the writer is a lonely hunter

writing by Gail Aldwin and other authors

Open Day at the British Library

With other postgraduate students, I spent a splendid day at the British Library, getting acquainted with the amazing resources that are available. I hadn’t been aware of the digital collections that are held and to handle some of the manuscripts was wonderful. While I was there I was issued with a reader’s pass (make sure you take the necessary ID when applying –  proof of address and proof of signature is necessary). I also made a reader room request so that I could have access to a play script of What Maisie Knew which I hope to use in my MPhil research.

Some of the resources presented at the workshop include: Read the rest of this entry »

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Mere Literary Festival

The small town of Mere, positioned at the western edge of Salisbury Plain, hosts a literary festival each year. It is organised by volunteers and includes a range of events for adults and children, those living nearby and visitors. The highlights for the seventeenth Mere Literary Festival include:

PAUL KERENSA – So a Comedian walks into a Church

The popular comedian discusses his recently published diary revealing the true and hilarious ‘Confessions of a Kneel-Down Stand-Up’.

Monday 14 October Grove Building 7.30pm. £5 in advance £6 on the door.

TARQUIN OLIVIER – So Who’s Your Mother?

What’s it like growing up the son of a great actor? More off-stage stories from his published memoir by the son of Laurence Olivier.

Tuesday 15 October Grove Building 7.30pm. £5 in advance £6 on the door.

CHRIS McCULLY – Poetry Masterclass

A must for all with poetry in their hearts as acclaimed poet, Chris McCully, analyses poems submitted by local writers

Wednesday 16 October, Grove Building 2.30pm. Retiring donations.


One of Britain’s ‘20 Favourite Authors’, Damien Lewis has topped best-seller lists worldwide and has 29 books listed on ‘Good Reads’. He discusses his work including his latest book, ‘Zero Six Bravo’.

Friday 17 October, Grove Buildings 7.30pm. £5 in advance £6 on the door

CHILDREN’S EVENT with award-winning author GILLIAN CROSS

A free event at the library, tickets required

Saturday 18 October, 2.15pm

For the full programme, click here. Tickets available from Mere Library 01747 860546 or the Festival Organiser 01747 860475

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Lit Up! event: a life in writing

Along with writing friends Sarah Scally and  Fiona Murphy, I spent an excellent day on Saturday at Bournemouth Library learning how to make a living from writing.  That is, how to fund your writing through grant applications, residencies and commissions.  The workshop was organised by Lit Up! and provided practical advice, presentations and talks by poet Andrew McMillan and project organiser Amy Mason.

Andrew McMillan and Amy Mason

Andrew McMillan and Amy Mason

By the end of the day, I’d made several new Twitter friends, generated fresh ideas for projects and came away with inspiration for new pieces of creative writing. The event more than lived up to its billing, a unique day full of tips on putting together bids, planning and executing successful writing sessions. Thank you very much Amy and Andrew for sharing inside information on how to get the most from the Arts Council.

Top tips included

  • subscribing to Arts Jobs  for regular updates on paid and unpaid writing opportunities
  • using the language of the brief to frame your application for residencies and writing opportunities (refer to target audience, outcomes etc)
  • drawing upon help from others to support your application, for example, references from other writers, project coordinators etc
  • Seek advice and support from the Arts Council. The Relationship Manager for the south-west is
  • the importance of tangible outcomes from writing sessions and workshops such as a celebration event or production of a pamphlet of work

By drawing on the ideas from the day, and combining these with the experience I’ve gained from workshop delivery at conferences and writing groups, I now feel much more confident in designing and seeking funding for my own literary writing project.  The only trouble is having the time to map this out.  My full-time work commitment is likely to go on until the end of August but with redundancy possible, I may be well be poring over my notes before too long.

Which skills would you like to develop for a life in writing?


Party venue: institution of mechanical engineers

When I booked my ticket for the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s winter party, I had no idea that it was to be held at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.  At One Birdcage Walk the building is just around the corner from Westminster Palace and about a 30 minute walk from Waterloo.  Fortunately, by the time my train arrived, the wind had died down and the rain had turned to drizzle.  Even though I’d been advised to wear glitter tights, my outfit of black trousers and a top seemed appropriate and also suitable for travelling.  My only concession to party-wear were my shoes:  pointy with kitten heels. Although my toes cried for mercy with every step I managed to see the evening out without crumpling in a corner and although the acoustics in the library were appalling, I was able to chat with a number of writing friends.

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Writing Britain (and more about notebooks)

The British Library’s current exhibition Writing Britain illustrates the changing landscape of the country over the last 1000 years with reference to items from the collection and loans from elsewhere. The exhibition includes artwork, original manuscripts and texts that explore a range of locations grouped according to the following sections:

  • Rural dreams
  • Dark Satanic Mills
  • Wild Places
  • Beyond the City
  • Cockney Visions
  • Waterlands

Interestingly, writing about Dorset features in several of the sections, including Maiden Castle by John Cowper Powys which tells the story of a supernatural presence at the iron-age hill fort near Dorchester. Jane Austen’s Persuasion is set in Bath and Lyme Regis, where Louisa Musgrave falls from the harbour wall (known as The Cobb) in an attempt to gain male attention. Harold Pinter’s script for The French Leiutenant’s Woman, based upon the novel by John Fowles is also set in Lyme Regis. A little further along the Dorset coast, Chesil Beach features as the location for Ian McEwan’s novel of the same name, where Edward and Florence spend their wedding night at a fictitional hotel on the beach.

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Should libraries charge reading groups for book loans?

Unlike many reading groups (where members purchase a copy of the book to discuss) in Dorset we are fortunate to have the support of the library service. Book groups in the county can reserve up to twelve copies of available books (there is a list of titles to select from – all texts are over a year old) and the books are loaned for an extended period of eight weeks.  Sets of books are collected from a local branch although due to the County Council funding cuts there are considerably fewer libraries than previously.

Enquiries were recently made to all 360 reading groups in Dorset to ask whether members would be willing to make a voluntary financial contribution for this service. 110 reading groups responded to the consultation with 83% indicating that they would be prepared to make a donation.  In my reading group much discussion continues. While the service is excellent, there is a concern that donations may subsidise other aspects of the library service rather than being a dedicated support for reading groups. There may also be a review of income generated by voluntary contributions to consider whether a set fee should be applied. Does this lead us along the slippery path of  requiring payment for any book loan? Perhaps this is an over-reaction but I’d be interested in hearing your views.  Please use the comments box to contribute to the discussion.