If you’ve got a story you’d like to tell, we’d really love to help you tell it.
In 2010 Laura Degnan and I started a company called Writers’ Block North East. The idea was simple – find as many people in the Tees Valley area who wanted to write, or who were writing, and get them writing or get them writing more. And then to help them get what they were writing seen, heard and read by as many people as possible.
In the early days we ran about three workshops a week, covering quite a wide range of disciplines: playwriting, writing for animation, sketch writing, novel writing, screenwriting, writing on windows (Middlesbrough council had kindly donated space for us in the Cleveland Centre and there was a window to write on), and one particularly bonkers plan to write a feature film and get it made. There was excitement, and so much energy, and we were delighted to find out how many people in Middlesbrough wanted to write, and create, and perform.
Some of what we did stuck, some of it didn’t (we haven’t made a feature film… yet!). But over the years WBNE has provided development support and mentoring to over 890 emerging writers, many of them first-timers, directly leading to 600 new pieces of work being created and showcased in the Tees Valley.
600! 600 stage plays, animations, puppet shows, audio dramas, films, songs, books, zines, comics, sketch shows, short films, poems, stand-up routines! All written and performed by people from our region, with support from us. Sometimes, looking back, you just have to shake your head in amazement and say “wow” because “wow”, you know? And we feel like we’re only just getting started.
Over time we have concentrated more and more on novel writing. We simply don’t have the time or the energy to run three mad workshops a week every week any more, though it was fun while it lasted! These days we invite submissions at the beginning of the year from anyone who would like to write a novel. Twelve are chosen, and those twelve go through a year of writing workshops, 1-1 mentoring, sessions with editors and published authors, and meetings with top literary agents, and at the end of that year the idea is they have a brand-new first draft of a novel.
It seems to work. A quarter of the writers on our last programme (2018-19) have already been offered representation by literary agents (Andrew Nurnberg, Marjacq and The North Agency, in case you’re wondering). One has secured a two book deal with Avon Publishing, with another landing a three book deal with Puffin. That was a good year.
And this year we are already close to surpassing that. That’s writers from our region landing agents and publishing deals, with their hard work, and talent, and our help and encouragement.
And as for next year… well, we’ll be starting the application process early in 2022. Do you fancy it? You don’t need to ask for permission. That’s what Writers’ Block has been about since it started. If you want to write, just write. And if you’d like some help, here we are.
Find out more at https://www.writersblocknortheast.com/
It’s NanoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month)! Even if you’re not taking part in the international write-a-novel-in-a-month madness, if you’re writing a book and want to write a book, find out more here at The Tees Online!