This week in the Literature works office, we've been delighted to welcome Shauna Crewes as our intern. She's been working across our project and helping us to think about a brand new platform for young writers on our website. Here, she introduces herself and kicks off with her first blog post.
Hello, I'm Shauna, a recent graduate from Plymouth University. I've been helping Literature Works to develop their new Youth Platform over the past week and this is my first blog post, enjoy!
So, you’re a young writer in the South West, perhaps also a recent graduate, and you’re panicking… It seems that the adult world we were all so eager to get into is actually rather scarier than we first thought it would be. Job interviews are ticking by and you’re yet to have secured anything, mum and dad are getting impatient and the rent needs to be paid, but let’s not panic. We’re writers after all, we’re laid back and free-spirited souls, right?
Obviously, the most important thing to do to become a writer is to actually sit down and write, and where better to do that than in the gorgeous countryside and coastlines of the South West? As it has been for centuries, the South West is a mecca for writers seeking solace from the hustle and bustle of the big cities. This is great news for us because it means that it is also chock full of ‘hot desks’ and residential writing courses in beautiful surroundings. One of the best residential courses is Arvon’s Totleigh Barton, which boasts seminars on anything from nature writing to YA fiction, as well as radio drama and comedy, all taught by an impressive selection of tutors – it really does have something for everyone. Luckily for us youngsters, they understand that £720 is a rather steep cost and so they have created the Arvon 18-25. A discount scheme which offers half-price courses, free hints and tips and opportunities for young writers delivered right to your door step, this is something any aspiring writer simply must sign up to.
But if you don’t fancy forking out the costs and would rather take yourself off somewhere to write for free, then there are masses of magazines and competitions to submit to online. Many of these are based in the South West, such as Exeter University’s Riptide or the Charles Causley Poetry Competition which is based in Launceston. The best thing about these is that more often than not they do not charge entry fees but still come with a cash prize and, of course, a chance for you to get your name out into the literary sphere. Although you won’t get the face to face tutoring that you would get from a writing retreat, you are still opened up the opportunity of receiving editorial advice via email or over the phone if you are lucky enough to be shortlisted or published.
Getting your foot in the door as a young writer is not easy, but perhaps the best way to do it is by building up a strong CV and developing relationships with people who can point you in the right direction. So, let’s talk about work experience and internships. Of course, we ideally want to start earning money, but even if it is unpaid, any experience is good experience if it sets you on the right track. And you can always do it alongside a part time job…
Almost every town or city will have small independent newspapers which will often take you on for a week or so, maybe even longer, and show you the ropes. I chose to do a week at The Plymouth Herald and I had a great time. I got to write a variety of articles from a feature on Plymouth’s student life, to a piece on some suspicious UFO sightings. For those of us who haven’t studied journalism but want to be pursue it as a career, opportunities like these are invaluable. They give us a way in and we get to see how the news rooms work, what systems they use to write and upload content or even what it’s like to go to court and write up a crime report.
Along with the newspaper companies there’s also the BBC, which has a handful of placements at BBC Spotlight Devon, for example, if you don’t fancy venturing up to London to gain media experience.
Maybe the easiest experience to get is at the student led magazines, newspapers and journals at your university. Whether you want to write, edit, have a go at marketing or running the social media pages, these are great ways of showing employers that you are willing to try new things and rise to the challenges of the unknown.
If you are going for ‘proper jobs’, the most important thing to stress is not to be put off or offended by rejections. I don’t want to sound cliché but there’s plenty more fish in the sea and I know it sucks but if you didn’t get the job then perhaps just weren’t ready yet – this is something I’ve had to accept myself to please, don’t think I’m just preaching. The best thing we can do is to keep storming ahead and getting as much experience as we can. After all, something has to come along eventually, doesn’t it?