open to any writer in the East of England who would benefit from feedback on their manuscript from a professional but who would struggle to pay for this service. The deadline is the end of this month, so if you're interested, now is the time to apply.
If you’re a serious writer living in the East of England and want your manuscript appraised - we might be able to help!
For those who could do with a professional reading service but can’t afford it: The Literary Consultancy
(TLC) is offering a free manuscript appraisal service, funded by Arts Council England and managed by Writers’ Centre Norwich throughout the East of England. Free Reads is open to writers of prose (fiction and non-fiction), poetry, and scripts for TV, film, radio or theatre who could otherwise not afford the fees.
As the UK’s leading manuscript assessment service, The Literary Consultancy provides expert, market-aware editorial advice to writers at all levels writing in English. You can gain constructive feedback from professional editors and find ideal publishers for your work. TLC has a strong track record of helping writers get into print as well as being an aid to their creative development.
Manuscripts are selected for Free Reads based on artistic merit and financial need.
Deadline for entries: 29th July 2011
Winners will be announced by: 26th August
To apply please submit:
· a completed application form: Download Application Form.doc
· a short covering letter saying why a Free Read would be useful to you at this stage in your career as a writer and addressing your financial need
· a short sample of the work that you want to be assessed by TLC (no more than 3 pages for prose, 50 lines for poetry, 2 pages for scripts)
· a short (half page) summary of the full work you would submit if selected, giving details of the overall length of manuscript or number of poems.
Am I eligible? Applicants must
• not otherwise be able to afford the TLC manuscript service
• submit an extract of the work they plan to submit to TLC if accepted
• be aged 18 or older
• be resident in the East of England (Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk)
• submit their application in English
• submit single authored works only
• enter under their own name and home address; pen names and c/o addresses will not be eligible
• ensure your entry is received by the closing date (29th July 2011). Entries postmarked with the closing date will not be accepted
• agree that if you win you will submit your final manuscript to Writers’ Centre Norwich by 1st February 2012
Applicants must not
• be (or have been) studying for a full time academic qualification in creative writing within the past twelve months (as of 1st June 2011)
• have ever benefitted from TLC Free Reads or TLCs regular manuscript feedback service
• have been previously published (in anything other than an anthology or pamphlet) or received a professional production of a script
• be employees of Writers’ Centre Norwich
• apply more than once
These criteria can also be found on the Application Form (see below).
All submissions should be double-spaced, in a 12pt font, and printed on one side of the A4 page. Each page should be marked with your contact details.
What should I put on my covering letter?
Covering letters should comprise a short explanation of why a Free Read would be useful to you at this stage in your career as a writer and refer also to your financial needs eligibility. It should be no more than one side of A4.
What does ‘financial need’ mean?
TLC’s regular fees are enclosed. If you feel these prices prevent or dissuade you from making use of TLC’s regular manuscript appraisal service then we’d encourage you to apply for a Free Read.
We are asking you to self-certify your financial need, and simply ask for a statement from you as to why you might not otherwise be able to afford this service.
How will winners be selected?
Winners will be selected on the quality of the work submitted, financial need, and a judgement of how useful we think a Free Read could be at this particular stage of your writing career.
Who will judge entries?
Entries will be judged by Writers’ Centre Norwich.