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Creating Pathways for New Writers

A Response to: 'Let’s be frank, it takes more than talent alone to produce Fleabag' by Frances Ryan 

Read the full Guardian article here

 
“Even the capacity to imagine writing for a living when you grow up can be a privilege if you see no one around you in these jobs.”


Interesting angle from the Guardian on Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s recent comedy Fleabag – a story about a 30-something woman trying to stay afloat in her world of fractured relationships and unreliable emotions. The show’s frank and often ugly of treatment of vulnerability and family clashes is something most of us can relate to, but it’s a fair point to consider how many of us could actually write about it in the way Phoebe has managed with Fleabag.  It’s so important to provide writing opportunities for those people without the privilege of networks and private education. Without these pathways, there would be no representation within the arts, and the impact of that is a lack of education for everyone on diverse experiences and outlooks.
 
Earlier this year a survey conducted by The Bookseller revealed that almost 80% of people from working class backgrounds said they believed their class had adversely affected their writing career, and a further 48% said they had experienced industry discrimination based on their background.
 
At WoW, we provide a variety of writing courses to help create much-needed access to a largely closed and exclusive industry. Our courses include:
 
‘Write to Work’– a course for unemployed learners to develop a diverse range of writing skills that can help them gain training and new opportunities. From our last two Write to Work courses, 32 participants took part and of those that answered, 47% of these participants went on to further education or employment after completing the course. One of our former Write to Work participants Claire Rice said about the course: “I feel confident in about how to get work, I also got published in The Guardian because of this course. I feel this course has been a watershed moment for me and I am so grateful to all involved thank you.”
 


‘What’s Your Story?’ – a course which engages diverse communities to tell their own story in their own voice and on their own terms. Since October 2018, we have delivered three of these courses, while engaging with and publishing the work of 58 new writers. 
 


‘Superheroes: Words Are Our Power’– our literacy project that lets school children create their own superhero and realise the true power of their stories. Since October 2017, the project has engaged with over 400 school children and helped them to create and publish their new superheroes.   


 We also run our annual novel-writing competition Pulp Idol for early-career writers to gain experience of the publishing industry. The twelve finalists will all have their first chapters published in an anthology, which are then sent out to publishes and agents. Recent successes include Ariel Kahn, whose debut novel Raising Sparks came runner up in The Guardian’s Not The Booker Prize, and James Rice who signed a two book deal with Hodder and Stoughton.
 
In 2018, WoW also published its first ever novel. Bess by Rose Thomas is the first novel to ever be published by a Liverpool-born black female writer. Since its publication, Rose has taken her novel to multiple universities, delivered guest lectures about her writing journey and been reviewed/interviewed in various magazines. 
 
At Writing on the Wall, we understand the enormous value of providing these crucial pathways for working-class and underrepresented writers to gain access to the writing industry.  Writing shouldn’t be an aspirational or unlikely idea – it’s one of the best ways we can engage with ourselves and those around us. Through our courses, we want to make sure writing is accessible and attainable for everyone who wants to do it.
 
- Mike Morris, Writing on the Wall Co-Director