Room 204

My time on Writing West Midlands’ writer development programme

The short story

Saturday 9th April saw the final official gathering of the 2015/2016 cohort on Writing West MidlandsRoom 204 writer development programme. Having been fortunate enough to take part this year I thought I’d share my experience.

The short version is this: as a result of my time with Room 204 I’ve received effective suggestions regarding how to move existing projects forward, been encouraged to develop my writing in new areas, invited to participate in projects at their inception, and made many valuable new contacts and friends. There’s also a more general sense of being part of something active and dynamic in the Midlands region, and that this is an on-going, mutually supportive relationship. I believe any writer would find the support offered by the Writing West Midlands team invaluable. If you want to know more, read on, MacDuff!

The full story

When I received word early in 2015 that my application to Room 204 had been successful I was surprised and delighted. At that time, though, I still wasn’t sure what Room 204 would do for me, how it would work, or what would happen. I quickly came to understand the reason for this, and that it’s at the heart of what makes the 204 programme so special.

While there’s a definite framework of one-to-one sessions, invitations to events such as the launch of Birmingham Literature Festival and a free place at the National Writing Conference, the real beauty of Room 204 is that this is not a fixed, predetermined, one-size-fits-all schedule, but a unique experience for each participant. Until the team start to get to know you, have some grasp of where you stand as a writer and what you’re looking to achieve, the help they might be able to offer will not be fully apparent to either party.

The process begins with the one-to-one sessions, which were always motivating, served to broaden my horizons and yielded helpful suggestions for ways to proceed. Over the course of the programme a variety of opportunities are also presented to the group. Some of these are specifically targeted given a writer’s particular area of interest, while others are more general invitations that may appeal to anyone on the programme. These may include but are by no means limited to information about opportunities to work with schools, making submissions to forthcoming short story or poetry collections, or attending networking events in the region.

Whether you act on any of these initiatives is at your discretion, and there’s certainly no pressure to do so, but the reality is that, as with writing in general, you reap what you sow. My analogy for writing is that it’s a bit like riding a bike up a hill: once you get off and start pushing you tend not to get back on again. If you’re struggling up Alpe d’Huez (one of those little hills in the Tour de France), the Room 204 team are on hand with energy drinks, a support car and generally shouting encouragement from the roadside. Something like that anyway.

The programme has played a definite role in moving my career forward and opened up new avenues. The 2016/2017 participants for Room 204 have already been chosen, so if you’re one of them, congratulations! If you’re not but like the sound of 204, applications will open again later in the year – and as we determined at Saturday’s final meeting, a year is a short period of time in a writer’s career. In the meantime you can follow Writing West Midlands on Twitter, and should consider attending the National Writing Conference and Birmingham Literature Festival, both of which will offer interesting schedules and the opportunity to make new connections. Most importantly of all – keep writing!


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