Tag Archives: Arts Council NI

Writing reflections

Arts Council logoThis week saw the completion of my short story and poetry collection, which I’ve spent the past year working on as part of the NI Arts Council/Lottery grant, so hopefully it will arrive in the post tomorrow morning for them! As I printed everything off and put the work in some sort of order, however, I couldn’t help but think of something Carlo Gebler (who I referenced last week) said about writing – that the end result often doesn’t reflect the amount of work that went into producing it.

I’ve sent in 16 stories in all, and about 15 poems – not everything made the cut and in truth, the final four stories I included sort of stand alone from the main collection of 12, but were sent along as they were part of the overall work produced over the course of the past 12 months. I didn’t help myself, I think, by getting a flurry of inspiration in the past couple of weeks for stories, which coincided with an extremely busy time with my job, so another 13th story missed the cut, as it just wasn’t ready and I wasn’t sure of how it should end. It awaits me still.

But looking at the writing I amassed, I was both pleased and also a little apprehensive. Was it enough? Was the writing really any good? Would the Arts Council like it? In truth, I know the point of the award was to support me in developing my art – my writing – and to produce the body of work I proposed, which I have, so all has been fulfilled. I also feel more confident in myself now as a writer, and have been published a few times already this year, which I put down to receiving the grant – it motivated and inspired me to write, and gave me the confidence to keep going and to believe in my ability.Flying letters

The end result though, does not reflect the hours of thinking time – the countless edits and rewrites – the scrapping of whole sections of stories, and the read-throughs time and again. I’m not saying the stories I sent in are amazing, but they’re the end result of a lot of work and through that, I hope I’ve improved my writing. That was, after all, the point.

With all now done, I wonder what the next step shall be? I intend of course to keep on writing and to use this experience to push forward and see where it takes me. It feels sort of odd at this point to have lost the ‘reason for writing’ that has followed me this past year – yes, I would have written anyway, but with a hectic 12 months in setting up my own business, I think that without the need to create the collections for the Arts Council, my writing would have suffered.

So, I will keep writing short stories and poetry – and submitting to journals and competitions – I may also try writing a novel. We’ll see. It’s been an interesting year though in my writing life, and I look forward to the next stage…

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‘Words worth’

An article ‘revealed’ this week what writers, I’m sure, have always known. Most of us earn very little.piggy bank If you want to put an exact figure on it, the average yearly salary for an author was quoted at around the £11,000 mark. The cited research indicated a drop in the number of full-time authors but did, however, offer some hope by way of self-publishing as an up-and-coming ‘tidy little earner’ for those striving to live ‘by the pen’.

This, at least is good, but it puts me in mind of a book I read a year or so ago (and mentioned in one of my very first blog posts) called New Grub Street (by George Gissing). Great book. Look a little closer and you may well ask if anything much has changed for writers struggling to earn a living… On the surface, yes, but dig deeper and decide that for yourself.

Symphony in White no 1: The White Girl - Portrait of Joanna Hiffernan

Symphony in White no 1: The White Girl – Portrait of Joanna Hiffernan

I spoke with London-based author Cherry Smyth recently, whose novel Hold Still, presents a snapshot of the art scene during the 1800s, namely through the eyes of James Whistler, Gustave Coubert and their artistic muse, Joanna (Jo) Hiffernan. Cherry told me that writing the novel also gave her a chance to highlight the parallels between the art world and women’s place in it then and now – and to show how little things have really changed. For me, New Grub Street, does the same for writers.

However, in my own forays into writing I know, of course, that opportunity abounds, as it does with any craft, if you look for it, chase after it and, well persist. And, as I mentioned before in reference to self-publishing, it’s true that success looks different for everyone. Not all writers write for money, nor feel they ought to. Most realistic writers also know that authorship is always destined to be something they do ‘on the side’ of a more regular job. You don’t have to look far in history to see that lots, if not all, of ‘the greats’ wrote in and around their day-to-day post. Writers have generally always had to expect little in financial return for their work.

Arts Council logoOn a personal note, I’m delighted to report that I am the recipient, this year, of a great opportunity for writers in Northern Ireland, as I have been awarded a National Lottery-funded grant on behalf of the Arts Council NI as part of their Support for Individual Artists Programme. The grant will support me in writing a collection of short stories and poetry and, given what we know about writers’ earnings, it’s very gratefully received.

Those who are trying to earn a living by the pen may rightly feel frustrated at the way in which words are so easily dismissed when it comes to valuing their worth in hard cash, but thankfully for us all, there are organisations like arts councils and the like who understand the effort involved, appreciate the output and are prepared to support writers in their work.

It sprinkles a little gold dust on those quills and reminds us that our words have worth…


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