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Collated Answers from WW interviews

Other work besides writing; ie. Editing, dramaturgy, tutoring, and how it works for/against your own writing
Andrew BlackmanI am currently a temp on the night shift. Previously I have been a journalist, and before that a corporate banker, so temping for the last couple of years has been a big drop in pay and prestige. But it works perfectly for my writing. I have time to write during the day, without any distractions or stress or thinking about work. For the first time I have had the courage to put my writing first, to arrange my life around it. It’s paid off: while temping I have had short stories published, have won competitions, and now am about to have my first novel published by Legend Press.

Cally TaylorMy day job is as a Learning Technologist for a London university and basically involves reading, editing and converting paper-based distance learning Masters degrees into e-learning. I’m currently converting malaria, HIV/AIDS and TB modules for the MSc Infections Diseases so, before I do any work on my novel in the evenings, I have to remove my logical head and replace it with my fiction head. The situation works quite well – if I had a day job that was fiction-related (tutoring, editing etc) I’d probably feel creatively spent by the time I set to work on my own fiction.

Fiona RobynI stay away from helping other people with their writing, as I find this subtracts from the energy I have available for my own work, but I know it works in the opposite way for many writers.
Jane ElmorI am a creative writing tutor and have recently been balancing that with my own writing. Having been used to collaborative work, mainly on music projects, I find the isolation of writing can send me stir crazy and I really enjoy the company of other writers in groups, entering all these fantasy worlds and talking about them as if they're real. It's good to know you're not the only one who spends their life with a cast of imaginary characters. Before that I did many, many different day jobs to keep the wolf from the door while working on more creative pursuits. I've basically followed a great career path for a loser or a writer...
Jemtrained as a teacher in English and Drama at secondary school level, and then retrained as an EFL teacher when we made the move to Cambridge. When I left teaching – I accepted VR when the FE College I was working in closed down the ‘A’ level dept - I did some creative writing teaching and a course on teaching writing stories for women’s mags but stopped for a mix of reasons. I think, basically, I’d been teaching for too long and I just needed a break from the classroom. I often think I’d like to get back into it but then I pull myself together. I’ve also given a workshop ‘Writing Fiction for Women’s Magazines’ as part of the Cambridge Wordfest.
Jenn AshworthI work part time as a librarian in a prison in Lancashire. I don't teach creative writing there, but there is a writer in residence at the prison who does creative classes in the library, and I help with that sometimes which I really enjoy. I also teach creative writing workshops privately, and am just getting into mentoring and manuscript appraisal. I'm interested in this kind of work, but my priority is leaving time for my novel and my daughter - it's always very difficult to get the balance right, and at the moment I'm very, very busy with promotion for A Kind of Intimacy, so I don't think I'm there yet. The thing I like best about all my other jobs are the people I meet - I love to chat to people about writing and books, and the fact that I get to do that for most of my working days makes me really happy.

Jon HaylettThrough the Highlands and Islands Short Story Association (http://www.hissac.co.uk) I have a small group of fellow writers spread across the world with whom I correspond. Our greatest pleasure is in the constructive criticism of each other’s work, and very helpful it has proved.Otherwise, I enjoy writing as a solitary process.

Julia CopusIt varies from year to year, but I’m currently an Advisory Fellow for The Royal Literary Fund, and a ‘registered writing expert’ (!) for the Oxford Literary Consultancy, which offers anonymous advice on unpublished manuscripts. I also tutor for the Poetry School and the Arvon Foundation. I’ve just co-tutored with Roger McGough, and I’ll be running a course with Daljit Nagra next autumn. Until recently, I worked as a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Exeter University, helping students on a one-to-one basis with their essay writing. I loved being with the students and other members of staff, especially as writing is such a solitary occupation, and I did find some of the advice I offered feeding into my own writing! But I also found it difficult for a while to switch between my academic-writing-adviser’s head and my creative head. These things get easier over time, of course. The more familiar and at ease you become with a job, the less it interferes. That’s inevitable. But I think as writers we have to learn what suits us best; what best works for our individual personalities and modes of writing – what suits one person may be a living nightmare for the next. A lot of poets teach creative writing in universities, often part-time, but some people hate the idea of all that. Remember that T.S. Eliot worked in a bank, and Kafka was in insurance! It’s horses for courses, I suppose.

Lee HenshawThere’s truth in literature, art and poetry, say, just like there’s truth in a conversation at the pub, a fight at a wedding or gossip over the garden fence. My other work is advertising and PR, which, like the journalism I did before it, can only pervert the truth. That’s not to say it works against my writing. If I didn’t have my day job to compare it to, it probably wouldn’t be as enjoyable. As Aldous Huxley said, it’s in relation to their opposites that things have significance to us.
A L BerridgeEverything I’ve ever done has been about either writing or storytelling. Studying the masters at university taught me the basics of narrative technique, and when I became an English teacher I studied a lot more for myself. Through wonderfully old-fashioned tomes I picked up at second-hand bookshops I learned all the things I was never taught at school, such as grammar or the principles of metre, and proceeded ruthlessly to pass them on. My poor students were probably the only ones of their year who knew the difference between an anapaest and a trochee, but I still believe an appreciation of rhythm is important to understanding good prose as well as good poetry, and it’s certainly helped me enormously.

Teaching also taught me about speaking directly to an audience, which is probably the single most useful skill a writer can acquire. A novel, like any kind of writing, is ultimately just a form of communication, and I’ve always seen that as a two-way process. Writing just for myself and the glory of my own cleverness is pure self-indulgence and nothing to do with the purpose of the medium. I write for someone else to read, and try to always keep them in mind as I write. Am I boring them? Am I telling them too much or too little? Have I given them a reason to turn the next page? What do they want to see happen next – and is it better to satisfy that desire or delay it, or subvert it altogether? I don’t feel the process of writing ‘Honour and the Sword’ will actually be complete until it has readers; until then it’s almost as meaningless as one half of a telephone call.

In 1991 I moved into television script-editing, and that was even better. I had no formal training (though I thoroughly recommend Linda Seger’s ‘Making A Good Script Great’ for people starting in this field) but learned on the spot from working with top editors like Julian Murphy (currently Creative Director at ‘Shine TV’) and with wonderful writers like Andy de la Tour and Tony Jordan. The techniques are different, of course, but many of the principles are the same. I still employ the ‘three-act structure’ I learned working for ITV where a one hour episode was divided into three for the ad breaks.

But it was when I became a producer in 1995 that I learned the storytelling technique that’s affected my writing most. Working in the cutting room alongside the brilliant Sally Head I began to understand the importance of the ‘cut’, and the ways in which images can be juxtaposed to create something greater than the sum of the two parts. Sally taught me how to ‘clump-structure’ different story strands, so we never took the audience away from what they were most interested in until it had reached an acceptable ‘hook’. I learned when the camera goes in for close work and the effect that has on pace, I learned when to pull back to pass time.

I also learned ruthlessness. As a script editor I already knew one had to be prepared to put a script through anything up to seven drafts to get it right, but as a producer I learned that the process doesn’t stop even there. Even in the cutting room we’d realize a story didn’t work as we’d hoped – and send people out to rewrite and reshoot. As a writer now, I don’t hesitate to take an axe to my own work. A ‘rewrite’ for me is just what it used to be for my hapless script writers: if it doesn’t work it has to be fixed till it does. When I spot something that could be improved I know it’s no defence to say ‘but that would mean changing the whole of act 2!’ I know now the only possible answer is ‘So let’s do it.’ Why not? Why make your work less good than it could be?

Nicky SingerI try not to do it. Tutoring is a giving out, an emptying out. I feel I should do it (to give something back) and I sometimes do, but I try to limit it to the times I’m researching rather than writing. Writing empties you out enough anyway. On the other hand, I love the feeling I get when I work with other creative people – which is why I love making plays. And I get a buzz from young people too, I see the spark lit and think, yes, this is important, could change a life. And I am doing some workshops in prisons right now…. And I sit on some literature committees…. And I co-founded and, for ten years, co-directed a charity dedicated to training writers for screen, opera and theatre…. Hmm. What was that I wasn’t doing?
Peter HobbsIn the last couple of years I’ve started to teach creative writing, which I’m really enjoying. I’ve run courses for adults, with the Arvon Foundation. But my most rewarding work is for a charity called First Story. They create residencies for writers at state schools around the country. The aim is to go into some of the least privileged schools (where lots of the kids are on free school meals, and/or where exam pass rates are low), and to run creative writing workshops for groups of 15-17 year olds.

Sue MoorcroftI’m a creative writing tutor and I judge competitions and appraise manuscripts. Although I prefer writing to any of these occupations, I’m certain that they help hone my own skills. If I have to pin down why a novel is sagging or a short story isn’t paying off, it makes me reflect on the craft of writing. And, occasionally, I realise, ‘Duh! You’ve done that yourself!’