Thinking of Applying for our Apprentice Award?
If you’re thinking of applying for the Word Factory Apprentice Award this year you should read this interview with Will Mackie…
Will is Senior Programme Manager (Writing, Awards, and Libraries) at New Writing North. He project manages the Northern Writers’ Awards, the talent-development programme for writers in Northern England, and is the main contact for libraries, publishers and authors involved in Read Regional. He also manages New Writing North¹s portfolio of prizes including the Gordon Burn Prize, and works with higher educational institutions to deliver module content on undergraduate and post-graduate programmes. He previously worked in publishing as a fiction and poetry editor, and was Head of Writer Development at the charity Scottish Book Trust.
Here Will is interviewed by writer and Word Factory Social Media Consultant Gaynor Jones.
1. What can you tell us about New Writing North? How did you begin and what are your aims?
New Writing North is an ambitious, progressive and dynamic literature organisation based in Newcastle upon Tyne. We support reading and writing in our region through a range of exciting projects like Read Regional, the Gordon Burn Prize and the amazing Durham Book Festival. Running alongside our programmes for adults is our pioneering Young Writers’ programme. We’re lucky to be made up of a dedicated staff who bring imagination and a sense of vocation to what we do, and our work is made possible by a range of partners and supporters, in particular, Arts Council England and Northumbria University.
2. Your partnership with the Word Factory Apprentice scheme is relatively recent, how did you get involved with it?
The Word Factory scheme is part of our flagship writer development programme, the Northern Writers’ Awards. The Awards have been helping writers in the north of England to develop their work since 2000. We aim to support as many different types of writing as we can within the resources we have — this includes novels, poetry collections and writing for television through our partnership with Channel 4. The Word Factory award represents the commitment we have to short fiction, one of the most artistically inventive areas of contemporary writing. The partnership with the Word Factory gives us the chance to offer the winner of this award a richly productive programme of developmental support, with mentoring at the centre and access to the Word Factory’s workshops and salons. We massively admire the Word Factory, and Cathy Galvin’s enthusiasm and dedication make her a joy to work with. We’re very proud of the relationship.
3. There’s a big focus in mentoring both in your organisation and in the Apprentice award. In what ways do you feel mentoring benefits new (or even established) writers?
Mentoring is special. Though it has elements in common with editing and teaching, it’s something different from both of those. It tends to be non-hierarchical, genuinely collaborative and bespoke — no two mentoring partnerships are the same. Two people, the mentor and the mentee, work together on a project with a common aim. There are always parameters and goals for any mentoring relationship but within that model there’s flexibility and scope for artistic exploration. Mentoring schemes like the one we run with the Word Factory are amongst the most in-depth, effective and rewarding ways of offering support to writers to create and redraft their work. They can work as well for new writers as for people who have been writing for years — no matter how widely published you are, there’s always new ground to explore and the guiding hand of a mentor can help you get to where you want to go.
I’m more than delighted that Carys Davies will be the mentor for this year’s Word Factory Northern Apprentice. Carys’s short stories are adventurous and perfectly crafted, and she has a huge amount to offer her mentee.
4. Do you have any advice or tips for writers thinking about applying for the Word Factory Apprentice Award through New Writing North?
My advice would always be to look at the range of awards we offer and select the one that seems right for you and carefully read the eligibility criteria. If you decide to apply for the Word Factory award then choose a story that you feel best showcases how you write. Think not only about the story itself but about the way you tell your story and the authenticity of your voice as a writer. We’re looking forward to reading a multitude of different stories so don’t feel there’s a certain way of writing or type of story we want — there isn’t.
5. There’s been quite a focus in moving away from London-centric writing this year (for example, with the formation of the Northern Fiction Alliance), do you think that New Writing North were trailblazers for this?
The Northern Fiction Alliance is a wonderful way of drawing attention to the many excellent publishers in our region and the writers they nurture and support. Publishers like Comma Press, Peepal Tree, Mayfly and Saraband are innovative and forward thinking, supporting writing that is frequently a step ahead of the mainstream. They’ve been publishing brilliant books for a long time and deserve recognition for their work. It’s also worth drawing attention to poetry publishers like Bloodaxe in Northumberland and Carcanet in Manchester who have led the way for several decades, as well as the many cutting-edge Northern-based small presses. We also work in partnership with many London-based publishers and agents to support writers in our region. Writers have always lived all over the country and it is great that publishers are now working harder to meet those writers outside of their own networks.
6. What future plans are in the pipeline for New Writing North?
There are always new plans in development here! To keep up with what we’re doing, please sign up for our newsletter.
You can apply for the Word Factory Apprentice Award here.