Since January, I’ve been working on a number of linked writer and reader development projects in my community. I’ve set up a blog with the aim of rooting Preston writers out of the woodwork and getting them talking to each other. I’ve run a pilot creative writing course, had creative and business feedback on that and then planned a whole summer of writing workshops. I’ve put together a live lit night (Preston’s first regular reading night) and collaborated in the creation of a community writing project that, if the funding comes through and I think it will, will take up a significant chunk of my summer. I’m also developing a regular sideline in manuscript appraisal and creative mentoring which is one of the most interesting and challenging kinds of work that I’m doing and something that I never thought I’d enjoy as much as I do.
Good time to switch to decaffeinated tea, eh?
There’s going to come a time when I need to step back from this kind of work. It is draining, and it doesn’t leave much time for novel writing or family life. But right now, it is intensely and immensely rewarding. I’ve stood on stage and spoken to people (not read – which is easy) and nothing awful happened. I’ve approached people I didn’t know and asked them to tell me about their writing. I’ve refused to work for free, fallen down and ripped the patent on my best shoes (not a metaphor) , bought two boxes of paperstick 2020s and I’ve (drum roll please) learned about tax.
I used to think, along with lots of other people, that Preston was the end of the world – a kind of cultural black hole where people spent a lot of their time striving to be sullen, critical and mediocre (attitudes I perform very well myself.) Preston felt like the kind of place where being interested or interesting was dangerous – and more than a few of the writers, graphic designers, journalists, web developers, artists and musicians I’ve spoken to recently have been victims of Tall Poppy Syndrome somewhere along the line.
The best part about all of this busy, frightening, new work has been the people who I’ve been able to meet. Eeee, what a cliché. And that’s coming from a misanthrope… In Broadgate, my own patch, and across the wider city, there are so many good things happening right now. I’ve met writers in Fulwood, Frenchwood, Plungington, Ribbleton and Howick. This isn’t about cultural development or the burgeoning creative industries. I don’t think this post is going to be interesting to most of the regular readers of this blog, but it might be interesting to me and a few of my new friends, who it is about.