I’ve just sent this 600 word feature to James Harrison for the www.oxfordindiebookfair.co.uk booklet. As well as exhibitor lists, plans of the building and the events program the free oxib booklet will have a super variety of book and creativity related features . I have just sent off my contribution . I could have called it JUST DO IT!
SO YOU WANT TO BE A WRITER by Sylvia Vetta
I don’t want to discourage you but to warn you that it won’t be easy and you’ll need determination and to make sacrifices unless you have a private income. In my second published novel Sculpting the Elephant, Harry King is a young artist who, like most of us, needs to earn a living so he opens a shop in Walton Street, Oxford called Decorator’s where he sells C20th design and his own work. My advice in other words to would-be artists, writers and actors is clichéd but holds true: “Have a second string to your bow.”
Many artists also teach or do graphic design. When I was in the antiques trade I met some actors who traded to secure an income when they were ‘resting’. I know actors, writers and artists who often work on cruise ship giving talks and workshops to supplement their income (nice work if you can get it).
Back in the day I was privileged to interview Colin Dexter the author of the successful Inspector Morse books. As he told me his story I couldn’t quite believe what I was hearing so I asked Colin ‘Have I understood correctly – you wrote nearly all the Morse novels while you were working full time at the Oxford Delegacy [for school examinations]?’
He replied in the affirmative so I asked him,
‘How did you do it?’
‘It was like this. I came home from work, had supper, listened to [Radio 4’s] The Archers, went to the pub for pint or two and worked out that if I then wrote a page a day after 365 days I had written a book,’ said Colin. Not all of us are lucky enough to have a Dorothy (his wife) to get supper ready on the table after work… but the thought is a good one.
I was a passionate reader from the day I joined Luton Library aged seven. My background was such that I couldn’t imagine myself becoming a writer and maybe that was fortunate. I got a lot of life experience before I started writing seriously. When I was director of Oxford Antiques Centre at the Jam Factory, The Oxford Times gave me my first opportunity to write professionally and I was soon writing for four magazines. When I stopped trading in 2005 I was able to devote myself to writing fulltime because our mortgage was paid and our children grown up so I could be free! I studied on the Diploma in Creative Writing Course at Oxford and that gave me the confidence that I could write fiction. The wonderful Jenny Lewis who will perform at the Oxford Indie Book Fair also instilled a belief that I could write poetry. A good writing course helps .It makes you write outside your comfort zone.
I was fortunate, having written for newspapers and magazines, because I became aware that once your copy has left your computer the editor will do what he or she likes with it—often adapting it to fit their readership… but occasionally I did sigh. Then I shrugged my shoulders because I learned not to be precious about my words. When Claret Press offered to publish my first novel Brushstrokes in Time, I discovered that Katie Isbester is a fine editor. She has since told me that I am easy to work with. So my advice is be open minded, listen to advice and be prepared to change your work drastically if necessary.
There were equally talented students on my Diploma Course who could write like a dream, but they haven’t been published and I have. Why? I write and write and write. Basically you have to do it. If you have a great idea and a passion to write it down—do it.
Best of Luck!
PS Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook (Bloomsbury £25) is useful to own or to refer to in your local library.
Little Winter is a passionate artist from the time she can hold a pen. (Brushstrokes in Time)