Cathy Grindrod on Writing in Communities
by Anne Holloway
Thank you, thank you Cathy Grindrod, for a great talk on Writing in Communities at our final social of 2011. What is Writing in Communities? Pretty much any writing-type activity which includes other people.
Apart from the obvious draw of mulled wine and mince pies, I was looking forward to hearing what she had to say as I have heard that she hands out some no nonsense advice when she mentors local writers. Armed with a flipchart and a few notes, she chatted to us in a seemingly informal way, yet covered a massive amount of ground in the short time we had.
Not many of us are lucky enough to have a private income which enables us to focus on our writing, so it follows that we have to earn a crust in some other way. Cathy shared some of her tips with us. Eleven years ago, she was (where I am now) holding down a day job and juggling bits of paid writing work when she could fit it in. Forced to take the plunge when she was made redundant, she launched herself at the task.
So what stopped her from doing this before she was made redundant and had to take the plunge? A whopping lists of reasons why it would be impossible… deftly displayed on her flipchart! Most of these reasons were fabricated by herself (I have a similar list on a flipchart in my head) no experience, doesn’t pay, can’t do it… that kind of thing.
For me, everything she spoke about reinforced the path I am in the process of treading, a timely reminder (see sheet 2 of flipchart in head: What’s the point? Why am I bothering?) that it is all worth it, because it will lead to full time paid work – trawling web sites, responding to job ads, attending workshops and seminars, joining groups like NWS, volunteering at schools, clubs, colleges – in fact saying yes to as many things which are in some way to do with writing, as possible.
But the most important point that Cathy made was that if you do choose to volunteer and work in this way, you will attract the attention of those people who can offer you paid work, or at least build up experience to offer when applying for paid work – following on from this, you may well be offered work which allows you to concentrate on your writing. It is also very rewarding and (whilst it can keep you from your writing if you’re not careful) can stimulate you to write new material.
I have to say that Cathy’s methods do work. Agreeing to do an unpaid job for Widening Participation (via a contact who knew I had completed an MA in Creative Writing) gave me experience and confidence to apply for paid work in schools. Applying for a commission with Lyric Lounge introduced me to other writers and has lead to other work with Lyric Lounge (some as a shadow, unpaid, but I learned a lot in the process and made myself known to the people who make appointments within the local arts scene). Because I have been involved in Lyric Lounge (where I met Deborah Stevenson) I have been invited to develop The Mouthy Poets (a group who champion spoken word and organise events and workshops, currently based at Nottingham Playhouse) along with founder Deborah and fellow poet Panya Banjoko.
If you are just starting out as a writer, don’t be afraid to call yourself a writer, put yourself out there and see what happens. Don’t miss socials at NWS if you can help it, even if you think the talk isn’t relevant to you, it may be so COME ALONG.
If you missed Cathy then make sure you catch her next time she speaks somewhere. Didn’t I read somewhere that she was offering mentoring sessions? Or did I imagine that? Ask Robin, he’ll know! Ah no here it is… http://www.nottinghamwritersstudio.co.uk/members/?p=248