The Writing Platform

Just yesterday I went into London in order to attend The Writing Platform event (which is part of the bigger Literary Platform) where several interesting things about the modern world of writing and publishing were discussed. While I may have had to spend eight hours of the day travelling in order to hear this, luckily for you, I’ll write down all of the main information here and you won’t even have to leave your seat!
    At the start of the event, Kate Pullinger gave a nice introduction which was very enjoyable… Well, I imagine it was nice and very enjoyable (she teaches my New Media class), but I was unfortunate enough to miss this (as was the rest of the class) because we arrived around half an hour late due to traffic!
    When I finally arrived, Gemma Seltzer was in the middle of a talk about Arts Council England. She said that applying for funding from the Arts Council is the next step to take once your writing is beginning to gain a little bit of interest. However, they only give out funding to around 30-40% of people, so anybody who would be interested in that should be sure that their writing, most importantly, is of a high quality and will engage with the public somehow.
    Next up was a conversation between James Bennett and Joanna Ellis about copyright laws and how they are adapting to the increase in digital distribution of content online. James outlined how copyrighting worked in the UK (you automatically have the rights to everything you make, it last up until seventy years after death) and talked about ways in which things are changing in the modern world. He mentioned systems in both France and Korea which greatly decreased online piracy, but he didn’t really go into much detail on what they were (unfortunately). What I found most interesting, however, was a little prediction he made, which was that in thirty or forty years, illegally downloading things will be considered very unacceptable by the average person! I certainly look forward to fining out whether that will ever be a reality.
    The fourth thing on the schedule was a talk between Kerry Young, Susan Yearwood and Jacob Sam-La Rose on the subject of the identity of a writer. This was one of my favourite events of the day, because Kerry and Jacob seemed to have quite different views on the subject: Jacob was all in favour of an author promoting and building up their identity through online means such as Twitter, whereas Kerry was quite against it all (at least in her own case), saying that it distracted too much from the main part of writing. Kerry said that her main advice to upcoming writers was “don’t just put anything out into the universe” which is something I disagree with. She said that a lot of people are posting very poor writing online and even Jacob agreed that the amount of content on the internet was like a huge floor, and so people should only post their very best. She stressed that work should be workshopped before it is posted in order to reduce the amount of ‘bad’ writing out there, but what I think she’s failed to realise is that not everybody has access to lots of people who can give them feedback and so posting it on the internet is their best chance at getting what they need to improve their work. I’d also like to add, that I personally think that appreciation of any art is entirely biased, and so what might be ‘just anything’ to one person, could be the absolute pinnacle of writing to another.
    Next, Lisa Gee, Gavin Wilson and Rohan Quine each promoted a different online platform for writing. Lisa spoke about Unbound a website which helps upcoming writers to receive funding from others (though requires them to promote themselves a lot), Gavin spoke about Wattpad where you can post pieces of writing and receive feedback from other users and Rohan talked about the upsides of having your worked first published in eBook form. I personally found that Wattpad seemed to be the most interesting of these three options and I may well be opening an account sometime soon.
    Courttia Newland and Nii Parkes (Leone Ross was due to attend, but was unavailable at the last moment) talked about issues of race and class in the publishing world. While this penultimate talk may not have been all that handy for upcoming writers seeking advice, it was still certainly very interesting. I was completely unaware of the odd representations of minority characters in most books, or that most publishers are white middle class people, so this was quite an enlightening hour for me.
    Finally, Tom Chivers and Gemma Seltzer (again) talked about the ways in which a writer can be successful through writing forms ‘beyond the page’. Gemma talked at length about her Speak to Strangers project which was her speaking to a hundred different strangers and then writing about each one. I found this particularly inspiring, and may just do the exact same thing sometime in the future, it may not be original, but I feel like I might get a lot from it. Throughout they encouraged writers to be bold and experimental with their blogs and to try new and exciting things… (not like, say, just writing up events. Darn!).
    And so that was the whole of The Writing Platform event. While it may have been very long and far away, I can’t say that I haven’t learned from it, nor can I say that it didn’t give me ideas about what to do with this blog. I hope you’ve found this to be an interesting report of the event.
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