Author Carmen Marcus has teamed up with the North Yorkshire bookshop Book Corner to offer aspiring working-class writers a free course on developing a strategy to write professionally.
Marcus is running the course with Jenna Warren, owner and manager of the bookshop in Saltburn, with funding support from the Booksellers Association.
Based on personal experience and needs identified from other underrepresented writers Marcus created ‘The Writer’s Plan’, a five-step route-map to build confidence, provide practical insights on how to balance writing and life as well as accessing development opportunities and learning how to break into the industry.
The course will comprise five, two-hour sessions and take place bi-weekly between the 22nd September and 17th November on a Sunday afternoon at the Book Corner. The sessions will be free for all successful applicants and a travel bursary of up to £20 per applicant per session will be awarded to support travel costs.
Marcus has been publicly urging for more working class voices to be heard in publishing since hearing Kit de Waal discussing the issue on a BBC Radio 4 programme “Where are all the Working Class Writers?” in 2017. She formed a collective of writers from working class writers in response to Waal’s comments in December 2017. Last February she shared the first step of the ‘The Writer’s Plan’ in a Bookseller blog last February, accompanying the results of The Bookseller’s survey into class. She has been sharing further steps on her blog.
“As a working-class writer and creative facilitator, I have encountered many barriers, personal and practical, to breaking into the industry,” Marcus told The Bookseller. “Knowing how to overcome these barriers is as much part of a writer’s life as the daily wordcount. Writers are told to ‘just write’ – from primary school to conference workshops as though that’s involved. But not all writers are supported by a scaffolding of confidence and the practical means to just write, especially those from underrepresented groups.”
Marcus, whose debut How Saints Die (Vintage) was longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize in 2018, said: “It takes courage to tell a story you’ve never seen on the bookshelves before, it takes confidence to believe your story belongs and it takes industry knowledge get it published. So, before we can just write we have to build that scaffolding of confidence and practical know how - to do that we need a plan.”
She said that the funding from the Bookseller’s Association gives the team the chance to trial the plan with the hope of getting more new voices on the bookshelves.
Warren said: “I’m keen to see a more diverse range of voices on my bookshop shelves, and I feel that writers from the North East are particularly underrepresented in the publishing world. Carmen and I are very excited to read the submissions.”
Writer Helen Anderson, who has been following Marcus’ plan, said: “By working through Carmen’s Writers’ Plan with a trusted buddy, I have re-defined my writing goals, and identified what I need in order to achieve them. It is wonderful to have confidence that my goals are within reach. I finally feel that I am – and deserve to be - a writer.”
Submissions open on the 1st July and close on the 26th August 2019.
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