class="post-36626 post type-post status-publish format-standard has-post-thumbnail hentry category-opportunities"Playing with Fire: peer to peer survivor writing workshop

Jet Moon is a queer, working class, disabled writer, who works to create intimate spaces of sharing and visibility with marginalised communities. Working within the LGBTQI, kink, sex worker, disabled and survivor communities they have been part of for many years. Jet believes in collaborative methods as a way of building practical and transformative communities. 

“Writing has kept me alive, it’s one of the ways I’ve stayed here. In writing I’ve found tools to transmute rage, thaw grief, to get close to the past, and gain distance from it. To laugh and feel my feet on the ground. Writing has given me a way to connect with myself and others, to stand up in my experience and see that I am the authority on my own story.

“Playing With Fire: peer to peer survivor writing” is funded by Arts Council England. Giving me time and mentorship with Kirsty Logan to work on my book ‘ITSY’, to hold a writing workshop and produce a reading event as a platform for survivor writers.

My book ITSY (In The School Yard) is a queer coming-of-age story, about growing up in a poor suburb of South Auckland, NZ in the late 70s and early 80s, as disco was ceding to punk, amidst the tensions of gang violence and rape culture.

““Playing With Fire – peer to peer survivor voices” is a platform for survivor writing where we can feel supported, learn skills, and see each other. Developing hybrid live streamed and in person formats, Playing With Fire trials a model for beyond the pandemic, making a change towards inclusion. When people talk about ‘going back to normal’ I hear ‘being isolated at home again’. I want to make sure that myself and others who are similarly disabled are not excluded when that happens.”

About the Playing With Fire workshop

This is not a workshop about how to write the perfect sentence or develop page turning plot twists. It is a space where we can be together and explore the common issues in writing as survivors. How to give ourselves permission to write? Ways to get started and how to keep going? What are the obstacles and the rewards? To share our skills and gain more of a practical tool kit while connecting with how to use writing as a transformative process where we end up with something good at the end. 

There is no obligation to write about hard stuff! You might be a survivor with a swag of brilliant nature poems. This is a place where we can see each other, talk about difficulties and triumphs, and encourage each other. The second half of the workshop will be dedicated to sharing and listening so we each have an opportunity to read our writing within a safe and limited audience.

Workshop details

The workshop will take place on Zoom on Sunday 7 March from 11am to 3pm. 

There will be two 1.5 hour sessions with a one hour lunch break. The first session will focus on skills and ‘how to’, the second session will be a space for participants to share their writing, be a supportive audience, offer and receive limited critique. The workshop is for 15 participants.

The workshop will be BSL interpreted by Lynne Bateman and another BSL interpreter TBC.  

A limited number of writers may be invited to take part in our reading event hosted by Live Art Development Agency on Saturday 24 April.

Who the workshop is for

Women, non-binary and trans people who identify as survivors and live in the UK. This is an open definition of survivorship including but is not limited to surviving sexual violence. There are many things people survive, including homophobia, racism and transphobia. This workshop is not open to cis men. The workshop is open to all levels of writers but with an ethos of supporting the beginner writer toward gaining skills.

How to take part in the workshop

If you’d like to take part please complete the submission form: https://bit.ly/38Ub3pe 

The deadline for applying is: 5pm, Wednesday 10 February 2021.

The form will ask you for the following:

All applications to the workshop will be looked at by Jet Moon and we will let people know if they have a place in the workshop on w/c 22 February 2021.

If you have any questions or queries about the workshop please contact hello@spreadtheword.org.uk

Published 20 January 2021

class="post-36622 post type-post status-publish format-standard has-post-thumbnail hentry category-blogs category-london-writers-awards category-network-knowledge"The importance of self-care

Awardees on this year’s London Writers Awards will be benefitting from a self-care package of support from clinical psychologist Dr Su Yin Yap. Here she talks about the importance  of fostering positive self-care skills and resilience so that writers are better equipped to be able to pursue their creative practice and get the most out of the programme.  

“Many people are struggling to maintain their mental health during the coronavirus pandemic. An ongoing UK wide study of the mental health impact of coronavirus shows that the impact of the pandemic is felt by different groups of society in different ways, and is dependent on people’s social and/or economic context.  We are all in the same storm, but we are not all in the same boat.

Research shows that those who are impacted by socioeconomic inequalities have been more likely to experience anxiety, panic, hopelessness, and loneliness. They are also more likely to report that they are not coping well with the stress of the pandemic.

The picture is complex, and socioeconomic inequalities includes not only economic status, but also experiences of prejudice and discrimination based on gender, ethnicity, residency status, sexual orientation, or ability — all factors which can also contribute to mental distress.

As Spread the Word London Writers Awards is aimed at writers who identify as coming from a background currently underrepresented in publishing including disabled, LGBTQIA+, working class and writers of colour, this complex picture of the impact of the coronavirus on mental health is particularly relevant.

In light of these current challenges to mental health and well-being, the 2021 programme will include an integrated module designed and delivered by a clinical psychologist. A key component of this module is a focus on self-care and boosting well-being. Based on the principles of self-management and adult learning, the module has been created in consultation with Spread the Word. It draws on behaviour change theory, psychological research on exhaustion and burnout, positive psychology, and clinical and cognitive psychology.

In addition to this focus on self-care and well-being, the overarching aim of this module is help the awardees to thrive as writers and to equip awardees with the knowledge and skills to build and nourish a creative practice.

The arts, including music, dance, theatre, visual arts and writing, are increasingly recognised as having the potential to support health and wellbeing.  The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing has undertaken a major inquiry into the role of the arts in health and wellbeing and their latest report contains compelling evidence of ways in which arts engagement can improve the public’s health. This includes helping with self-management, improving mental health, and tackling health inequalities. Arts-on-prescription programmes have been shown to contribute to significant reductions in anxiety, depression and stress.

By supporting awardees in boosting their well-being and resilience, and equipping them with the knowledge and skills needed to gain the most benefit from their creativity, it is hoped that this new module and the wider programme will be a nourishing and sustaining opportunity for awardees during these challenging times.”

Dr Su Yin Yap has worked as a psychologist in the NHS for 14 years. Her role involves working therapeutically with adult clients, but also working with staff groups to develop their psychological skills and build their own resilience. During 2020, she played a particular role in supporting hospital staff with self-care skills, delivering workshops for health professionals and developing resources.  

Published 18 January 2021

class="post-36252 post type-post status-publish format-standard has-post-thumbnail hentry category-news"Announcing the 2021 London Writers Awards winners

Spread the Word, London’s writer development agency, is delighted to announce the names of the 30 writers who have been selected for the 2021 London Writers Awards. 

Thirty London-based writers from communities currently under-represented in UK publishing – writers of colour and working class, LGBTQIA+ and disabled writers – will be supported and nurtured through a ten-month development programme in preparation for meeting with agents and publishers and pursuing their writing careers. 

They are:

The 2021 programme will launch on Saturday 23 January, with our first London Writers Awards 2021 Writers’ Lab. Over the course of ten months, the Award recipients will attend fortnightly critical feedback groups to grow and develop their work, participate in nine masterclasses led by writers and industry professionals including authors Jarred McGinnisRowan Hisayo Buchanan and agent Felicity Trew, and receive a variety of bespoke development opportunities with editorsagents and the Spread the Word team. This year, we’ve introduced a clinical psychologist onto the programme to extend support on mental health and well-being. 

The programme will culminate with an industry networking day, where the awardees will be introduced to agents, editors and Spread the Word partners. 

Our London Writers 2021 Awards Judge, Angelique Tran Van Sang commented that: “Spread the Word has been making real and concrete change in an industry that is often reluctant to see the structural inequality at its heart. The London Writers Awards is a forward-thinking, long-term initiative that offers not just encouragement and advice, but also support, championing, knowledge and insight to underrepresented and marginalised voices.”

Rishi Dastidar, Chair of Spread the Word Trustees, says: I’m delighted that, once again, The London Writers Awards are able to showcase a new group of wonderfully talented writers from diverse backgrounds previously under-represented in traditional publishing. The programme remains unique in giving these individuals the chance to develop their skills so they are then ready to launch their professional writing careers. In both fiction and non-fiction genres, it’s a privilege to work with these writers so their stories can be told on the biggest possible stages.” 

Ruth Harrison, Director of Spread the Word said: “Equity and access are at the core of the London Writers Awards programme design. Being free does not make a programme equitable. The Awards are not only free at point of entry but also provide bursaries and an access fund to pay for, for example, travel expenses, laptop, data, scribe or interpreter. This combined with the mental health and self-care offer, one to one support and the alumni network gives each participant a holistic package of support and community to achieve their creative goals, making the Awards unique amongst the many diversity and inclusion initiatives currently taking place.” 

We’re absolutely delighted to have these incredible talented writers as part of our 2021 programme. To keep up to date with their development, visit: https://www.spreadtheword.org.uk/projects/london-writers-awards/.

The London Writers Awards has already led to a number of successes: 19 of the writers who have completed the programme now have agents, with 8 book deals confirmed including Natasha Brown’s Assembly, which was pre-empted by Hamish Hamilton at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

The Awards are financially supported by Arts Council England, the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and sponsored by the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society

#LondonWritersAwards2021

class="post-36508 post type-post status-publish format-standard has-post-thumbnail hentry category-archive category-opportunities"Free workshop on applying for Developing Your Creative Practice Funding

The Arts Council England’s Developing Your Creative Practice scheme is for individual artists to apply for lottery funding to develop a new piece of creative work and a new way of working.   You can apply for up to £10,000 towards for e.g., mentoring, time to create new work, research, training or professional development costs.

Whatever it is you want to do, the project you have in mind must be about making a step-change in the kind of work you produce and involve you writing in a different way (e.g. in a different literary form) from your previous work.  ACE also know that Covid-19 has had a significant impact and that many artists will need to develop themselves and their work to respond to the new environment.

About the workshop:

If you are not familiar with applying for grant funding, filling out an application form can be a daunting and baffling process.   Ruth Harrison and Eva Lewin from Spread the Word will be running a free online workshop for London based writers at 6.30pm – 8pm, Tuesday 26 January 2021. They will talk you through the different questions in the DYCP form to help you think about how you can respond to them.

Once you have attended the workshop you can send your draft application to Spread the Word for feedback in more detail.

What you will need for the workshop:

We strongly recommend you look at the successful applicant case studies on ACE’s website, https://www.artscouncil.org.uk/developing-your-creative-practice/dycp-case-studies.

This workshop will:

Places are limited and offered on a first come first served basis. However, because of the nature of the workshop we are only able to offer spaces to applicants whose ideas are suitable for this funding stream.  You will also need to show at least one year’s track record as a writer outside of a formal educational setting. This could include being published or produced (e.g.: by small independent publisher or producer or mainstream publisher/producer) published in magazines, shortlisted for writing competitions or expression of interest from an agent, editor or producer, or working professionally on the poetry circuit.

We anticipate that demand will be high for this workshop so please only book yourself a place if you are committed to attending.  The workshop is open to writers of any literary form including screenwriting, playwriting and graphic novels.  It is not open to artists working in other media including documentary film making.

Booking your place:

The workshop is FREE but places are limited.   To book a place, please email hello@spreadtheword.org.uk with:

Please tell us about your access needs. The Zoom workshop will be captioned.

Put DYCP Workshop and your name in the email subject line.

Closing date: 10am, Tuesday 19 January 

We will let you know by Wednesday 20 January (5pm) if you have a place on the workshop.

The workshop will take place on Zoom, 6.30pm – 8pm, Tuesday 26 January and is free to attend.

Published 13 January 2020

class="post-36517 post type-post status-publish format-standard has-post-thumbnail hentry category-opportunities"Free workshop on applying for ACE Project Grants Funding

Arts Council England’s National Lottery Project Grants is open for funding applications. This is an open access funding stream for arts, museums and library projects. The fund is for individual artists, community and cultural organisations. They are keen for more individual artists to apply and be funded and have made changes to the grant to support this happening.

About project grants

Project Grants supports a broad range of not-for-profit projects that create and sustain quality work and help people to engage with arts and culture. The fund supports development by allowing artists, cultural practitioners and organisations to work in new ways and to get their work out to new audiences. Engaging audiences, live or online, is the key distinguishing feature of this fund – it is not primarily designed to support your time to write or mentoring unless these are integral to the engagement activity. You can also apply to research and develop a project idea without going on to fully-fledged ‘production’ of the project. An individual artist can apply for up to £15,000.

About the workshop

If you are not familiar with applying for grant funding, filling out an application form can be a daunting and baffling process. Ruth Harrison and Eva Lewin from Spread the Word will be running a free zoom workshop for London based writers at 4pm-5.30pm, Tuesday 9 February.

We will talk you through the changes to the fund and the different questions in the Project Grants form to help you think about what you will need to have in place for Project Grants funding. Once you have attended the workshop you can send a one-page outline of your project proposal to Spread the Word for 30 minutes phone feedback.

Who is this workshop for?

This workshop is designed to support:

What you will need for the workshop:

This workshop will:

We are only able to offer spaces to applicants whose project ideas are suitable for this particular funding stream. We anticipate that demand will be high so please only book yourself a place if you are committed to attending. This workshop is not open to artists working in other artistic forms outside of literature, including screenwriting and documentary film making.

Booking your place

The workshop is FREE but places are limited. To book a place, please email hello@spreadtheword.org.uk with:

Please let us know if you have any access needs. The Zoom workshop will be captioned.

Please put Project Grant Workshop and your name in the email subject line.

Closing date: midnight, Sunday 31 January

We will contact you by 3 February (5pm) to let you know if you have a place on the workshop.

The workshop will take place on Zoom, 4pm-5.30pm, Tuesday 9 February and is free to attend.

Published 13 January 2021

class="post-36485 post type-post status-publish format-standard has-post-thumbnail hentry category-pocket-guides"A Pocket Guide to Creating Authenticity in Your Writing

Want to take your writing craft to the next level?  This brilliant Pocket Guide from Saeida Rouass will encourage you to delve deeper into the world of research to apply new techniques to your creative project. Read on for more…

The conflict of writing is that while it is a solitary task, you are never truly alone. Your reader paces behind you, waiting to be seen and anticipating the tale you hope to weave for them. While you may choose to ignore them for as long as you need to, at some point you will have to pull up a chair and invite them to sit down. Ultimately you are not just writing for yourself, you are also writing to be read.

Acknowledging that your reader is always present, a ghostly figure lurking somewhere in the background, can be liberating. Because once you know they are there, you can turn your attention to what it is you want to give them.

Ask yourself: what is the experience I want the reader to have as they turn the pages of my story? Spending some time listing the feelings you want them to have can help in shaping an authentic emotional experience for them. I want them to be uncomfortable, challenged, excited, horrified, hopeful and moved. I want so much for them.

Once you have a sense of the emotional journey you want to take your reader on or the moment you want to put them in, you then have to turn your attention to a more practical question. How am I going to create this complex and diverse emotional experience for them?

There are an infinite number of considerations a writer has to process to put and keep their reader in the moment. Prose, structure, characterisation, plot and pace all come into play. Research sits behind them all. The stuff you do when you are not actually writing. The rabbit holes you find yourself down in the dead of the night, and the details you seek to verify over and over are critical to drawing your reader into a world of your own creation and convincing them its real, that what they feel is real. All those hours of research may never actually make it to the page in a concrete way, but they are hugely important to your reader’s experience. In my novel Assembly of the Dead there is a line: But, the sugar trade was suffering from malicious rumours.” It took me two days to write that line. Well two days of research into the sugar trade in Morocco at the turn of the 20th century and about twenty seconds to write it. It was worth it because that one line set a historical context and a tension for a character.

So, research is an integral part of the writing process that is never complete. It is one of the many things that will make the world you write feel real for the reader and for you. The thought can be daunting but keeping in mind a few guiding principals can help stop it from overwhelming you.

Recognise that Everything You Encounter Has Already Been Curated.

In his work on the Haitian revolution, Michel-Rolph Trouillot argued silences enter the historical production process at three points: the moment of fact creation (making of archives), the moment of fact retrieval (making of narrative) and the moment of retrospective significance (making of history in the final instance).

Whether you are mining archives in a library, searching the Internet for photographs, listening to audio material, watching people interact at a dinner party whatever bit of research you are doing it’s important to recognise that everything you encounter has already been curated by someone else. Your object of interest is a product of other people’s choices, conscious or otherwise, what they chose to include and exclude.

Research is not about arriving at some objective truth, it is about interrogating a thing, person, or moment to find its relevance to your truth. Knowing this opens the door to your own interpretation of the fact when telling your story because you can dig for the stuff that others thought not worthy of inclusion, the silences Trouillot mentions. That does not mean you should disregard the facts. Distorting simple facts to fit your narrative can destroy your reader’s belief in your story.

Pay Attention To Detail, But Don’t Get Lost in it

Detail makes your story real. It adds an authenticity that can be sublime for the reader and in some ways shows them that you see them, you know they are smart and they appreciate the effort you have gone to. Suppose you want to write a scene of a family at home around a dinner table in late February 1986 London. What establishes the 1986 of this scene? You have to ask yourself a set of questions. What would this family most likely eat for dinner in 1986? What would they be wearing? Is the radio playing and if so what song? How is their home decorated? What’s the weather like outside? What were the social tensions of 1986 London? It’s all research and it’s important.

But, there is a risk you lose yourself in the detail or want to include all of it because you just love it so much. Put the pen down, step away from the laptop. Curate! Make choices, include and exclude according to what moves your story forward be it in plot, character realisation or context. If it doesn’t matter to anyone in your story that Whitney Houston was at number one with ‘How Will I Know’ in February 1986, then I’m sorry, I love you Whitney, but you have to go. (Note: Whitney will always be important.)

Ask Yourself: Would This Fly with the Experts?

While I was writing my novel set in Morocco in 1906 I kept asking myself what would an expert of Morocco at the turn of the 20th century think? Would this scene fly with them? If it will fly with them, it will fly with a general reader. If you are writing a scene of a brain surgeon performing brain surgery, an actual brain surgeon should read it and think “Yep, that is what I do in my job.” It’s a standard to set for yourself when writing. When you set the bar high for accuracy the details you include add a realness that can be appreciated by both the overly informed and completely oblivious reader. If what the characters are doing is not realistic in the world you created, the reader’s vicarious experience will likely be inauthentic.

Keep the Information Organised

Finally, keep the information you collect from your research organised and easily accessible. It just makes life easier and retrieval of that information less painful. Store it in a safe place in an organised fashion be it chronologically, by theme, by significance to character – whatever works for you. Trust me, looking for a piece of information and not being able to find it on your overpopulated desktop can break the spell you find yourself in when lost in writing. By keeping the information organised you minimise the interruptions. That includes details you may have discarded in first draft. Don’t throw any of it away because you might desperately need it later.

For further reading on this topic, I recommend:

And finally, here’s my top research tip: Academic journal articles on the theme you are writing about are a great resource to interrogate the deeper questions your story is exploring.


Saeida Rouass is the writer of Assembly of the Dead, a historical detective novel set in Marrakesh in 1906 and inspired by the true story of the ‘Moorish Jack the Ripper.’ She is also the author of Eighteen Days of Spring in Winter and has contributed to the anthology The Ordinary Chaos of Being Human – Tales of Many Muslim Worlds (2019) and We Wrote in Symbols; Love and Erotica by Arab Women (2021). She has been published by the Independent, Newsweek, Skin Deep and Wasafari Magazine and is currently working on the sequel to Assembly of the Dead.

Published 13 January 2021