Monday, 25 July 2016

Learning Away

While you’re reading this, I shall be on my way to the Writers’ Holiday at Fishguard, where the sun always shines (well, it always seems to when we’re there) and there’s plenty of laughter to be had.

The writers’ conference season is well underway, and if you’ve never been to one of these then, seriously, put it on your bucket list to try at least one.

Firstly, they’re great fun. Well, why wouldn’t they be? They’re full of writers! Already you have something in common with these complete strangers (many of whom will become friends for life). Honestly, all you have to do is turn round to anyone and say, “So, what do you enjoy writing about?” and the next thing you’ll know is you’ll be on each other's Christmas card list.

But, of course, it’s also a great opportunity to improve your writing craft, through the variety of workshops and talks that you can attend.

In the next issue of Writing Magazine (September issue, out at the beginning of August) I chat to three writers who regularly attend these conferences. What I found interesting is that they’ve all found their writing has progressed. One achieved their dream of selling a story to a popular women’s magazine, another was inspired to finish their novel, while the third gained confidence from these conferences to enrol on a post graduate writing course and has now secured an agent.

So although these events are fun, they also offer an opportunity for you to learn and develop as a writer. Going to these gatherings allows you to immerse yourself in writing. You can put your normal, day-to-day, life on hold and simply be a writer: do writerly things, act like a writer, think like a writer, talk writerly things to other writers, and write. 

Pick and choose the events carefully. If time is tight, opt for a weekend gathering, such as the NAWGFest, or the Writers’s Holiday February weekend. If you can afford a week, then consider the Writers’ Holiday or Swanwick Summer School.

These events might take place during the holiday season, making them great fun to attend. But you’ll also develop as a writer.

Good luck.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Dream About The Endgame

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you’re working on a big project. Something like a novel or a non-fiction book, both requiring lots of research, can have you scratching your head when it comes to working out what needs to be done next, where do you go to find out the next bit of research, and will you ever get the project finished?

It’s at times like this when a little dreaming is to be encouraged. Take ten minutes and let your mind wander … into the future, to when your big project is complete. Because that’s the moment all of your efforts are pushing towards. And if you keep going, no matter how tiny the steps forwards seem to be, you will eventually get there.

Several of my writing friends are seeing big writing project journeys coming to an end, or rather, they’re seeing the product of all of their efforts coming to fruition. They’ve been wrapped up in the First World War for the Pen & Sword series … in the Great War: books that focus on towns and villages during the 1914-18 conflict. 

Two weeks ago, Janet Johnstone’s book, Oswestry & Whitchurch in the Great War, was published. 

Next month, Julie Phillips sees her book, Kidderminster in the Great War, published...

 and Chris Owen’s Wellington in the Great War will be published the following day. 

Actually, it’s been a busy year for Julie, because she’s also had two other books (Ludlow in the Great War, and Newport in the Great War) published this year.

Last year was a busy year for them. As a bystander, it was intriguing to watch their efforts, and frustrations. There was lots of moaning about staring at microfiche readers for hours on end, looking for any useful snippets from local newspapers. There was also lots of excitement about going and chatting to people whose family members were involved in the Great War. There was frustration at sourcing photographs, and then there was joy at getting all their efforts packed up and sent to their publishers.

But despite all of that pressure, they continued. And this year they’re seeing the rewards for all that hard work (and it is hard work). By 31st August, between them there will be FIVE books published that didn’t exist at the start of the year. That’s five tangible products for them to hold up proudly and say, “I did this!” (And don’t forget, because these are books, that’s five books that are being sent to the five legal deposit libraries ( across the UK and stored for the nation forever.)

So if you’re in the middle of big writing project, and you feel despondent about whether you’ll ever finish it, give yourself a few moments to dream. Dream about the day when you hold the results of your project in your hand. Dream about what the front cover might look like. Remember it, and remind yourself that this is what you’re working towards. Because as long as you keep moving forward, you will get there.

Good luck.

Monday, 4 July 2016

It's Payback Time!

It’s that time again to get in your claim under the DACS Payback scheme. If you don’t know what it is, don’t panic, because you have until 30th September to make your claim.

What is DACS?

DACS is the Design and Artists Copyright Service. It champions the rights of all visual artists (such as photographer, painters, sculptors, etc), and also collects and distributes money from secondary rights (such as photocopying, artists’ resale rights, and copyright licensing). Think of DACS as the picture version of ALCS - the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (which does the same for writers, but for words).

What Is Payback?
Payback is the name of the scheme whereby artists can claim their share of the money generated by secondary rights that DACS has collected on artists’ behalf. The system DACS uses is that artists have to complete a claim form every year. If you’ve claimed in previous years you should be able to log on to their system and your previous claim information will be there. All you have to do is go through it and update anything.

What’s This Got To Do With Writers?
Whereas ALCS is all about the words, DACS is only interested in visual arts. However, if you’ve written an article or a book, which has been published anytime up to and including the 31st December 2015, and your article or book included some of your own photos (photos that you took on your own camera or smartphone), then that makes you a photographer too - or, as far as DACS is concerned, a visual artist. If your photos have been published then you are eligible to claim.

Any photo you took, which was published in magazine or a book, can be included in your claim. It might not even have accompanied an article. Perhaps you had a photo published on a letters page. If a photo was published before 31st December 2015 you can claim. And you should.

Good luck.