Interview with WriteWords Part 1 of 2

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by Mike

The View From Here Interview: WriteWords

WriteWords is a Writers' Community based in the UK that provides inspiration and feedback for writers across the globe. One of the founders, Anna Reynolds , who is the News Editor and interviewer for the site, tells us about the community and its origins. First though I asked her to share a bit about herself.

Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

Over the last twenty years I’ve written extensively for theatre, with diversions into opera, short fiction, novel, journalism and other writing. I’ve had twenty plays on internationally and all over the UK, won Time Out, Writer’s Guild and Yeovil Prize for Fiction Awards. I’m currently under commission to several theatre companies for new plays, including the Mercury Colchester, Menagerie and Trestle Theatre Company. Oh- and I’m writing an adaptation of a young adult novel for circus. As you do.

What's your favourite night in/out?

In- definitely reading, how boring, but I’ve got a small daughter so raucous nights in not on- or possibly having a load of friends round for dinner who are all artists in diverse fields, and having a good old disagreement about films/theatre/books/the finer details of Heat magazine. Out- these days, going to urban circus can be pretty sublime- I just saw Traces, an incredible young circus company who combine parkour, acrobatics, traditional circus and really exciting dance. It was work, but who’s complaining?

Your favourite book?

No contest, John Steinbeck’s Grapes Of Wrath. I re-read it about once a year- I’m always blown away by the compassion, beauty and fury in this epic journey. Closely followed though by Nuala O’Faolain’s My Dream of You, which actually does much the same as the Steinbeck, but in a definitely female way.

Can you tell us a bit about your own writing?

I started out in journalism, moved quickly into fiction- novel, short stories- then kind of accidentally fell into writing for theatre and now that’s my main focus. Every now and then I get the urge to write prose- last year I got third prize in the Yeovil Fiction Award- and I’m increasingly working in a collaborative way with directors, composers, actors, and other practitioners/artists- the people running theatres/theatre companies say this is the only way the majority of theatre writers will really survive the credit crunch, by adapting what they do and how they’re prepared to work.

Can you tell us about WriteWords, its aims, what it provides to writers and how big the community is?

WriteWords began life on Valentines Day, 2002, when myself, a writer friend, Richard Brown, and a composer friend, David Bruce, went to the pub. Really, it was that simple. We thought it would be great if we could create a site for writers that would cover all media, genres, levels of experience, etc, and be a community as well as full of really top resources. Our skills are all different, which is what makes the site work so well, I think. Our aim was and is to give all writers a place to be, where they could take what they wanted from a range of ‘tools’ on offer- so the site provides lots of practical help and resources as well as a genuinely warm, supportive community. We’re very clear that the site should be a friendly place for writers new and experienced to share their work, thoughts, opinions, etc, so we do moderate very much with that in mind. It’s a big community, in that people can join for a week for free, and then decide to stay on or not…they can leave and come back, which people do all the time. Many members say the site is so addictive that they sometimes need to stay away while they’re meeting a deadline, which is kind of good and bad.

On a practical level, the site has a massive directory of resources that are constantly updated; publishers, agents, theatre and film companies, poetry, fiction and non fiction magazines, courses, workshops, writers’ circles, writers’ blogs, etc- we’re now in the position where publishers and agents come to us to agree how they should be described, and what they’re currently looking for- it helps us all if we know who we’re submitting to and exactly what they do and don’t want. We list all the latest jobs, opportunities and workshops, across all types of writing, and the latest writer-friendly news. We regularly interview writers, agents, publishers, magazine editors, and others- examples include the novelist Kate Atkinson, playwright Willy Russell, agent Simon Trewin, and we’re about to run a series of interviews with top publishing editors who happen to edit WriteWords’ members books. This is a particularly valuable part of the site for newer writers, to get an inside view of what agents and publishers actually want. Plus we have a massive and very diverse forum, where everything from how to layout your manuscript to how to find an agent to where to go on a writing holiday is discussed. Then there’s the Archive, where people can upload their work, and other members may critique or just comment- again, the focus is on the constructive criticism, and our Site Experts play a big role here in useful thoughts and pointers.

What are site experts?

The site experts are experienced published authors/dramatists etc who have been around on the site for a while, and struck us as being particularly tuned in to the WW sensibility- also, they may have a specific knowledge or experience that makes their input extra useful. They comment on writing that’s uploaded in the archive or groups, to different degrees, and they start or add to threads in the forum, and respond to current thread trends. For example, Emma Darwin specialises in historical fiction, so if a member posts a query about that genre, it’s likely that Emma will have a useful response from her own experience, and short story writer Becca Lloyd recently won the inaugural and highly prestigious Bristol Prize for short fiction, so if people’s queries or questions are about short stories, they will have faith in her judgment.

How has the site changed over the years?

The ethos hasn’t changed, if anything, we’ve seen other sites sink under the weight of aggressive online posting- so we’re perhaps more determined than ever to keep the site friendly, supportive and encouraging, while recognising that some members want tough critiques of their work. We regularly update and add new features, that’s the beauty of working online and not in print.

Visit WriteWords here.

For part 2 of this interview click here.


Oonah said...

Wonderful interview and as a WriteWords Member, I have nothing but praise for the site, the site managment and the Hosts. It's a great place to be.

Mike French said...

Glad you liked it Oonah and yes I agree WriteWords is a great site.

Well done for having over 90 pieces of work accepted for publication by the way - way to go!