The publishing world is currently to be found at the London Book Fair in Earl’s Court – and while this is an industry event, it is open to all-comers, aspiring authors included. I’m just back from the Author Lounge, an area playing host to the Literary Consultancy, Arvon Foundation and AuthorHouse among others.
As an aspiring author it’s among the best spots to be, as the other stands, with their huddles of publishers striking deals, can seem a little peripheral to the day-to-day experience of getting words on the page, and getting advice about getting words on the page.
Of note from The Literary Consultancy is their online mentoring scheme, handy if you’re looking for feedback over a prolonged period of time. It is disciplined (you’ll have writing targets to meet) but supportive, and at the end you’ll get an industry perspective on your work without any softening of blows – if blows are what’s required – which is a valuable real-life lesson and a rite of passage for pretty much any author.
Ruth Borthwick, director of the Arvon Foundation (read her posts on the Arvon blog), spoke about their residential courses, 96 in total, for any writer of any level, even if you’re just in it for the fun of it, without any intention of getting published. Simon Armitage, Mavis Cheek and Hugo Williams are among those who started their writing lives at Arvon, and it’s a communal, immersive experience. No mobiles, no TV to distract you, and, said Ruth: ‘Cooking together is an essential part of the experience.’
To me, Arvon suggested a real coming together of minds, with the ‘fantastic mix of people’ creating a particular, stimulating atmosphere that might be hard to replicate online or elsewhere. Ruth pointed out that sometimes students forge such strong bonds during the process of sharing writing and criticism (as well as cooking) that as much as 15 years later, they’ll still be in touch.
Finally, there’s news of a new venture which emphasises the ‘transforming power of words’. In June 2009 a centre is opening called Free Word (the site is due to be at http://www.freewordonline.com). It’s in London, but it’s not just for Londoners. The idea is it will become a meeting place for anyone interested in literature. There’s to be a cafe and a small auditorium with events and debates, and we’re looking forward to hearing more about it soon.
(Publisher, Yearbooks, A&C Black)