class="post-23833 post type-post status-publish format-standard hentry category-news"The impact of COVID-19 on our work

Like all organisations, our response to the COVID-19 outbreak is evolving continually as we monitor advice from the Government and Public Health England.

Our priority is the health, safety and wellbeing of Spread the Word permanent and freelance staff, our writers and artists, Trustees, programme participants and the communities we work with. This page will be continually updated with new information as and when we have it.

All staff are now working out of the office. This means that we will not have access to our office phone. Please email us instead (hello@spreadtheword.org.uk). We are working it out as we go; so we may not get it right all the time. Please bear with us.

We are continually working on how the pandemic will impact our work.

We have decided that our regular programme of masterclasses, workshops and events at Ideas Store Whitechapel scheduled between now until June will be postponed. We will pay all our workshop leaders and event speakers to play our small role in supporting them. Our online courses and one to ones (delivered remotely) will go ahead as planned. We have been in touch with all people who booked places at our live events that are now postponed and offered refunds.

Our London Short Story Prize 2019 Anthology launch event scheduled for 23 April at the Peckham Pelican, will also not be taking place. We are currently planning how we can celebrate the writers, their stories and the anthology.

We are postponing This Is Our Place, our partnership nature writing project with London Wildlife Trust for a year – we hope workshops will take place in June 2021.

Our Room 9, open to writers each Thursday, will be closed from this week until further notice.

With regards to our other areas of work, we are currently planning what we will do. When we have updates or changes to our programmes, we will email the core people involved, and then update this page.

We’ll be posting further updates on our social media (Twitter, Facebook and Instagram) and via our newsletter.

This is a challenging time for all of us. We will continue to work to support communities of writers, whilst prioritising people and taking care of each other. Look after yourselves and stay safe.

Published 17 March 2020

Updated 18 March 2020

class="post-23819 post type-post status-publish format-standard has-post-thumbnail hentry category-news"Deptford Literature Festival Cancelled

It is with great regret that we have taken the decision to cancel Deptford Literature Festival on Saturday March 14th, following the escalation of the COVID-19 outbreak. 

We’re saddened to do this, but feel it is the best decision for protecting the safety and health of our audiences, partners, artists, staff and volunteers; and that our duty of care to them, outweighs the Festival taking place at this point.

For ticket-holders to paid events, we will be reimbursing all ticket purchases as soon as possible. Please bear with us as we process these payments over the next few days.

We’re very sorry to do have to do this, but hope that we’ll be able to welcome audiences to Deptford Literature Festival in the not too distant future.

class="post-23621 post type-post status-publish format-standard has-post-thumbnail hentry category-think"A Pocket Guide to Using Memory in Fiction Writing

Ahead of her workshop on using Memory as a Tool in Fiction Writing, Tice Cin shares with Spread the Word her pocket guide on this writing technique and how writers can learn to harness their memories to enhance their creative work.

“Let’s begin with asking WHAT you are trying to achieve with your project? Do you want other people to read it? It is helpful to know what you expect for your creative work and whether you are comfortable to edit your work in a way that suits what you want to share. If you want to share work because it is good but worry it may appear too personal, remember that what reaches the page is your choice. Each choice you make can be tailored neatly. Get creative with how you distance a particular detail from a truth that you’re not ready to share. For example, consider whether you can experiment in the presentation of a moment – could it be reimagined in a psychedelic way perhaps?

A way to BEGIN THIS PROCESS could be by drawing. I think doodling is super helpful for building a specific scene informed by memories. I often draw out the different kitchens I’ve been in to see if there’s a story there. Other writers go on a memory journey through an object, they draw out scenarios like a cartoon sketch that have a continuous object but different context each time. For example, when travelling through a memory with an object you might find a girl reads a book in one stage of the memory, but later this book travels into another scene as a doorstop.

You can PLAY against the mood of how a scene feels by playing a soothing song on repeat. I think repeating recognisable rhythms help us to reach a meditative state which help distance us from the writing in a potentially helpful and hypnotic way. Something I’d be careful about is playing a triggering sad song on repeat in order to get the writing flowing; I don’t believe that writing has to be like squeezing drops from a stone – we’ve placed boulders in places for a reason.

You don’t need to dig deeper into a difficult mood to write something and actually having external tools to improve your mindset while you write is much healthier and sustainable. Memory recall is difficult, if there are particularly traumatic memories that you are going to be writing about then please make sure you HAVE A PLAN for what you are going to do after your writing session to self-soothe. I particularly recommend timing sessions so you’re not writing for too long and you have a timer that structures your session, bringing you out of that space.

As you write, remember to CHECK IN WITH YOURSELF. Are you breathing deep? Are you cosy? Have you unclenched your jaw? Paying attention to your body whilst writing is important so that you can gauge when you need to need to stop, and how to monitor your responses in order to keep writing comfortably through difficult memories. This is especially worth considering when writing about body memories, sometimes when we write about memories linked to the body we can feel that in our current bodies. My advice with this is to have grounding items with you while you write, like a pressure ball or sniffing lavender oil to help re-situate you into the present.

An important point to remember is that this is FICTION that you are producing: that your characters are not you, they may have similarities but you have already made something anew by writing them into your fiction project. In line with this, your story is not your life story; it will borrow elements from your life or be coloured significantly from your life, but that’s not the same thing. Fiction can release you to write beyond what you know – just make sure you research it well if writing out of your own experience, and make peace that some of the artefacts of our own lives will be present as we write through ourselves.

WRITING GROUPS are incredibly useful, particularly when applying this particular process to your work. Being part of a group where you can share memories and details about your own life offers continuity and can keep you focusing on the mechanisms in the story.

To GET YOU STARTED with this particular technique, I’d like to share these brilliant think pieces with you, which offer an extended insight into this topic and the value that memories can play in your writing. I hope they inspire you.”

Nikesh Shukla on writing your emotional truth (sign up to his creative writing newsletter, it’s amazing!): https://nikesh.substack.com/p/writing-tips-7-real-life?utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=web&utm_source=copy

Rebecca Liu on subverting expectations of personal writing: http://www.anothergaze.com/making-millennial-woman-feminist-capitalist-fleabag-girls-sally-rooney-lena-dunham-unlikeable-female-character-relatable/

Romesh Gunesekera on short memories, and the importance of remembering through writing: https://www.outlookindia.com/newsscroll/it-is-always-dangerous-to-forget-romesh-gunesekera/1654529

Orhan Pamuk on the tensions between reading fiction as reality: https://www.theguardian.com/books/video/2010/apr/20/orhan-pamuk-museum-innocence


Tice Cin is an interdisciplinary artist from Tottenham, North London. An awardee of the Literary Fiction category for London Writers Awards, she has just completed her first novel. Her work has been published by Skin Deep Magazine and commissioned by venues including Battersea Arts Centre and St Paul’s Cathedral. An alumnus of the poetry community Barbican Young Poets, she now creates digital art as part of Design Yourself – a collective based at Barbican Centre – exploring what it means to be human.

Tice will be running an evening workshop on ‘Using Memory as a Tool in Fiction Writing’ on 24 March, 6:30pm-8:30pm at Idea Store Whitechapel. You can book your tickets here: https://www.spreadtheword.org.uk/events/memory-as-a-tool-in-fiction-writing/

Members of the London Writers Network get discounted rates: https://www.spreadtheword.org.uk/projects/london-writers-network/

Published 10 March 2020

class="post-23430 post type-post status-publish format-standard has-post-thumbnail hentry category-opportunities"This Is Our Place – a callout for writers to lead a nature writing project in London

This Is Our Place: A callout for lead writers

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Update 18 March 2020: We are sorry to announce that Spread the Word and London Wildlife Trust have decided to postpone our This Is Our Place nature writing project for a year. We are truly sorry to do this, but this decision has been made to ensure the health and wellbeing of all potential project participants and writers. We considered alternative approaches – postponing to alternative as yet unknown dates in the Autumn or moving the project online, and we didn’t feel either approach is right.

The project is about connecting with nature, each other and words. We are hopeful that by postponing for a year, we will be offering something out for people who will enjoy and need it more than ever. The project funders have been informed and are supportive of this decision. We are sorry to everyone who was looking forward to the project, and grateful for your understanding. Project updates will take place on Spread the Word and London Wildlife Trust website and social media channels. Any writers who have applied for the role of writer in residence will be eligible for the role next year.

—-

“Not everything in the forest is lovely and not all nature writing is to the taste of every reader. But more voices need to be heard from ethnic-minority writers and from a wider range of identities and backgrounds.” – Robert Macfarlane, the New Statesman

Spread the Word, in partnership with the London Wildlife Trust, are running This Is Our Place; a nature writing project celebrating London’s wildlife, nature and the diverse communities of the city through words. This Is Our Place exists to reimagine how we live in London and reflect on our individual and collective relationship to nature and place.   We want to see nature writing being created and read by a multiplicity of people, reflective of the backgrounds of the citizens of our great city.

Nature writing (poetry, nonfiction or fiction about the natural environment) is a powerful way of connecting people to the natural environment via creative self-reflection, mindfulness, and imagination. It opens up the conversation and supports the exploration key themes such as climate emergency, healing and spirituality.

There is currently a bias towards publishing white, middle-class nature writers. London, as one of the world’s most vibrant and green capital cities (47% green), is the perfect setting to address this imbalance of voices, engage local communities with nature writing and connect people to their local green spaces.

This Is Our Place is funded by the Emergence Foundation.

What is This Is Our Place? 

This Is Our Place is a project that will open up space for Londoners to write about nature. People can get involved by:

Writers-in-residence – the brief 

The brief is available to download as a PDF here or you can read on in this web page. We are currently looking for four writers-in-residence for the project. Writers can be poets / fiction or creative non-fiction writers. Each writer will be given a residency in a London Wildlife Trust location.
Each writer is asked to deliver:

  1. Two nature writing workshops of 2 hours in length for up to 20 adult participants in June in one of these locations on the specified dates and times. (Please note that there will be two different writers in residence for the Centre for Wildlife Gardening in Peckham workshops.):

    a. Centre for Wildlife Gardening – Peckham

Sunday 7 June 2.00 – 4pm and Sunday 14 June 2.00 – 4pm

         b. Woodberry Wetlands – Stoke Newington

Saturday 6 June 1pm – 3pm and Saturday 13 June 1pm – 3pm

        c. Centre for Wildlife Gardening – Peckham

Thursday 18 June 11am – 1pm and Wednesday 24 June 11am – 1pm

        d. Walthamstow Wetlands

Friday 19 June 2pm – 4pm and Saturday 27 June 10am – 12pm

  1. Co-running one of two nature writing walks at one of these locations at the specified date and time:

    a. Walthamstow Wetlands

    Sunday 21 June 10am – 12pm

    b. Woodberry Wetlands – Stoke Newington
    Sunday 28 June 10am – 12pm

  1. Judging the This Is Our Place nature writing competition;

  2. Writing a new piece of no more than 1500 words for inclusion in the project anthology inspired by spending time in your London Wildlife Trust residency location;

  3. Co-hosting and reading at the project celebration event anthology launch in October at Camley Street Natural Park – Kings Cross on Sunday 11 October 2- 4pm.

All venues and locations are accessible.

There is a fee of £2,400 for this work. This fee is inclusive of VAT, preparation and travel costs. We believe this is around seven days work in total.

Do you have to live in London to apply for this role?

Due to the stipulations of the funding we received for This Is Our Place, we are not able to offer additional fees for travel and accommodation / per diem expenses, so the fee is all inclusive of any additional costs that you may incur to complete this role and we have factored this in to the total amount to ensure that there are reasonable contributions towards these elements. You do not have to be based in London to apply for this role but please consider the fact that this money is all inclusive, so your travel fee would need to be factored in to the fees. It may not be financially viable for you to come from a long way away, but it may be worthwhile if you do not live far out of London.

Skills and experience

We are looking for the lead writers to have the following skills and experience:

We welcome applications from writers who are from backgrounds underrepresented in nature writing, for example: people from BAME backgrounds, the LGBTQ+ community, disabled people, refugees and people from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

To apply / for more information

If you have any queries or questions about the role that aren’t answered on this webpage, please contact Laura Kenwright – laura@spreadtheword.org.uk / 020 8692 0231 ext 249 (email is preferable, if possible)

Please send your CV including the name, phone number, address, and email address for two relevant referees (we will only contact your referees if you are successful in being offered the role)  and a supporting statement of no more than 2 sides of A4 telling us why you are the right person for this role. If you would find it easier to apply via audio or video file, we welcome that too. Please make a note in your statement of which of the workshops and walks you might be able to facilitate  according to your current availability– ie ‘I am currently available to run 1a / 1b  workshop sets and 2a and 2b).’ Please send your applications to Laura Kenwright, Projects and Communications Manager at Spread the Word: laura@spreadtheword.org.uk

Deadline for applications: Wednesday 18 March, 10am

Please note that late applications will not be considered. 

Informal interviews (in person or on Skype) will be held on:  Thursday 26 March 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo of Walthamstow Wetlands by Sam Hobson

Published 28 February 2020

Updated 18 March 2020

class="post-23426 post type-post status-publish format-standard has-post-thumbnail hentry category-news category-news-opportunities"This Is Our Place – a nature writing project for Londoners

Update 18 March 2020:

We are sorry to announce that Spread the Word and London Wildlife Trust have decided to postpone our This Is Our Place nature writing project for a year. We are truly sorry to do this, but this decision has been made to ensure the health and wellbeing of all potential project participants and writers. We considered alternative approaches – postponing to alternative as yet unknown dates in the Autumn or moving the project online, and we didn’t feel either approach is right.

The project is about connecting with nature, each other and words. We are hopeful that by postponing for a year, we will be offering something out for people who will enjoy and need it more than ever. The project funders have been informed and are supportive of this decision. We’re sorry to everyone who was looking forward to the project, and we’re grateful for your understanding. Project updates will take place on Spread the Word and London Wildlife Trust website and social media channels. Any writers who have applied for the role of writer in residence will be eligible for the role next year.

Original post – February 2020:

Spread the Word, in partnership with the London Wildlife Trust, is delighted to announce This Is Our Place. This Is Our Place is a nature writing project celebrating London’s wildlife, nature and the diverse communities of the city through words.

“Not everything in the forest is lovely and not all nature writing is to the taste of every reader. But more voices need to be heard from ethnic-minority writers and from a wider range of identities and backgrounds.”
– Robert Macfarlane, the New Statesman

This Is Our Place exists to reimagine how we live in London and reflect on our individual and collective relationship to nature and place.   We want to see nature writing being created and read by a multiplicity of people, reflective of the backgrounds of the citizens of our great city.

Nature writing (poetry, nonfiction or fiction) is a powerful way of connecting people to the natural environment via creative self-reflection, mindfulness, and imagination. It opens up the conversation and supports the exploration of key themes such as climate emergency, healing and spirituality.  However, there is currently a bias towards publishing white, middle-class nature writers. London, as one of the world’s most vibrant and green capital cities (47% green), is the perfect setting to address this imbalance of voices, engage local communities with nature writing and connect people to their local green spaces.

Ruth Harrison, Director, Spread the Word, says: “Spread the Word is delighted to be announcing our partnership with the London Wildlife Trust. We want nature writing to be representative of the communities in which we live – This is Our Place provides a space for London’s writers and communities to engage with our green spaces and create new nature writing that reimagines how we live in London.”

Leah McNally, Director of Strategic Projects & Engagement, London Wildlife Trust, says: “London Wildlife Trust is excited to be working in partnership with Spread the Word on This is Our Place. We look forward to hosting the project on our nature reserves across London and being inspired by writers that are currently under-represented in nature writing.”

This Is Our Place is funded by the Emergence Foundation.

Woodberry Wetlands photo by Penny Dixie

 

 

 

 

 

This Is Our Place – the offer for Londoners

This Is Our Place is a project that will open up space for Londoners to write about nature. People can get involved by:

All of the workshops, walks and celebrations will be held in wheelchair-accessible London Wildlife Trust locations. BSL interpretation will be available for two of the workshops, and the anthology launch.

Spread the Word and the London Wildlife Trust is currently recruiting for four lead writers to lead the project. The opportunity is open for applications until Wednesday 18 March, 10am. More information about this opportunity is here.

Workshops are for adults and bookings will open in April. Spread the Word and London Wildlife Trust will announce that bookings are open on their websites and on their social media.

Photo of Walthamstow Wetlands by Penny Dixie.

 

 

 

 

Published 27 February 2020

Updated 18 March 2020

class="post-23385 post type-post status-publish format-standard has-post-thumbnail hentry category-think"Unpicking Commercial Fiction with Bookouture’s editors

What is commercial fiction?
Answered by Publishing Executive, Leodora Darlington

The distinction between literary and commercial fiction can often be confusing. Books that fall under the ‘commercial fiction’ umbrella are simply books with wide appeal, and with strong storytelling and compelling characters at their heart. As a comparison, I tend to think of literary fiction as the art-house cinema of books, and commercial fiction as mass-market cinema.

If you’re struggling to decide whether your writing is commercial, one question you can ask yourself is ’Does this book clearly sit in a genre?’. If you can easily call it crime fiction, historical romance or domestic suspense, then it’s commercial! It’s worth mentioning that this rule adheres less well to science fiction and fantasy novels, which have a clear genre but can still sit in a very literary bracket. It is also worth mentioning that ‘book club’ is often used to describe fiction that sits between the worlds of literary and commercial fiction. Some great examples would be Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman and Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens.

Why is commercial fiction important?
Answered by Commissioning Editor, Cara Chimirri

Well, firstly to speak from a publisher’s point of view, commercial fiction really is the bread and butter of your fiction list. From outside the trade, you might think about a publisher in terms of the titles that have, for example, won The Booker Prize. But it will be the commercial fiction which consistently hits the Sunday Times and Amazon bestseller lists that drives the core of the business.

From a reader’s point of view, commercial fiction is important chiefly because of the accessibility of the storytelling and the way it’s able to connect with such a large base of readers. If a commercial thriller has sold a million copies, that’s a pretty significant link between a million readers, all from different walks of life. In our increasingly polarised times, I don’t think those links should be underestimated.

We are seeing so much more commercial fiction published and consumed in electronic formats too, which also boosts the accessibility of these titles. Think about the demographic of readers who can afford to buy a £20 hardback and then the demographic who are able to purchase a commercial novel for £0.99 in ebook. One of the things I love most about publishing commercial fiction at Bookouture is how accessible we can make all of our books.

I also think one of the important things about commercial fiction as a reader is the many different roles it can play. There are people out there who devour a book a week (or more!) and then there are readers who read just one book a year on their holiday. The reading experience for each reader (and all those in between) is just as important, and commercial fiction caters to each and every one of them.

What are the popular misconceptions about commercial fiction?
Answered by Commissioning Editor, Therese Keating

The most harmful is the idea that commercial fiction is by definition not well written, or is ‘trashy’. There’s a real skill to being able to write a book that tells a story first and foremost, that places the characters’ voices and the demands of the plot above stylistic flourishes, and that balances reader expectations for, e.g., a police procedural or a rom-com while keeping them engaged. Meticulously crafted sentences that shine like jewels aren’t the aim here if it means they distract from your immersion in the story.

A related misconception is that commercial fiction is fundamentally lightweight or disposable. These might not be the books that dwell explicitly on the meaning of life and the universe, but they very often are the books that get us talking and can stick with us for life. Gone Girl gave us a female villain for the ages, who’s as thought-provoking – seriously, so many think pieces on Amy Dunne! – as she is horrifying. Liane Moriarty is as forensic on relationships in small communities as Middlemarch. Just because a book is easy to read doesn’t mean it doesn’t have great things to say.

What makes a good commercial fiction novel?
Answered by Publishing Executive, Hannah Bond

A good commercial fiction novel should be easy and entertaining to read, with broad appeal for a wide audience. We look for manuscripts that are fast-paced and tightly plotted, regardless of genre – we’re not after a book full of beautiful prose where nothing happens. Good commercial fiction should also have a strong hook that will immediately draw in potential readers: ideally, you should be able to summarise the central issue of the book in one intriguing sentence. Finally, we’re after characters readers can feel invested in, whether that’s cheering on a heroine or enthusiastically hating a serial killer.

What makes a submission stand out?
Answered by Commissioning Editor, Emily Gowers

When I’m thinking about the commercial potential of a book the most important things I’m considering are: 1. What is the hook and how quickly do we get to it? and 2. Where does this book sit in the market? If you keep these two ideas in mind when you pitch your novel to an editor (or agent), it will make it much easier and clearer for us to think about how we could then pitch and sell your book to readers.

For a commercial novel, the hook is the key bit of the story which will grab a reader’s attention and make them want to read on. The submissions which stand out for me are ones where the author is really clear about what this hook is in both their pitch and also the opening chapters of the novel. Think about someone starting the book, and how you want them to be immediately swept up in the idea and desperate to keep reading to find out more.

I also think about the market and potential readers when assessing submissions. I hope that you are a reader as well as a writer (after all I am a reader as well as an editor) so when you write your pitch please tell me which authors or novels you feel your book sits alongside. Be ambitious; pick well-known authors and novels that indicate to an agent that if they loved them, they’ll certainly love what you have to offer.


Our competition with Bookouture is currently open for submissions to fiction writers based in London, and from a background currently under-represented in publishing. Selected writers will receive top-line feedback on their manuscript from an editor at Bookouture on the editorial strengths and weaknesses of their book, and how their pitch could be made more stand-out in order to better appeal to agents and publishers.

The deadline to apply is 11:59pm on Friday 28 February 2020. Details on how to apply can be found here: https://www.spreadtheword.org.uk/spread-the-word-reopens-competition-in-partnership-with-bookouture/

Published 26 February 2020