Saturday, 27 June 2015

Crowdfunding for book projects

Melissa Brown
Melissa Brown is an author based in Norwich who published her novel ‘Becoming Death’ with funds raised from the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter. Melissa gave a great talk last Friday at the Norfolk And Norwich Millennium Library on this web-based method of raising money for business and personal projects. Here’s a little of what Words And Women learned from the talk:

Crowdfunding is a funding method based on donations. People help to fund projects by paying a donation and in return for the donation the supporter receives a reward or a perk, eg a postcard, a copy of a book, a T-shirt or a poster. Donations can be as small as £1. The reward or perk is determined by the size of the donation. The aim is to attract as many people to donate to your project as possible. Melissa needed £1297 to publish her novel: this sum covered an editor’s input, a cover design as well as publishing costs. She achieved this by attracting 51 donations; most backers donated the smallest sum of £1 but one backer bid a magnificent £140 (the reward here was to be a character in Melissa’s book, in fact to be one of the victims and to suggest how they might die!).

Crowdfunding is done through web-based platforms. The most common is Kickstarter, the one which Melissa used for her project. Melissa says the process is quite straight forward. All the info needed is on the Kickstarter site.You just  sign up for a Kickstarter account, fill in your project details and load up a short promotional video. It should be noted though that if you don’t attract enough donations and don’t meet your target amount/your monetary goal for your project then the bids won't be collected and you will receive nothing. If you reach your funding goal then Kickstarter like all the other crowdfunding platforms will take a percentage. Kickstarter takes 5%, so you are encouraged to build this amount into your funding goal.

It is hard to raise funds for book projects. The more popular projects tend to be inventions and computer games. However, Melissa says it’s worth doing because even if you don’t meet your funding goal you will have generated lots of publicity and made many new contacts.

In our next post we will look at the other crowdfunding platforms out there.
An Interview with RosieSherwood posted on this blog  22/11/14  is worth look at too because this has more info on crowdfunding. 

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Scriptwriting for soaps and serials.

Our last post called National Treasures was by scriptwriter Lilie Ferrari and offered a great insight into writing for TV. Lilie will be running a scriptwriting course for the Unthank School of Creative Writing in  September in Norwich. It’s a wonderful opportunity to learn from somebody who has a huge amount of script experience. Below is the course summary and please click here for booking details. 

An Introduction To Soaps & Serials
Whether it’s Wolf HallSherlockDoctor Who or a cracking episode of Casualty or EastEnders, television dramas are thriving, with audiences in their millions. If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to get into TV writing and write drama scripts, here’s your chance to find out by working with an experienced TV writer, Lilie Ferrari, former writer and script editor on EastEnders.

Using group discussion, readings, viewings and practical exercises, participants will learn the basic mechanics of writing a script for TV and how to get into TV writing. The way that soap operas and popular dramas tap into common concerns and preoccupations will be discussed as a way of finding material to play with. You will learn how to create believable and sympathetic characters and work them into ongoing stories. Sessions are given on how to work in a visual medium: plot, structure, dialogue and the correct ways to format a script. From group brainstorming sessions, students will develop their own soap opera idea, populate its cast and work on it as a team for the duration of the course, with the option of carrying on with this idea in the Advanced TV Workshop. This is a great way to learn how to work as part of a team of writers to a given brief.
The ideas and storytelling techniques that we’ll be exploring are applicable to all forms of drama, not just TV, and you may well find that you gain experience here that can help with the writing of a feature film screenplay or novel.
By the end of the course, you will have a real taste of what writing for TV is like in a collaborative environment. The classes are lively, entertaining and very sociable, as all Unthank School courses are. The collaborative and interactive nature of TV scriptwriting makes the face-to-face tuition with a writer who has actually worked in television an incredible advantage. You will receive more individual attention and more useful tips and advice than you would on other TV writing courses. You will also have a script to show producers and TV companies, which could help you show off your talent and flair to potential commissioners. The course will offer insights into how the drama departments of major UK broadcasters operate and will ask: what are they looking for, and can you supply it? If you want to start out on the bumpy road to your own television drama script, this is a great place to start. You’ll learn everything that you need to know about how to become a scriptwriter.
Sessions include:
·       The idea. What are we going to create as a group?
·       Understanding TV genres
·       Creating characters
·       Storytelling do’s and don’ts for TV
·       Creating a ‘bible’ for series and serials
·       Organising stories into blocks of episodes
·       Creating the world of your drama
·       Creating a complete story document for one episode
·       How to structure great scenes and great episodes

Suitable for beginners. Scheduled for September, 2015. Ten two-hour classes.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

National Treasures

The wonderful Lilie Ferrari writes about her time as a scriptwriter for television, and celebrates the women writers who succeed in the industry. Lilie runs scriptwriting workshops for the Unthank School and next week we will post details of her courses which begin in the autumn. In the meantime read on for some great insight into the business:

“I started writing seriously when I was nine. In fact I wrote a rather bad full-length novel called THE TRAIN NOW STANDING, about a gang of kids and a disused railway station. This was followed in my early teens by a dramatic saga of unavailable mod boys, desperate youthful love affairs and accidental pregnancies. Neither of these works, I am glad to say, ever went near a publisher; but - aah, those heady days, when I wrote what I wanted, when I wanted, and how I wanted!
I didn’t become a professional writer until I was in my late thirties, life having been taken up by single parenthood and the need to work hours that meant my son could attend school and still have a mother – so a tangled collection of half-sensible, half-silly jobs filled my days until I landed at the BBC, somewhat astonishingly, as a script editor on EastEnders. I was always a soap fan, and some of my heartbreakingly naïve enthusiasm for the genre must have shone through– because I entered the interview room without even knowing what a script editor actually did…. When, worn to a frazzle a year later, I wearily asked my Executive Producer (a frighteningly intelligent woman) why she had picked me for the job, she answered, without a hint of conscience, “- Because you were so keen I knew I could work you like a dog…”
That she certainly did. It’s hard to describe the massive treadmill that is working on a soap; it really doesn’t stop for anyone. Death in the family, illness, trauma, sick kids, breakdowns – the juggernaut rumbles on, crushing stragglers as it goes. My job entailed hours on the phone with defensive argumentative people (yes – writers), and nights tinkering with unworkable scripts due to be filmed the following day. If I had the ‘flu, the scripts were biked over to my flat so I could work on them in bed.  If a scene didn’t work and the writer couldn’t be tracked down to change it, I had to do it on the spot. If the producer thought the script had failed, it was my job to break the bad news to the writer that the script would be “pulled”. You’re very lucky if your domestic relationships survive that kind of pressure. I count myself fortunate that mine did, having watched so many others head for the divorce courts. Soaps take no prisoners, and my training on the job taught me everything a scriptwriter needs to know – mainly, that you are a very small (but essential) cog in a very large wheel, and that if you can’t take the pressure, no-one really cares.
Eventually I started writing for EastEnders, and then for other continuing dramas – Holby, Casualty, Peak Practice. Television has given me a good living, and has allowed me to indulge in my first love, which is writing novels. I know that by many standards, I have been fortunate to be paid to do the thing that I love. But for an older woman, getting work is tough. I am sixty-six, and when people ask me if I’m going to retire, my answer never changes from the one I gave when I first punched the keys of a typewriter: “I’ll never stop writing. I’ll write if you pay me, and I’ll write if you don’t.”
Television is now a young person’s game, and I don’t begrudge the arrival of new talent – we need it! – However I am sad that the baby is wriggling in the drain with the bathwater; people who have lived a long life have a million experiences to draw on, and yet we are called on less and less frequently to contribute to the stories tv offers. Young producers are afraid to risk their own reputations by employing someone who seems to be yesterday’s news. They are all on the search for the “next big thing” – who, it would appear, must be about to leave school or university.  I could give many examples of how this affects what we see on our screens, but here’s one I find particularly funny when I’m in a good mood, and particularly depressing when my feminist hackles are up. I was in a storyline meeting on a show that shall be nameless, the only grey-haired woman in the room. I was suggesting the arrival of a new doctor into the series.  I described her with enthusiasm – a woman in her fifties, a consultant – bright, intelligent, funny, takes no prisoners – when I realised that the room full of twenty-and thirty-somethings gathered at the table were all looking aghast. Finally, one of them spoke. “But what stories can we tell about her…?” I was asked. Another added decisively, “It means we can’t do anything that involves sex.” “Why not…?” I asked, “Women in their fifties still have sex, you know.” Expressions round the table ranged from utter horror to total disgust. “Ew!” exclaimed one of the youthful, “But no-one wants to see it, do they..?!” Eventually the female doctor was shorn of fifteen years of her life, so that she would become “acceptable” to viewers.
So every time you see a drama – I mean a sensible drama – telling a strong, recognisable story of an older woman, I can almost guarantee that an older woman wrote it. Sally Wainwright (52), Heidi Thomas (53), Lynda La Plante (72), Abi Morgan (47), Kay Mellor (64). I’m envious of their success, obviously (I’m a writer – we thrive on envy). But I want to offer a bouquet of joyous recognition to every older, female writer who breaks through the traditional barriers of tv to tell us stories that women recognise. They are our national treasures!”

Lilie Ferrari was co-creator and writer for the drama series The Clinic for RTE. She’s written episodes of Peak Practice (Carlton), Dangerfield (BBC),Casualty (BBC), Holby (BBC) and EastEnders (BBC). She has also had four novels published, and is currently working on her fifth. 

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Our Saboteur shortlisting

Julianne Pachico reading from her story "Kurt Cobain's Son"
Thank you to everybody who voted for us to win the Saboteur Awards for Best One-Off Event for our IWD celebrations on the 8th March this year. Sadly we weren’t awarded first prize but are thrilled that 264 of you voted for us which is  much more than we expected, and many of you offered lovely comments on the event too. So thank you! Here are just a few of your comments:

A fresh way to highlight this important topic.
A wonderful lively event. Free! And packed!
Addressing continuing sexism.
A celebration of women is always good.
Because it was one of the very few events to celebrate women's writing, and give women writers a platform to read their work.
Because no matter what naysayers say, the battle isn't yet won, and every effort of this kind has my full and loud support.
Best in category.
Brings women together in a creative, meaningful way.
Celebratory and moving.
Crucial to have something like this just for women. It has a wonderful team.
Fabulous event, well-organised, inspiring.
From funny and thought-provoking readings to powerful and emotive dramatic monologues, the Words and Women International Women's Day event was an excellent showcase of work from a range of talented female artists.
Great bunch of people. Extremely welcoming and supportive.
I am all for celebrating women's achievements *and* marking the continuing struggle for equality!
Imaginative, celebratory, touching - and packed!
Inclusive and high quality event.
Interesting and educational.
Please, please celebrate this women's event! This was wonderful, and touched so many people.
Really enjoyable event with serious overtones.
So many "it's not just me!" moments.
They create a fantastic atmosphere of growth and nurturing women's writing, as well as making the event open and exciting to a range of audience. Not only this, but it was a warm and humble event that instantly made it a memorable experience, one that hit a rapport with a variety of people. I would recommend to anyone to come to their next event - it's worth it.
This event was so inspiring, really well attended and a variety of readers and performers - this variety was reflected in the audience too. Words and Women are doing really good work for women writers in the East of England.
Truly significant. Unique.
Well presented, informative.
Women are making all the best art right now.
Wonderful community event, inclusive and popular. Unfailing commitment to this special gathering by the team behind it. Tireless effort in making it happen.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

The Cambridge launch of Words And Women: Two!

Lora Stimson
Guinevere Glasfurd-Brown

Melissa Fu

We had a fantastic time last night at Hot Numbers Café in Cambridge, celebrating the launch of Words And Women: Two. Many thanks to Melody Causton for her wonderful singing and to our writers Patricia Debney, Louise Ells, Melissa Fu, Guinevere Glasfurd-Brown, Anthea Morrison, and Lora Stimson who read their work so brilliantly. Leigh Chambers compered and organised the event along with Anthea. They put on a similar event for us last year and below is a blog post from that time where Anthea describes the whole process. It’s worth a repeat because it’s full of useful tips on how to run a reading event:

Patricia Debney
“Several months ago Words and Women put out a call for volunteers to organize an event in Cambridge to celebrate the launch of the Words and Women Anthology: One. Being a strong supporter of the W&W principles of giving women writers a voice, and always on the lookout for opportunities to meet other writers, I put my name forward. Lynne Bryan put me in touch with Leigh Chambers, another Cambridge W&W volunteer, and together we set the wheels in motion. 
Anthea Morrison

The event, held on 3rd June, was surprisingly easy to organise. Leigh and I are both big fans of Hot Numbers Café here in Cambridge, and with its laid-back vibe and enthusiastic support for the arts, it seemed the ideal venue to hold a reading.

We contacted contributors to the Anthology who live in the Cambridge area, and they were very keen to come and read. Some of them had not read in public before, so I sent them a link to some excellent advice I found on the Thresholds Short Story Forum website - here is the link if you’re interested:

Once we had our readers lined up, the next step was to publicise the event. Leigh has many contacts in the writing world in Cambridge; she studied for her MA in Creative Writing at Anglia Ruskin University, and she presents Bookmark, a fortnightly radio show on Cambridge 105 featuring Cambridge-based writers. I created a flyer and we emailed it to everyone we could think of. We put posters up around town, and spread the word on Twitter and the W&W website.

I had a last-minute jitters worrying that either no one would turn up or that we would be turning people away. We had absolutely no idea how many to expect, but on the night we had around fifty people, just the right amount for the venue. It really was a wonderful evening. It was immensely satisfying to bring people together who have a shared passion for writing and literature, and to see the audience having such a good time. Of course the stars of the show were the readers, and they all told us they enjoyed performing their work, in spite of some inevitable nerves. 

Having a live musician to play in between readings provided a perfect contrast. Polly Paulusma is an extremely talented local folk singer, and had everyone entranced during her songs. The Independent described her as ‘the most literate songwriter of her generation’ and we were really lucky that she wanted to come and support our event. I urge you to go to one of her gigs if you ever get the chance. 

Volunteering to help organise the event turned out to be a fortuitous step for me in other ways too. When I told Leigh that I had only recently moved to Cambridge and was looking for a writing group, she invited me to join hers.  It is exactly the kind of group I have been looking for, and has already helped me progress with my writing.

So, thank you Words and Women for the opportunity to get involved. And to any W&W members thinking of organising a similar event, I would say go for it, it’s such a worthwhile and enjoyable thing to do. I will leave you with my top tips for organising a reading:

1.      Include some live music; it makes the event
2.      Choose your venue carefully, avoiding harsh lights and echoing spaces.
3.      Create an intimate atmosphere with candles and low lighting
4.      Make sure your readers know how to prepare for reading aloud
5.      Make sure the venue has a PA system or take your own – don’t rely on readers having loud enough voices
6.      Keep readings to five minutes – any more and you risk losing the audience

7.      Ask readers to provide a biog in advance and introduce each one personally “