She replied! She said working-class writers like me needed to get together. I started trying to build a collective with the help of New Writing North. The collective shared a shocking list of barriers writers face when trying to break into the industry. Through discussions with writers like me, I discovered that the biggest barrier was this internal narrative of shame that writers carry about their stories. We all talked about and to this shame in different ways. While this was happening, Penguin Random House asked me to speak at their Write Now event for underrepresented writers. Because of these discoveries talking to writers like me, I prepared a mini-session on making a plan to write that addressed the shame barrier. The audience response blew me away; people wanted to know more about writing with a plan and emailed me after the event. I couldn’t ignore what the collective had started and began to formalise the plan as a blog of activities, and incredibly it was The Bookseller who published the first step for their readers.
When my friend, Jenna Warren, who owns a local bookshop, told me about a pot of funding from The Bookseller’s Association to work at grassroots level with readers and writers, we took it as a sign to make The Writer’s Plan real and work with emerging writers in Teesside, where I live.
New Writing North has advised and supported each step of The Writer’s Plan and they asked me to translate the face-to-face course into an online version for everyone to access and work through at their own pace.
The Writer’s Plan is part-guide, part-confessional, mostly it’s catch-up for all the confidence, permissions, and strategies that we need to know to write our stories.
If you come from an underrepresented background like me, it’s almost a given that you’ll doubt the legitimacy of bringing your experiences to the page. Without the money to buy time and education to write well, we’re thrown into cycles of doubt, shame and sabotage. We don’t permit ourselves to write. I’m guessing, that like me, you haven’t started with role models or professional networks. But writers like us are real. The first time I met a real published, working-class writer close enough to know they were real, I was thirty-four. They weren’t the exception. Neither am I. There’s room for everyone.
Look, the signal’s changed, the next train is coming.
Let’s get on,
The Writers’ Plan © Carmen Marcus 2021