Futures in the Making is a free creative writing workshop series for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) emerging writers wishing to deepen their writing practice, with particular invitation to aspiring LGBTQ writers of colour.
Funded by Arts Council England and led by Olumide Popoola, this opportunity will offer 12 emerging or aspiring prose writers space to write in a supportive environment, individual feedback on their creative work, an invitation to attend three sessions with industry experts on professional possibilities in the field of writing and the chance to share their work in a showcase at a central venue with established poets and writers, Joelle Taylor and Keith Jarrett.
Interested? To enter, you must:
You can have some publishing experience but this is a scheme for emerging writers who want to develop and who would like some direction on how to take their writing to the next level.
You must NOT:
The deadline to apply is Thursday 10 May 2018 at 5pm.
The workshops will be held at Islington Central Library 2 Fieldway Cres, Highbury East, London N5 1PF on 10 Wednesday evenings between June and November 2018, unless otherwise indicated. Please only apply if you are able to attend these workshops.
Terms and Conditions
Futures in the Making is a free creative writing workshop series. The workshops cannot be taken on a one-off basis. The scheme will not offer representation, publishing deals or other professional writing opportunities but writers will gain insights in some of those areas. The shortlisting for participants will be done by Spread the Word, one of our partners, and the project leader, writer Olumide Popoola.
The workshop dates (subject to change where necessary, though all will be held in London)
Wednesday 13 June 2018: Islington Central Library
Wednesday 20 June 2018: Islington Central Library
Wednesday 27 June 2018: Islington Central Library
Wednesday 11 July 2018: Islington Central Library
Wednesday 18 July 2018: Islington Central Library
Wednesday 1 August 2018 (location tbc)
— Summer break —
Wednesday 19 September 2018: Islington Central Library
Wednesday 26 September 2018: Islington Central Library
Wednesday 17 October 2018: Islington Central Library
Wednesday 31 October 2018: Islington Central Library
photo of Olumide Popoola © Deborah Moses-Sanks
In your course you will be looking at women and females only. Why is there a need to focus explicitly on female authors?
Literature is just a microcosm of the wider world, so it simply reflects the society we live in that there isn’t always a much attention on female authors. In this, I take a historical perspective, in that women have been systematically oppressed, and this filters through into how we experience literature. Although there is a lot of change, publishing is still dominated by white cis-gendered men. The education system reflects this bias, and so when I was thinking of this workshop I was thinking about how we can create an alternative canon that highlights work by women, but also other intersections such as sexuality, class, and race.
Are there any particular writers that you believe have been overlooked, but shouldn’t be? Male or female?
I think it’s so easy to overlook so many great writers, especially now, because there are so many. Thinking about all the books you won’t be able to read in your lifetime becomes a bit overwhelming. Part of my desire in wanting to do this workshop was to also be able to discover new writers that I haven’t explored. I hope that the process will be collaborative as well, in that it provokes discussion about such writers. Recently, I was talking with some poets about the PN Review’s piece on Hollie McNish and other ‘young female writers’ and although we disagreed with so much of it (in my opinion, it comes across misogynistic and classist), we compared it with the feeling we could all relate to when, for example, a particular poetry video goes viral, but both doesn’t feel representative of the poetry community and doesn’t live up to the quality of so many of our peers who don’t get as much attention. The difference in this case, I think, is that this particular article seemed to want to reinforce this divide between the page and stage, which I hope not to exist within this workshop. For me, I like to discover a vast range of writing, whether something that is relatable and easily digestible, to something that is more challenging but still provocative, for example, I still need to return to Francesca Lisette’s Teens because there are so many words I need to look up in the dictionary. This answer is quite tangential, but my short answer would probably be Dorothy Parker. This is because I feel like she is someone whose work I should have learnt about at school, but instead I learnt about her from the film Girl, Interrupted.
How has reading work by women shaped your craft?
Some of my favourite writers are men, so I don’t know if women’s writing necessarily influences me more, but I just think that representation is important, particularly in school. I work in education as well as being a writer, and I studied a module in Children’s Literature where I found out that boys are less likely to read books with a female protagonist, whilst girls will usually read both. If Harry Potter was actually a story about a girl, would it be as popular? So, I guess that reading work by women has shaped my craft in that by existing it has meant that I have role models that have inspired me to keep writing and not to give up. Aside from that, and something that touches on that PN Review piece, I think reading women has influenced me in terms of honesty. Having just read bell hooks’ book all about love, she talks a lot about lies in society, and so there’s always something interesting about truth, perhaps because as women we are taught to keep certain things hidden, so it’s almost like a refusal to do that, a rebellion. I also identify with what Warsan Shire says about her poetry, in that she doesn’t like to say she ‘performs’ her poems, because it implies there’s something inauthentic about it. I really relate to that, which is partly why I often say I’m going to ‘do’ a poem, much to my mum’s dismay (a drama teacher, and even more of a stickler for grammar than I am, and I’ve been referred to as ‘the grammar police’ before). Someone once criticised my poetry by saying “it’s very feminine”. In itself, not a criticism, but communication is only about 7% of the words you say, and his tone of voice was very clear he thought that was a bad thing. So, part of what inspires me about other women is those who embrace this ‘feminine’ label, in that I write a lot about emotions, honestly, and about women’s experiences. Equally, I enjoy writers who don’t, because I like diversity.
Are there any writers who have been influential on you?
I did my dissertation at university on Sarah Kane’s 4.48 Psychosis, and I think when you study texts at this level it just gives you a chance to really understand and absorb yourself in the work, and it definitely influenced my own writing at the time. I am influenced by a wide variety of texts when writing poetry, so I like to read novel, non-fiction, and scripts. It was Malika Booker who told me to read David Cale’s Blue Fir Trees, and that is a piece that always sticks with me. Although it’s a monologue, it feels really poetic to me in both the use of repetition and the imagery. I’m influenced in so many ways by so many writers.
Why do we need to read more diverse writing? How can this help us as writers and readers?
On a very basic level, the opposite of diversity is that you end up with something that’s really tedious and boring. More than that, I believe that reading a diverse range of writing helps build connections between people in real life, because you’re getting inside their head, learning about their world and their experiences. There’s a Regina Spektor song I might have misheard as it should be ‘there’s nothing wrong with them that a thousand bucks can’t fix.’ I misheard ‘bucks’ and ‘books’ and it’s a song about prisoners. So, my arguably incorrect interpretation of that is that reading diversely makes us better people and makes the world a better place.
class="post-12429 post type-post status-publish format-standard has-post-thumbnail hentry category-news-opportunities category-opportunities"PLATFORM Showcase Event
PLATFORM is Spread the Word’s support and development programme for emerging writers. Over the last few months seven London-based writers have had the opportunity to be innovative, experimental and take risks with their writing. The aim of the scheme is to support emerging writers of all genres to push themselves and their work, and help them to develop their ideas through from original conception to performance ready pieces.
The writers were matched with a mentor for three mentoring sessions over three months and each received a micro-bursary of £500 to help develop their idea. They also will be attending a Writer Development Lab, an intensive writing workshop, where they will be able to put the finishing touches on their piece.
On Monday 19 March they have the opportunity to present their developed piece of work at the PLATFORM Showcase. This special event will take place at Canada Water Culture Space, and is the chance for the writers to share their work, and for the audience to see great writing from emerging talent.
We would love you to join us and celebrate the culmination of the PLATFORM programme. The showcase will begin and end with a drinks reception and networking opportunities. This is an opportunity for writers to support their peers, agents and publishers to discover new talent, and everyone to celebrate the power of words.
The writers on the scheme are: Ed Cottrell, Vanessa Stephen, Belinda Zhawi, Anna James, Ollie Charles, Han Smith and Jessica Oghenegweke.
The mentoring sessions were led by Spread the Word’s Associate Writers: Simon Mole, Ruby Cowling, Sabo Kpade, Nick Field, Jarred McGinnis, Laila Sumpton and Jasmine Ann Cooray.
Monday 19 March 2018
6.30 pm – 8.30 pm
Canada Water Culture Space, 21 Surrey Quays Rd, London SE16 7AR
Please register for a ticket here.
Supported by the Cockayne Trust.class="post-12417 post type-post status-publish format-standard has-post-thumbnail hentry category-news category-news-opportunities category-opportunities"Seeking new trustees
London’s writer development agency Spread the Word is looking for three new Trustees.
Spread the Word is here to help London’s writers make their mark – on the page, the screen and in the world. We do this by kickstarting the careers of London’s best new writers, and energetically campaigning to ensure that publishing truly reflects the diversity of the city. We support the creative and professional development of writing talent, by engaging those already interested in literature and those who will be, and by advocating on behalf of both.
We’re specifically looking for Trustees with skills in legal, financial and HR – but of equal importance is finding people who share our ambition to support writers from diverse and underprivileged backgrounds to ensure that Londoners get to read, hear and see stories that are truly reflective of our capital city.
If you think you would enjoy the challenge of helping us deliver this work and share our commitment to writers and writing, then we want to hear from you.
As a potential Trustee you will have:
While the role is voluntary, you’ll need to attend four board meetings per year at the Spread the Word office in Deptford, South East London and the occasional or sub-committee meeting or event.
If you’re interested please send a CV and a short covering note explaining why you’d like to become a Trustee, including what skills and expertise you would bring to Spread the Word, to Rishi Dastidar (Chair of Board) at betarish at gmail dot com by Friday 6 April 2018.
For more information on Trustee Responsibilities and Person Specification, please download this pdf:
class="post-12404 post type-post status-publish format-standard has-post-thumbnail hentry category-interview"An Interview with Mary Jean Chan
Mary Jean Chan is a poet, editor and academic from Hong Kong. Her writing has been published widely and she was shortlisted for the 2017 Forward Prize for Best Single Poem as well as other notable awards. Her debut collection is forthcoming from Faber & Faber (2019).
She will be facilitating Spread the Word’s first online poetry course of the year, ‘Deconstructing the Lyric “I’ in Poetry’, which will run from 5 April-16 May. We spoke to Mary Jean to find out more about her creative ventures, what participants can expect from the course and any top tips she has for new poets….
Congratulations on being shortlisted for the Forward Prize last year. That must’ve been a very special moment. What impact has this had on your poetry, from both a creative point of view and for your career?
Thank you! That was indeed a very special moment in my young writing career, since I was able to share the stage with some of my favourite poets on the night of the awards ceremony, and to chat with some of them in the green room. However, the most important lesson I’ve learnt is that if a particular set of judges happen to like your work enough to shortlist you for a prize, then hurray! If not, the work continues, because as my PhD supervisor Jo Shapcott reminds me: at the end of the day, it’s about you and your relationship to the blank page – nothing else really matters. It was a huge honour to have been shortlisted in the Single Poem category, but there is always more to be written.
As well as writing poetry, you’ve also written essays, most recently an article on Claudia’s Rankine’s Citizen that was published in The Journal of American Studies. How much does your critical work influence your poetry?
I’ve been grappling with the relationship between my critical and creative work, and it continues to be a rather fraught one, if I’m being honest! Sometimes, I keep the two worlds quite separate, but the nature of working on a PhD in Creative Writing is that you have to juggle both concurrently, so I do let my mind wander into more creative territory when I’m writing my critical essays, and might allow theory to seep into my creative work, if it happens to suit the poem I’m writing or revising. Increasingly, I’ve been trying to think about poetry as a form of research; or, as some critics might put it, to think about “practice as research”.
Claudia Rankine’s poetry is one of the key texts on your course – as well as Nuar Alsadir and Solmaz Sharif. Who, for you, are the most important poets out there?
You’ve named a few of them! There are so many poets whose work I draw inspiration from, so I wouldn’t attempt an exhaustive list. I also wouldn’t suggest that one poet was more “important” than another; it really depends on where you are with your writing and what your preoccupations are. Some of my current favourites include Kei Miller, Andrew McMillan, Emily Berry, Helen Mort, Vahni Capildeo, Sarah Howe, Warsan Shire and Mona Arshi. In terms of older influences, I would include Adrienne Rich, Audre Lorde, Rainer Maria Rilke, Alfred Tennyson, Walt Whitman, W.H. Auden, Yusef Komunyakaa, Langston Hughes, Carolyn Forché, Pablo Neruda and Octavio Paz.
The course itself has a very specific focus – why have you selected the Lyric I as a focus and what are the benefits of this approach? What do you believe participants will get out of the course and how will it enhance their creative work?
I thought it would be interesting to examine some of the discourses and debates that have been raging around the “lyric I”, and to offer course participants instances where poets have attempted to subvert or complicate this first-person approach to (lyric) poetry. It’s also an excuse to teach some of the poets I love! I think course participants will have a chance to delve into some exciting contemporary poetry, and will hopefully gain inspiration that might spark new directions and approaches in their creative work.
And finally, Mary Jean, what top tips do you have for new writers thinking about starting to write poetry or new poets at the beginning of their career?
Returning to the idea of apprenticeship, learn as much as you can! Read widely, take courses (both in-person and online), go to readings. I often find poets to be great thinkers, so if you know that a poet also writes scintillating prose (e.g. Adrienne Rich was a profound essayist), read both their creative and critical work to get a better sense of their thoughts and ideas. Good luck!
“It’s been an absolute privilege to work with both Caleb Femi and Spread the Word on a Young Laureate exchange between London and Singapore. Ruth and Tom from Spread the Word made me feel welcome even before my plane even touched down in London, and Caleb and I had already spent a weekend plotting and planning when he was in Singapore for the Writer’s Festival. I was looking forward to learning more from his incredible work.
Caleb and I led a professional development workshop called ‘Engaging Young People with Poetry’ at the National Poetry Library at the Southbank Centre. It was aimed at helping writers who wanted to develop their skills in working with young people in different settings. We had a full table of participants whose backgrounds ranged from working in therapy for trauma to educators working with children who had learning disabilities. As the evening progressed and the conversation continued, it became evident that I was learning as much from these remarkable people as they might have thought they were learning from Caleb and myself.
Our work continued the next day at the Menier Gallery where we were facilitating workshops for young people in relation to issues of anxiety and mental health. The workshop was structured around an art exhibition curated by the London Brain Project a fantastic non-profit organisation which aims to engage the public with brain sciences and mental health through the arts. It was an honour to encounter so many interesting and intelligent young people and the stories that emerged from their writing.
After a productive morning and afternoon spent in workshops with bright young minds, it was time to head to the Royal Academy where Caleb was reading alongside two other poets, Bridget Minamore and James Massiah. I couldn’t have thought of a better ending to the time I had spent working with Spread the Word than an evening spent having a drink and listening to some brilliant poems.
I’m hoping to return to the UK later this year, and soak up even more of the great poetry scene here.”
Pooja’s collection Love is an Empty Barstool, is published by Math Paper Press. You can find our more about Pooja at poojanansi.com.
The young Laureate exchange was supported by the British Council in partnership with Writers’ Centre Norwich, UK as part of the International Literature Showcase.