Writers’ Forum (or against ’em?)

One morning last week I bunked off work to attend a writers’ forum, held as part of the Penarth Book Festival (watch out Hay!) The presenter was Phil Carradice, a Welsh author and poet with over fifty books behind him. Actually, I’ve got over fifty books behind me. But then I am writing this in a library. It was a useful and informative event, even if we were told ‘you’ll never make a living out of writing!’ Ouch! Don’t hold back Phil; tell us how it is. Apparently most authors make their money from associated activities such as readings, seminars and teaching. Phil also does radio work (he’s on the BBC website) and, occasionally, television. These peripheral activities generate a large part of a writer’s income, and also provide opportunities to promote book sales. He stressed how much hard work is involved. He also stressed how difficult it is to get a publisher, and how picky publishers are and how much they expect from all but the most famous authors. You might think from this that he had a very low opinion of publishers. You might think this, but I couldn’t possibly comment.

None of this bad news came as much of a surprise, but it was probably worth hearing it again. There is a tendency to push this kind of unwelcome knowledge to the back of your mind and replace it with the hope that you might one day snare one of the major publishers, persuade them to give your book their full attention, and thereby move straight into the upper echelons (and income group) of the writing world. It does happen, and as Phil said, you have to believe in your work and say that if it happens, why shouldn’t it happen to me? One day, perhaps. In the meantime, he had lots of tips on how to promote your work, using local connections and networks to get started, to develop a reputation that can be built upon.

Phil read out one of his short stories, ostensibly by way of explaining a point about how short stories should be structured, but actually, I think he just wanted to do it. I’m not complaining. It was a very good, well-written story, which distinguished him from at least one Cardiff author, who for some reason thinks they are suitably qualified to teach other people to write (bitchy, I know, but at least I didn’t mention a name). He has a good, strong voice, and reads very well, I suppose through practice (he was a teacher, which probably helps). Impressive, but daunting. Could I hope to read so well? Could I command the attention of a room full of people right to the end of a story? It would help if I had a good voice to make use of, rather than sounding like Ken Livingstone on a quiet day. I came away with a lot to think about. My primary activity remains to continue writing novels and presenting them to publishers and agents in the best way I can. I’m aware of the need to make my submissions stand out, to make the concept attractive to publishers,  giving the writing a chance to sell itself. I should probably make an effort to hunt out the local writing scene (assuming there is one) and see if I can somehow get involved, make some contacts, etc. You know, I thought this writing malarkey was a lonely business. If I’d known it involved dealing with people, I might have thought twice…


About literarylad

Graham Wright is a freelance writer and author. His first novel, Single Point Perspective, is set in and around the city of Manchester, where he lived and worked for more than fifteen years. His second, Moojara, is set in and around the world, but mostly centres on Perth, Western Australia. Both are works of dramatic literary fiction - imaginative, serious and thoughtful, but with a sense of humour. Graham is currently living in north Shropshire, where he is busy working on novel number three.
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