The QT

Wednesday 19 June 2024

A novel way to enjoy the summer

If you’re an established or aspiring writer, New Writing North can help. David Whetstone looks at what’s coming up
Eliza Clark, novelist, will be in conversation with Jessica Andrews in an event held in association with Faber. Credit: Robin Silas Christian

Writers and readers are alerted to the summer programme of New Writing North (NWN), that engine of literary enterprise that has worked wonders for all who take pleasure in words.

From the humblest of beginnings, the Newcastle-based writing development agency has grown to embrace the North as defined from coast to coast, helping writers in many genres to hone their craft and build a following.

It’s good for readers, too. Without them, writers would struggle to escape from their proverbial garrets.

Anna Disley, executive director of programme and impact at NWN, says: As we prepare to celebrate our 25th Northern Writers’ Awards this summer, we’re thrilled to do so within a programme packed with opportunities for everyone.

“We are sure you will find plenty to inspire you, and we hope you can join us.”

So what exactly is on offer?

Karen Powell and her Bronte-inspired novel, Fifteen Wild Decembers

A couple of events in June coincide with the National Theatre/Northern Stage co-production of Underdog: The Other Other Brontë, the bracing new stage comedy by Sarah Gordon, which opens at Newcastle’s Northern Stage on June 7.

Karen Powell’s second novel, Fifteen Wild Decembers, was published in the autumn, following on from her 2020 debut, The River Within, an early draft of which earned her a Northern Writers’ Award.

Described as ‘dazzling’ by NWN, Fifteen Wild Decembers is a reimagining of the life of Emily Brontë.

The author told a NWN interviewer: 

“As a teenager I imagined myself to be wild and passionate and misunderstood instead of suburban and unimpressive.

“When I first read Wuthering Heights at the age of 13, the novel, and by extension its author, seemed to speak directly to that idea of myself.

“My fascination with the book continued into adulthood, as it does for so many readers, perhaps because we like to believe we still retain some element of youthful uncontainedness.”

Exploring Emily Brontë with Karen Powell takes place at Northern Stage on June 14 at 6pm. To book tickets go to the Northern Stage website. 

Then on June 18 (also 6pm) there’s a chance to see acclaimed North East novelists Eliza Clark and Jessica Andrews in conversation in an event held in association with Faber. 

It celebrates Newcastle-born Eliza’s second novel, Penance, described as ‘an utterly chilling and compulsive book that interrogates ideas of truth and how small communities recover in the aftermath of a tragedy’.

Published last summer, it followed her 2020 debut, Boy Parts. In 2023 Eliza was included on Granta’s influential list of Best of Young British Novelists.

Jessica, born in Sunderland, is the author of Saltwater, which won the Portico Prize in 2020, and Milk Teeth, published in 2022.

There’s also a chance to meet authors in libraries across the region as part of NWN’s Northern Bookshelf Live promotion which builds on the success of its earlier Read Regional programme.

Keep Writing course leaders David Mark and Laura Fish

Click here to find where and when you can meet writers including Jessica Irena Smith, Lucy Nichol, Naomi Kelsey, Okechukwu Nzelu, Rose Wilding and others.

Meanwhile there are to be two courses for writers this summer in the libraries at Morpeth and Jesmond, Newcastle.

Described as Keep Writing, they cost £40 plus booking fee for four Saturday morning sessions and will be led by tutors and published authors David Mark (in Morpeth, June 1 to 22) and Laura Fish (Jesmond, July 6 to 27).

For those who have written creatively or are keen to start, various NWN groups meet during term time in various communities across the North East targeted at young people, women of colour and those for whom English is not their first language.

Looking ahead to the long holiday, various three-day summer programmes are available for budding writers aged 11 to 19 under the heading Young Writers’ Summer.

A New Writing North young writers group

Due to take place in Newcastle, North Shields, Cramlington, Gateshead and South Shields, they will embrace poetry, prose, songwriting, playwriting and writing for games, film or podcast.

An exciting writing-based career might just start here. But with some sessions already fully booked, best act smartly if interested.

The NWN Academy offers a range of online courses giving writers the chance to work in small virtual groups led by leading writers.

Getting underway first, on April 29 (and running until October 7), is the course called Write a Young Adult Novel, a genre currently booming.

There’s a charge for each course, which offers flexible learning, but bursaries are available for some applicants.

Harriet Ghost, a 2023 Channel 4 Writing for TV award winner. Credit: Amelia Read Photography

Applications open on April 23 (and until June 4) for a Channel 4 Writing for Television Award with successful applicants awarded placements with either Bonafide Films or Rollem Productions while also receiving mentoring and a £3,000 bursary.

Emerging television writers are also invited to apply by June 4 to join one of the Channel 4 Northern Talent Network script hubs that will meet in Newcastle, Bradford and online from July until November. 

Poetry hasn’t been overlooked with published poets being sought to join North East Poets, a new professional development group based in Newcastle and designed to help with craft and career development. Applications to join the group are open from May 28 until July 8.

Also being sought are five writers or artists to become NWN Creative Associates based in the North of Tyne area.

The scheme is designed to support them in creating work that might otherwise be difficult to do. Each will receive a £5,000 project fund, mentoring and support from the NWN team.

A NWN community group meeting

Applications to the Creative Associates scheme are open between May 28 and July 29.

Readers who want to share the joy with others can apply by May 13 to be part of a new Shared Reading Volunteers scheme run by NWN and Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Shared reading is seen as a way of increasing wellbeing for patients and the idea is that chosen participants will be trained as volunteers to work in Newcastle hospitals, using a selection of texts to facilitate reading and conversation with patients and staff.

Finally, as alluded to by Anna Disley, this summer marks 25 years of the Northern Writers’ Awards, NWN’s flagship writer development programme which has supported more than 400 writers.

With more than £50,000 to be distributed this year, buying time, mentorship and other benefits to help writers kickstart or further their careers, it is the biggest programme of its kind in England.

You can follow the presentation of this year’s Northern Writers’ Awards on June 25 via a livestream on the NWN YouTube channel.


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