PRESS RELEASE – STORY MACHINE ANNOUNCES PUBLICATION OF YOU ARE A WRITER GUIDES

Published by Sam Ruddock on

  • New series You Are a Writer will launch with 5 books published in 2024.
  • Written to help specific groups explore and develop their writing. Includes those with chronic conditions, prisoners, and from a working-class background.
  • Series will make high quality creative writing education accessible to all, regardless of financial circumstance. Billed as ‘your creative writing course for £10’.
  • The series will also propose new approaches to writing and strive to diversify the canon.
  • Arts Council England (through National Lottery Project Grants) has invested more than £40,000 in the project.
  • Authors writing books are all experienced educators, writers, and thinkers. They are Sarah Bower, Sandra Jensen, Sally-Anne Lomas, James McDermott, Andrew McDonnell. 
  • Each book will be tested by a group of emerging writers before publication. Readers will be paid for their time, and can register interest at https://forms.gle/DQFJT9MdEsfRz9dS7
  • A 6-week writing course will accompany publication of each book, and cost just £10. Places will be allocated via a ballot.

Story Machine is delighted to announce the launch of You Are a Writer, a series of creative writing guides written specifically with and for writers who struggle to access existing opportunities. You Are a Writer will champion everyday creativity and expand access to high quality writing education.

Arts Council England has recognized the importance of broadening access to the arts and invested more than £40,000 from the National Lottery Project Grants to support this project. Over the last decade, there has been a significant drop in opportunities for those from the poorest backgrounds, and from state schools in general, to access and participate in creative opportunities at school. This widening inequality is reflected in the workforce of the creative industries. In 2019, the Labour Force Survey by the Office for National Statistics showed that 45% of workers in the publishing industry (authors, writers, translators, editors, journalists etc.) came from upper-class backgrounds, 43% from middle-class backgrounds, and only 12% from working-class backgrounds. There are similar barriers based on entrenched gender, ethnic, and accessibility inequalities.

You Are a Writer responds to specific demand from people who struggle to access existing opportunities. Sam Ruddock, Editorial Director of Story Machine says:

‘These books are needed. Access to creative writing opportunities remains deeply unequal. Over the last 3 years Story Machine has worked with communities of writers – in prison, suffering chronic conditions, excluded by class expectations or financial constraint, overwhelmed with stress – who report feeling unable to access existing opportunities. Story Machine will publish 5 affordable guides to address their needs, each written by a writer educator with lived experience of the barriers they experience and created in consultation with their target audiences. We look forward to working with emerging writers to help them transform the landscape of creativity in the UK.’

You Are a Writer was instigated by poet, performer, and playwright James McDermott who notes that, ‘to train as a writer, I had to invest in studying for a BA, MA, and travel to and from London to train on various writing courses with high-profile companies. As a working-class writer, this was only possible through bursaries and funding which are not available to everyone. My book is a way to consolidate the lessons learnt and to offer it to writers for just £10. My book will be accessible, conversational, and driven by provocations and questions as opposed to truisms and lectures. These books will also seek to democratise the canon by citing and exploring books that have been traditionally overlooked – queer tales, black and ethnically diverse authors, working class narratives. I want to write a handbook that will hold the uncertainty, contradictions and subjectivity of writing craft, while also challenging the prevailing notion that one cannot start and sustain a career outside the cities. My book will be an effort to make high-quality writing training available to the many.’


Photo credit: Kate Griffin

Sarah Bower has taught creative writing students in secure environments through the Open University for fifteen years. She also has personal experience of having a relative in prison, which has increased her commitment to enriching prisoners’ lives and sharpened my understanding for what is practically possible within the system. She says that her book will ‘begin with the idea that constraint is a positive, a spur to creativity. It will aim to show how, with the help of a few simple exercises and ideas to encourage good writing habits, people in secure environments can use the limits of their surroundings to stimulate the imagination to break down boundaries of all kinds.’


Dr Andrew McDonnell, author of one of the books, says, ‘‘I always wanted to write and many times I felt like an outsider, both in the community I grew up in and the writing community I was joining. It’s a joy to write a handbook that advocates for other working-class writers to explore the craft of creative writing and find that their voice matters. I am inspired by the vision of You Are a Writer to make high-quality practical education available to the talented writers who cannot currently access it. I want to inspire writers who don’t believe they can build a career in the arts to shape the stories of the future so that art can and does belong to us all.’


Sandra Jensen lives with ME/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and will write a book on writing well, even if ill health or chronic conditions limit you just a few minutes of creativity each day. She has delivered workshops, specifically designed to work with short bursts of energy, respond to unpredictable health conditions, and create long term habits that can be sustainable and support effective health management. Sandra says her book will be ‘a clarion call to the army of the recumbent to believe that we can write, and write well, no matter what constraints life imposes upon us or how little energy we have. It will offer a tried and tested, bitesize approach to developing the tips, tricks and tools to feeling confident as a writer, and keep writing no matter what else is happening in life. It will celebrate the exhilaration and power of writing without expectation – joyous, for yourself, a thrilling and sometimes life-changing experience.’


Sally-Anne Lomas is a writer and creater of Writing Well workshops

Sally-Anne Lomas says: ‘There is no book ever written that explores the physicality of writing or offers writers a chance to develop their work through movement. I have two great passions: writing and dancing, so it isn’t surprising that my first novel is the story of a would-be dancer. Working with a professional choreographer and dancer to workshop certain scenes in the novel I found I could adapt many of the techniques to improve my writing. And that being in my body helped me manage my stress more effectively. Since then, I’ve been experimenting and exploring ways in which movement can enhance writing and vice-versa. We feel a story or a poem in our bodies. We laugh and weep into the page. I want writers to bring all of themselves to their writing, not just their heads. To write with their hearts, with their guts, with their muddy boots and arthritic knees, with their skin, with their bones. Bringing together movement and writing opens the doors to play. It is better for our well-being and better for our art.’

—END—


NOTES FOR EDITORS

  • Story Machine was founded in 2018. We create unforgettable experiences for readers and writers. We publish exciting new writing. We help artists develop their practice. And we create unforgettable live experiences. Our productions are like no book event you’ve seen before.
  • Story Machine can be found on Social Media: Twitter and Instagram (@Story_Machines), Facebook (StoryMachineHello) and Youtube (Story Machine Productions).
  • For more information see www.storymachines.co.uk or contact Sam Ruddock, Director, at sam@storymachines.co.uk or 07943 063015.
  • Sarah Bower is a novelist and short story writer. Her novels include The Needle in the Blood, and The Book of Love, and Lines and Shadows. Her short stories have appeared in magazines including QWF, Buzzwords and The Yellow Room. She teaches creative writing at the University of East Anglia and for the Open University, where she teaches writers in prison. In 2022 she presented a paper, ‘Prisoner 25’, at the Reading And/For Escape conference on the experience of corresponding and supporting reading and writing activities for a prisoner.
  • Sandra Jensen’s stories have appeared in AGNI, World Literature Today, Sou’wester and The Irish Times amongst others. Awards include winning the Bridport Prize’s Peggy Chapman-Andrews Award for a First Novel, First Place in the bosque Fiction Prize and honourable mentions from Glimmer Train. She also won the J.G. Farrell award for best novel-in-progress. Sandra also leads writing retreats and coaches writers.
    https://sandrajensen.net/ | https://twitter.com/SandraAJensen | https://www.instagram.com/sandra_a_jensen/
  • Sally-Anne Lomas is a writer, artist and filmmaker. Her debut novel Live Like Your Head’s On Fire was published in 2020 and the follow-up Love Like Your Heart’s On Fire in July 2023. She is an Escalator Literature alumnus, and has led workshops for National Centre for Writing, The Literary Consultancy, and Dance East around writing and movement. Sally-Anne Lomas is also the founder and Director of Cloth of Kindness, a community-led health and wellbeing textile arts project seeking to enfold the world in love.
    https://www.sallyannelomas.co.uk/ | www.twitter.com/LomasSal | www.instagram.com/lomassallyanne | https://clothofkindness.co.uk
  • James McDermott is a scriptwriter, poet, and teacher. His plays have been presented and toured across the UK at venues including New Wolsey, Norwich Playhouse, Pleasance Islington, and Lyric Hammersmith. His new climate crisis drag cabaret play ‘Acid’s Reign’ runs at Vaults 2023, and he is writing plays for Revoluton Arts, Hive North, Marina Theatre Lowestoft, Sheringham Little Theatre and Relish Theatre. He is represented by Independent Talent and his plays are published by Samuel French. James has also published poetry collections published by Burning Eye Books, Polari Press, and Broken Sleep Books. He publishes his second full collection with Nine Arches Press in June 2023. James is a lecturer in Scriptwriting at the University of East Anglia, Visiting Lecturer in scriptwriting at Norwich University of the Arts, and an Arvon writing tutor.
    https://jamesmcdermottwriter.weebly.com/ | www.twitter.com/jamesliammcd
  • Dr Andrew McDonnell is a writer of poetry and short fiction. His first book, The Somnambulist’s Cookbook, was published by Salt in 2019. He is a course leader in English Literature at University Centre Peterborough and founded The Public House and Norwich School of Creative Writing to support high quality adult education in the arts.
    www.twitter.com/mcandymac | https://ucp.ac.uk/news/introduction-to-creative-writing  
  • Promotional images are available on request.
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