While being a Writer in Residence may sound too grand and important to be within reach of the majority of authors, no matter whether their books are self-published or trade published, Sarah Banham's case study demonstrates that it's entirely possible and also desirable for indie authors to secure such a prestigious position. Over to Sarah…
Recently I became Writer in Residence of a library in North Essex.
There were several reasons why I chose the location and venue but before we get into the intricacies of my journey, let’s look at what residencies are and how to land a gig like this in the first place.
What is a Writer in Residence?
Simplified, you are an independent liaison between the writing industry and the public.
What is involved?
Depending on the length of a residency, a writer may be there to answer any questions about creative writing posed by the public. You may also write a progress report, usually in the form of a blog and provide talks or workshops.
Expectations should be agreed upon before the residency commences.
How do you get a gig like this?
I approached my local library for a brief and informal chat about the concept. Once I’d gauged interest, I gave more details via email involving senior management of the region. From the initial chat to commencement took approximately three months.
What skills are needed?
I’d advise having people skills and being an experienced writer. Confidence, smiling and being encouraging helps too.
What’s in it for the writer?
Although my business For the Love of Books is six years old, most people know of it online and I wanted locals to recognise it too. This is one way to increase business visibility. The library and I agreed to trial the initiative each Friday morning for three months.
- I work from there, promote its location and its services via social media, write a progress blog and provide a monthly workshop.
- In return I work in a comfortable environment with friendly staff who promote me through their newsletters and social media, speaking to customers and having my books, business banner and cards displayed.
Because all the libraries in the region are connected, they display posters of the residency. They are also more likely to invite me to give talks at other libraries too which aids networking.
Won’t it distract me from my writing?
No, because you are using the time there to write what you would normally write anyway. Between people asking you questions, you can go back to writing your current WiP, being sure to have given them a card and a pitch that would interest their needs.
Doesn’t it drain your time?
Not in the least because it is part of my routine and the library is ten minutes away.
What kind of venues are right?
Any venue that sees and appreciates the mutual benefits. If you are going to write while there, I would advise you choose somewhere comfortable and that enables focus. A pub, café, library, book shop, even an online residency is possible where questions about writing may come in via email or messaging.
About my journey
I chose West Clacton Library in North East Essex because it’s inside a dynamic building with architectural value, a large free car park and is very open and light inside. Because of its location to Jaywick* (a couple of miles away), I wanted to help focus positive attentions on the area as opposed to the negativity the media gives. I also wanted to assist anyone from the region who was struggling with and excited by creative writing. Because of its empowering qualities, I believe writing helps increase self-esteem and self-confidence which, in turn, aids employment possibilities.
If you enjoy volunteering within the community as well as helpful yourself, why not give it a go? It never hurts to have Writer in Residence on your CV.