Review by Hannah Hodgson
Kerry Hudson – Money as a writer
Hudson, author of new non-fiction release Lowborn, read aloud her essay on making money as a writer. I felt represented by her lessons. She described that writing success and monetary reward can be two very different things – that even if you write a book that is loved by your audience and sells very well you are still unsure of the royalties you will receive every six months and so being a writer is a precarious financial balance.
Hudson wittily summed up the existence of a freelancer with her remark “my pension plan is fatalism”. She added that it is her choice to write – it’s what she loves – but that writing is a skilled profession and getting paid for that is essential. An example she used was that you “wouldn’t ask a plumber to fit a bathroom for free, would you?” She did have a caveat to this – that the experience and the exposure associated with ‘free work’ is sometimes worthwhile, but it is important that writers are appreciated and their hard work is taken seriously.
Moore is a journalist who has written for a number of newspapers, and is currently a columnist at The Guardian. She offered the audience helpful tips to begin writing. Her first, “the oscillation of the internal and external”, referred to how to get into ‘work’ or ‘writing mode’. For her, she explained that this consists of applying lipstick, for me, this consists of lighting a candle (which doesn’t please my dad, a fire-fighter). She told the audience “compare yourselves to the mediocre men who flourish everywhere” which received slightly nervous laughter.
Moore wasn’t implying that men are unskilled but simply stating that in her experience men are often favoured over women for opportunities, thus tending to having more confidence in their abilities. She told the audience that if an editor asks you to write something, you are already good enough, otherwise they wouldn’t have asked. This advice meant a great deal to me – because I don’t feel I’m good enough, despite being published. She finished by saying that women who write should have a tough stomach, because women who speak are often called ‘outspoken’. What I took from Suzanne’s essay was that I must question everything – that a dangerous woman is one who asks questions. I must also own my right to take up space as a writer.
Eley Williams – Give Your Room the Slip
Williams, a poet and award winning author, details time constraints and other diverting factors in her essay (published in the RSL’s A Room of My Own). Not only do we now have the distractions of Woolf’s day, but also that we now have our constantly evolving mini office in our pockets. Our phones have taken over the role of objects that used to have one specific purpose – DVDs, VCR’s, alarm clocks, books and everything in between.
We have the ability to write on these electrical devices (as I am currently); however, this technology that offers so much potential also offers so much distraction. Williams’ advice is to let your technology distract you for the right reasons. Watch relevant documentaries, read relevant zines, but at the end of this procrastination get to it and write! For myself, I’ve found intricate list making useful, so that even if I’m procrastinating I’m doing something beneficial to my work.
My only criticism of this event was that it was too short! The conversations touched on so many interesting topics and I wish there had been more time for them to develop.
This work was produced by participants on our Durham Book Festival Reviewers in Residence programme, a cultural journalism programme run by New Writing North Young Writers. Reviewers in Residence gives aspiring journalists aged 15-23 the chance to review books, attend events and interview authors at Durham Book Festival. For more information about New Writing North Young Writers visit the New Writing North website.
Photo copyright: Marion Botella