Whilst the restrictions imposed on us all during the Covid-19 lockdown since mid-March 2020 have been hard to adapt to, for some, they’ve been an opportunity to create some new work or think about existing work in a completely different way.
We have taken some time to catch up with some of our Room 204 Writers-in-Development to hear about some of their recent successes and how they’ve been spending their time during lockdown.
Yasmin Ali has launched a blog publishing writing in response to Covid 19. The work is varied from poetry, life writing, stories, journalism. Contributors include Alan Mahar, ex-Tindal Street Press, novelists Mick Scully and Anthony Ferner, as well as Room 204 writers such as Louise Palfreyman, Garrie Fletcher, Jacqui Rowe and more.
Maisie Chan was awarded the Dr Gavin Wallace Fellow. As resident at the Peter Pan Moat Brae Trust in Dumfries, Maisie is being funded by Creative Scotland to create stories inspired by nature and the Neverland Discovery Garden, as well as develop her writing in children’s picture books. Maisie also contributed a piece of flash fiction called The Worst Birthday Ever for Stay At Home! Prose and Poetry for Children in Lockdown.
“The story was inspired by hosting two online birthday playdates for my children and having to be inventive to make their days special being as their parties were cancelled,” says Chan. “The anthology was put together by editor Joan Haig as a thank you to children who had been brilliant at staying at home during lockdown. It’s available for free which means that anyone can read it.” Read the book here.
Annabel Brightling (2019 intake) and her writing group Script Sirens have a produced a four-part dark comedy called #GoingViral, which is available from 8th June 2020.
William Gallagher has been spurred on by lockdown to carry out some arts projects he has been meaning to do and has found a lot of cross over in his newly developed skill set. William’s work on the Writing West Midlands Online Courses have been improved by his experience with his own courses. Equally, he feels his own courses have benefited gigantically from working on the WWM ones, in terms of technical knowledge, but also in learning new ways of working with new people. And now after running free webinars about online courses and video for writers, he is being paid by companies to deliver that information for musicians, actors and journalists too.
Shaun Hill (2019 intake) has been announced as one of five poets in this year’s Apples and Snakes & Jerwood Arts Poetry in Performance Programme. It’s an incredible opportunity to explore performance poetry more and we’re sure he’ll get a lot from the year-long programme.
Fran Hill published her book ‘Miss, What Does Incomprehensible Mean?’, a funny life-affirming memoir of a typical year in my life as an English teacher. It explores misbehaviour of all types – in pupils and teachers! – but also looks at reasons for misbehaviour. It was published in May by SPCK Publishing. You can watch the launch and have a bit of a laugh here! Find a copy from Fran’s local bookshop here or through Blackwells here.
Sarah Leavesley/James has received Arts Council Funding to create a hypertext multi-media poetry narrative >Room. The collection-length series of ‘poetry rooms’ is inspired by Sarah’s experiences of living with type one diabetes from the age of six. It combines written text, animated photos and audio to create a free experience where readers can determine their own route through the narrative by clicking on different words in blue to enter a new room. Those who make it to the end also have the chance to help create a new virtual room for the project. Which room will you find next? Enter >Room.
Louise Stokes has received Arts Council England Emergency Funding to deliver writing workshops using YouTube, Zoom, WhatsApp, Phone and Email as a means to connect and interact with participants from the general community. The sessions were geared towards catering for the vulnerable, isolated, those with experience of mental health issues, challenges and needs.
Stokes says: “My inspiration for this was my passionate desire to try and do one of the things I do best; combining creativity and the arts with wellbeing, compassion and support to help us get through this turbulent, frightening, often lonely and uncertain time, to give people the opportunity to express themselves in a safe and supportive space and to bring us together through writing at a time when we are, of necessity, so physically apart.”
Susan Stokes-Chapman was shortlisted and awarded Highly Commended in the HWA/Sharpe Book Unpublished Novel Award for her first novel Infelice. Susan has also been longlisted for the Lucy Cavendish Award for my work in progress novel Pandora. She has spent lockdown working on completing the novel.
Cat Weatherill has created a new space for women writers: The Woman at the Next Table to celebrate women who dream & write in coffee shops.
“It’s a peaceful, inspiring place where women can learn to appreciate the value of their own life stories, feel more confident and explore their creativity,” says Weatherill.
There’s a blog, an Insta feed and YouTube videos up and running, with workshops and podcasts to follow.