In praise of mentoring and creating a community of fellow writers

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Ty Newydd: The National Writers Centre of Wales and former home of Lloyd George.

I recently wrote about the joys and symbiosis of mentoring playwrights through my association with Ty Newydd, The National Writers Centre of Wales. In this capacity, I was the tutor, the dramaturg, the reader who wrote encouraging reports on works in progress with the occasional sting in order to jolt the writer (I hoped) out of inertia or unproductive habits and into focused activity. One of the strengths of working with writers you have known for many months, and in some cases several years, is the mutual trust this sharing of time and processes brings, and the knowledge of what works best for them in this most particular dynamic when deadlines are approaching and new drafts need to be delivered – the carrot or the stick.

The other tangible benefit from this kind of close engagement is the potential creation of community. Writing is a notoriously singular activity, requiring long stretches of solitude and solo focus. Unlike other forms, theatre has its moments of social activity, for it is a blueprint for the stage which needs the massed imaginations and skills of the collaborators (actors, director, scenographer, lighting designer, dancers, musicians, etc) to bring it to fruition. It is often a relief to move into this engagement after the solo slog – and enlivening (at the least!) to discover other interpretations and imaginations responding to a work which has perhaps until this date existed only in the voice in your own head.

But meanwhile before that – when perhaps a script is still emerging, or relationships have not yet been forged with a company to move the script into this next phase of development… what happens then?

You create the company for yourself, utilising whoever is at hand.

I am a great believer in people power. Perhaps it’s the old punk in me, but I’m an exponent of ‘doing it yourself’.

For years I have been gathering friends who, if not professional actors, are willing to be drawn into reading my script aloud. And often the carrot of wine or food once we have done this task isn’t always a required inducement. Of course such homemade workshops may not be as effective as working with an experienced cast and director or dramaturg, who have an inkling of what they’re doing… But when you are stuck in a strange sort of hiatus, hearing those words in the room rather than inside your head can often move the work forward.

Tom Wentworth, one of the participants on my recent Mentoring Scheme, has written about the joys of peer review and this kind of workshop exploration on the DAO website, link below. He outlines some of the processes we went through over the scheme, and the joys of sharing extracts of the scripts in progress in the beautiful, tiny theatre of The Lloyd George Museum in North Wales last month.

I hope that this group will continue nurturing and supporting each other. We have a well-established private google group where we urge each other on, or share opportunities in the flick of an email. We have created our own small community of fellow writers – and I hope we will continue to observe each other’s development and success of careers over the coming years.

For Tom Wentworth’s article, go to: http://www.disabilityartsonline.org.uk/?location_id=1951

One response to “In praise of mentoring and creating a community of fellow writers

  1. This is brilliant. I am starting to gather writers in Cornwall for a mutually supportive community using a language of encouraging and constructive feedback. It’s great to hear about this to reinforce the ideas collaboration and writers giving each other that necessary carrot and stick approach to motivating each other’s progress.
    http://www.sophiesweatman.com

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