Looking forwards: The Writers’ Social

AppleMarkWhen people ask why they should cough up £60 to become a member of the Nottingham Writers Studio my answer is always the same: the monthly social. Over the years I’ve seen our patron Jon McGregor read early extracts from Even the Dogs before it went on to win the IMPAC award, listened to Alan Mahar of Tindal Street Press explain what it is he looks for in a book (and he knows having seen 12 of his first 48 books nominated for prizes), taken part in a live creation of a plot for a computer game, listened to various debates across genres and drank a fair bit of wine. This Thursday is one of the most important socials in the calendar as it’s the one where you do all the talking.

With such a diverse membership of writers it’s difficult to know whether everyone is getting what they need out of the Studio and so we need a session like this to ensure nobody is left out on the margins. Typical areas to be discussed are:

Are you happy with the location and actual space of the studio?

If you could see any author at a Word of Mouth event, who would it be?

What kind of mentoring schemes would you like to see?

Should we be working more actively to get you published?

Is membership too expensive/cheap?

Should we become more digital?

What changes could we make to the studio to improve your writing career?

Do you require more practical help, such as getting an agent?

The Studio is unique in that it is run by writers for writers. Your input in the session on Thursday could determine not only what happens in the future but how it happens. The recent Festival of Words was born out of a discussion with members at an AGM two years ago, so we’re not joking when we say your view is valued. Your wine is also important as well, as are your crisps and peanuts. So bring a few nibbles and refreshments along with you and together we’ll dare to make the Studio even better.

This is the Chair’s Blog and was originally published on the Nottingham Writers’ Studio website 

LeftLion 45

Another year, another issue of LeftLion with an illustration of the Council House on the front cover. It’s a gorgeous drawing of Nottingham spilling out of Ronika’s brain, but I’m sick of seeing the Council House. My fear is that it reinforces the idea that there aren’t any other iconic buildings in Notts or that we, and by implication our readers, have a serious lack of imagination. I particularly resent the Council House appearing on the cover as the Council Tax is going up this year. Nottingham being the only city in Britain to do so, despite the government stating it would cover extra costs to ensure the price remained frozen nationally. The sneaky gets aren’t raising it above 3% though as then we would be entitled to a referendum.

My favourite two LeftLion covers to date are the ‘Byron Clough’ because it brought together two powerful personalities and ‘Another shooting in Nottingham’ because it had bollocks the size of Zeppelin balloons. (It had a pop at media exaggerations of Shottingham but was in fact about a new film). I’d like to see more issues-based covers, like the Occupy Movement but with them occupying the Fish Man’s Basket or something along those lines. Anything but that bureaucratic temple that bans the public from sitting on its steps.

I’ve been really busy recently putting together a second proposal for The Space/BBC project after being shortlisted through the Alan Sillitoe Committee, therefore LeftLion has taken second place. Consequently, I had to turn down a once in a lifetime opportunity of attending a staff meal with the Thompson Brothers. Literature wise I was keen to celebrate and support the inaugural National Libraries Day on 4 February and contacted various librarians, authors, publishers and trade union reps to build up a balanced perspective for a feature. Unfortunately nobody got back to me apart from Ross Bradshaw, who, as always, was incredibly insightful. I can’t stress enough how helpful it is to have someone like him at hand for advice. It’s difficult to get angry at the local librarians for their apathy when their opening hours are being slashed from 601 to 311 and they’re expected to do the same job but with fewer hands and in half the time. I’ve worked in the public sector and it’s utterly demoralising and thankless.

In the end I interviewed Alan Gibbons (thanks Ross) who is responsible for the celebrations and gave a really passionate and informative picture of how the cuts will affect the wider community. Knowing libraries would be covered in some shape or form meant we had time to commission a fantastic illustration by Si Mitchell. The illustration brief was based on the feature I was hoping to write but Cameron ripping open the Central library is still as fitting. The question is why wasn’t Central Library on the front cover instead of the Council House?

Book wise we managed to get in nine reviews of which three were self-published. I had the pleasure of reviewing Jon McGregor’s new short story collection but only had a couple of days to read it as he leant me his only copy. Rushing through such a beautiful book with such a tight turnaround was a bit like ordering a three course meal from Harts, whacking it in a blender, and then downing it like a pint. But it was worth it to get a review in the magazine a week before the publication date. Makes us seem professional. Katie Half-Price was as fun as usual and it was particularly good to have a pop at The Fat Years, which despite being championed in the press is a great concept but an awful read. Now it’s time to get back to that Space bid…

Interview with Helen Pollard who has worked for 46 years as a librarian.

Issue 45