Sunday, 8 November 2015

Northern Writers' Awards 2016 Bradford Roadshow 7 November 2015

I attended the New Writing North in Association with Freedom Studios Northern Writers' Awards 2016 Bradford Roadshow yesterday at Kala Sangam Arts Centre, St. Peter's House, 1 Forster Court, Bradford, BD1 4TY.

The Northern Writers' Awards are produced by New Writing North, the reading and writing development agency based in Newcastle upon Tyne, full details can be found here: and to sign up to their mailing list.

Claire Malcolm, Chief Executive of New Writing North (NWN) welcomed the attendees explaining that NWN work on projects across the North of England that support and promote writers of all ages and at all stages of their careers.  She introduced Aisha Khan, co-director of Freedom Studios, a theatre company based in Bradford who primarily produce new work specifically for non-theatre spaces and multi-cultural audiences, especially those who don't normally go to the theatre.  They are also committed to seeking out, developing and supporting new artists in the region including emerging writers, directors and actors and have an active young people's development programme based in schools in Bradford and working towards establishing a Youth Theatre, for more details: and to sign up to their mailing list.

Through Red Ladder Leeds, it was found that there was a lack of opportunities for young people to access the arts, so in Bradford in 2008 non-theatre spaces work was commissioned, Brief Encounters at the Interchange.  The next project 'Chip Shop the Musical' in 2016 will be a hip hop brass musical taking place in chip shops in Bradford, Bolton and Barnsley.  An Ian McMillan pop-up theatre Ice Cream Opera will take place in two ice cream vans inspired by Romeo and Juliet.

The youth theatre strand (two different schools in Bradford) Street Voices for new writers is a six month programme with lead writer and mentors attached, which will produce a 15/20 minute piece of theatre using assistant director programmes and actors in the area for Yorkshire-based writers.  They ask for a sample of writing and will be advertising next Spring and sessions will be in September/October 2016.  There is also Freedom2 Network for actors to come in and develop skills.  Slung Low theatre in Leeds, 8 weeks for new writers and will re-advertise for this next January.  They also recommended looking at the West Yorkshire Playhouse and Script Yorkshire websites too, for sessions on dialogue or children's and New Script.

Claire informed attendees that the Awards have been running since 2000 and since then they have supported over 100 writers.  She shared a short film made in 2012 when they rolled out to take in Yorkshire, the North East and the North West. 

The Awards are sectioned into age group, geographical and sponsored and are between £1-5K, though they can be up to £10k and £2.5-5k is normal and they are in fiction, poetry and creative non-fiction.  This year illustrated for children, graphics and TV have been added also.  There is advice on the website to help you decide which Award would be best for you.  For example, the Andrea Badenoch Award is for women over 44 and less people apply for that than say the Northern Writers Award.  There are bursaries with editorial support and feedback for up to five to have their work editorialised or for those who feel they have limited time the Arvon Award (Hebden Bridge is the local centre) will give a week long course or time to write.

There is also, through Unbound their publishing partner, a crowd source indie publisher Award where they would platform the novel idea on their website to garner sponsorship and this can sometimes get a better deal for the writer because they are not paid in advance.  Also, two awards for under 18s Cuckoo 14-16 and Hale Award to help young people access writing or arts projects.

Writers Nuzhat Ali and Sharma Walfall then discussed their first steps and experiences on the Channel 4 Writing for Television bursaries, providing an insight on how to prepare your work for this award opportunity.  Channel 4 commission from independent producers and following NWN Roadshows in Manchester and Wakefield, Sharma and Nuzhat respectively won awards for writing for television.

Sharma got through to the second round of competitions with short drama before she won the award and Nuzhat, before Freedom Studios, got a play on Dreams Reality Radio.  Sharma is on attachment to Lime with two mentors Kevin and Di for Hollyoaks and she gets to attend all their conferences and gets to meet the actor families and get up to speed as they are 6 months ahead.  There is a different writing structure for a soap and have a story team who produce story documents and scene by scene beats of 24 A, B, C and D strand plot lines.  She also got to sit in on commissioning and to pick which script she wanted and is taking baby steps, i.e. she just got feedback on her scene by scene breakdown and next month she will attend 3 days a week in the story office.

There are 2 awards with Lime, Hollyoaks and children's drama where you send a sample script and then pitch a storyline idea.  Hollyoaks have got a lot of new families and characters that are fun and vibrant, written for the 16-35 age range there is a balance of comedy, high drama and epic storylines.  Sharma suggests picking one of the new families or a character you think has not been in it for a while.

Nuzhat is attached to Red Productions who do longer drama like Scott and Bailey, Happy Valley and Last Tango in Halifax.  A bursary for an original idea with a pitching document and then a scene by scene which taught her the technical side such as formatting etc.  She is developing an idea for a short story drama which will be 4 one hour dramas of 45-50 minute scripts.  Nuzhat read a lot of drama scripts  to see the quality on the BBC Writers Room site, which she recommends.  They ask for 10 pages of script as a test to see whether you can write dialogue and make characters.  All the information is on the website (it opens on 16 November) three bursaries of £3k - children's drama (can enter for both but has to be separate), 10 pages of script and why you want to write for television and the fresh perspective you can bring to television drama.

Hollyoaks will ask fro a story line and the best idea with a short pitch which Sharma recommended should have a cliffhanger at the end.

After a short tea/coffee break there was Writing Fiction and Poetry section where two previous Northern Writers' Award winners, children's novelist Chloe Daykin and poet Degna Stone, discussed how novelists and poets can best approach applying for an award and give advice on how to develop a career in writing and publishing.  They were joined by Professor Michael Green from Northumbria University who talked about the opportunities universities can offer writers at different stages of their careers.

Before winning the Award, Chloe had attended writing classes and sent lots of things out, play, short stories and was shortlisted for competitions and won money that she used for an MA (first year prose, second year script), in the first year she picked children's and wrote a novel in Summer and sent it to an agent she had met at the NWA conference who loved it and wanted to see more of it.  She liked the voice and writing but not the story.  She won the award and decided to rewrite it because it gave her confidence, validation and she spent a couple of months in Summer rewriting it but when she sent it to the agent, she didn't want it.  At a Summer event she had met a lot of other agents, publishers and editors as she had pitched her idea and got a lot of cards from this, so she sent it to one she liked and he loved it.  They worked on it together, he sent it out in March, it was auctioned before the Bologna Book Fair and she decided to choose Faber as their proposal explained why they liked it, everyone had read it and given feedback and they were the first to get back to her.  It comes out in March 2017 as she did edits with agent and now edits with editor (word count from 35-45k) as she tends to write tightly.  It is going to be a hardback which means it gets too launches (one for hard and one for paperback) and she has a 2 book deal, so is working on the second one now (to be completed by March).  She recommends having an idea for a second book when you enter as they generally offer 2 book deals and she highly recommends getting an agent as they fight your corner for you, helping with the contract and you are a team through the good and bad stuff.

There is a pitching workshop before Summer event where writers learn to pitch in a party situation (event 30-60 authors/publishers), sometimes agents look at work quicker because they have met you.  If you win an award you must use the momentum, the window of people paying attention because you have won.

Degna's first award was a Northern Promise Award in 2010 (third time she had applied) and manuscript feedback from the TLC, one of which was one of her lines was a car crash, she looked at this and saw it was true so that meant she trusted that the rest of the feedback was good.  On the New North Poets programme which runs every other year (back next year) and Butchers Dog anthology came from this which features poetry form Yorkshire, support from New Writing North and the magazine is accepting submissions now for their 7th edition.

Michael felt that MAs are an opportunity for writers to develop their work.  MAs in creative writing have been going for two decades and there are scholarships to do PHD's in York.  When in South Africa he wrote a verse novel with Penguin and won a few awards.  Eight years later his second novel won the Shriner Prize.  There is funding available for some of the projects and scholarships and of the PHDs in 2009, six completed and twelve published.  He has just taken in a new one and many of them are funded.

When Chloe entered the award she had completed her first draft and Degna 30 poems on childhood she had chosen from 70 she had written.  For the prose award 3-6k words and synopsis that captures the story arc in a concise way, and yes, give away the ending!  Try and do the synopsis in one line first and don't hold back on the genre of the piece.  Degna recommended a thematic link to get across the tone of it without being specific, with something unusual as the hook.  Also need statements about yourself to give them an idea of where you are.

The entry period is in the New Year (Dec-Feb) and you can submit something you have sent before and can enter some of the fiction awards and the television award (see website) for example, not a collection of poetry and a piece of fiction entered together).

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