Showing posts with label work. Show all posts
Showing posts with label work. Show all posts

Thursday, 7 January 2021

What fresh hell is this? The B-word and creative freelancers by Dawn Finch

I have always held the opinion that it's probably best not to express too many opinions. This means that I have usually opted to not say anything at all about Brexit preferring to wait for people to tell me just one positive fact about it (still waiting, by the way...). Facts - love those, but like all of us, I'm drowning in opinions right now and those are not always the same as facts.

Most of us are already feeling the negative impact of changes that restrict our freedom of movement and impede our ability to see Europe as our wider work-space, but for most of us, we simply feel so overwhelmed by the whole thing that it just feels like a massive dog-pile of opinions. Picking the facts out of this dog-pile is becoming increasingly difficult and it is with great relief that I read the latest piece from the Society of Authors. I say "relief" but I should stress that's not relief about the content, but about the fact that the details her are at least clear and understandable.

The end to Freedom of Movement means that many creatives will have to negotiate complicated visa and work permit regimes before travelling to EU27 countries and we'll all need to be aware of the extent of any potentially varying exclusions that may apply to us. Authors travelling to an EU country for research or work should remember from now on to check with the UK consular office or embassy, and this is not always going to be as simple as it sounds. There is a significant risk of backlogs, and of paperwork delays as even the embassies try to set into place how this will all work.

Some things are clear, such as the fact that we should still be able to work in France for up to 90 days without a visa, but we will need a work permit. Sadly the details for other countries are still up in the air and awaiting conditions based on reciprocal arrangements that have yet to be agreed.

There is, of course, a huge amount of confusion and uncertainty about the emerging rules, but what is clear to the Society of Authors is that it will "present a costly and complex barrier to thousands of freelancers working in the creative industries". The Society draws attention to a petition calling for a Visa-free work permit for touring creative professionals that has already gained well over 200,000 signatures.

I would strongly recommend reading the Society of Authors' article and following them on social media for regularly updated information. With so many opinions flying around it is refreshing to have a source of information tailored to my needs as a freelance creative European.

Access the latest news from the Society of Authors via their website, and the article referred to in this piece can be found here.

Dawn Finch is an author and information professional.


Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Authors giving work experience - does it work? by Nicola Morgan

(Adapted from my own blog, as it's relevant here and I'm not a little fraught.)

Writers are increasingly asked to offer work experience to school pupils and young people increasingly have to ask for it. Some of you might have wondered what you'd do. One writer-friend of mine was contacted by a young person who said, "Nicola Morgan says..." as though I know something about the whole thing. Well, as you can imagine, I have some thoughts...

For example, recently, a 13 year-old girl, Iona, came to me for a week. I nearly said no but I'm so glad I didn't. Although I'd had an excellent experience once before, I had vowed never to do it again because after that excellent one I had two instances of agreeing to offer work experience, spending a great deal of time working out what we would do during the week or fortnight and then being let down at the last minute. I also had several people contact me in extremely lacklustre ways, along the lines of "I have to get some work experience - can you give me some?" Which is not likely to work.

It's not easy for a writer to offer work experience. Most of our work is in our heads and no one else can do it. It's hard to find things that someone else can help with. And there's not much room for two in my office! But I like helping young people and I like learning from them, which was why I offered that original work experience a few years ago.

Still, for the reasons above, I'd decided not to say yes again. Until Iona came along.

It was her email that did it. She was excited, bright, had done her research, gave enthusiastic reasons for being keen to work with me. She ticked all the boxes and pressed all the buttons. So I said yes.

Then came the forms from her school. Health and safety; employer's insurance; impossible things for me to fill in. So I phoned the school and said I couldn't do it because I couldn't fill in the forms. I wasn't an employer, for a start. And I didn't have time or inclination to jump through hoops.

However, where there's a will there's a way and we agreed that it would be a private arrangement between me and Iona's mother. Luckily, Iona's mother was a model of common sense, and so was I, so we got this sorted in a sensible way.

Iona was a complete and utter delight. So easy to have around; independent; very keen to learn; said yes to everything; brilliant with You-Tube and a camera... 

What did we do?
  • Iona helped with ideas for a novel I was stuck on. 
  • We had a meeting with my publicist and discussed various upcoming projects, including marketing for Brain Sticks.
  • We both had some writing tuition from Lucy Coats - that was fun!
  • Iona contributed to an article on author events which Duncan Wright, school librarian, and I were writing for the School Librarian Journal. She had to give her viewpoint as an audience member and she made some excellent points, one of which I've already used in my own events.
  • She interviewed me and filmed me, putting together a video; she also took some other footage which we're going to use in the future. I regret to say that she laughed at my appalling acting skills, but I'll forgive her for that because it was hard not to laugh.
  • She helped me get to grips with iMovie...
  • We assessed a picture book manuscript that a Pen2Publication client had sent me (with the client's permission)
  • We talked about and worked on all the editing processes of a book's journey
  • She had to assess a revision website I'd been asked to give an opinion on - our opinion was not very positive!
  • She wrote a stunning email to a company for me.
  • I gave her some advice on a piece she was writing for school; and her revised version was SO good. But, more importantly, when she wrote that email for me, it was a brilliant email because she'd taken on board everything I'd taught her. As Lucy said, "she soaks up information like a sponge."
  • She spent a day with literary agent Lindsey Fraser.
Iona was so excellent and so nice (nice is very important when you're working one-to-one) that I've offered her paid work in the holidays. She's coming with me to the Aberdour festival, where she will help me with my events and do more filming. She's also coming to the Edinburgh Book Festival with me, to two of these events. And then she's going to put together a new film for me: A Day in the Life Of an Author. I can't wait! Because, although she taught me how to use iMovie, she's still a million times better and faster than me.

Iona should be very proud indeed. She will go far!

Tips for young people who are thinking of asking for work experience with an author:
  • Research the author and show that you know what they do and why you want to work for them.
  • Be very enthusiastic and polite. Even use a dollop of flattery... *cough*
  • Show that you understand that work experience with an author is unusual and difficult; show that you want to help as well as learn.
  • If the author says a polite no, write a polite reply. They might have something for you in the future.
But the big question is WHY? Young people, ask yourself why you want to do this? What do you hope to learn and what do you think would be interesting. And for authors, why would you want to do this? For me, it's simple: I like giving opportunities for talented and eager teenagers to push themselves. I get a buzz from that.

Good luck to both parties! It can work really well.

Do take a look at Iona's short video interview here and you'll see why I say she's good:

I will be at the Edinburgh Book Festival often between Aug 15th and 31st - do let me know if you'd like to meet up. How about coming to the event I'm doing with Cathy Rentzenbrink (author of the heart-wrenching The Final Act of Love and also director of the Quick Reads charity) and Charles Fernyhough, psychologist and expert in the neuroscience of reading. Our event is about the science of reading and I'll be talking about the science behind Readaxation and the power of reading for pleasure and wellbeing. Email me: [email protected]

Friday, 28 November 2014

A Tale of Two Activities - Clémentine Beauvais

If you're reading this post in the morning of the day it's come out, send me a positive brain wave and cross your fingers for me: I'm currently shaking fretting panicking calmly getting ready for a job interview in a university somewhere in the UK...

So I'm taking this blog post as an opportunity to reflect on the difficulties and joys of having another job in addition to writing, one that you really don't want to give up on. Most people tend to assume that I'm secretly dreaming of being a full-time writer. I often hear, 'Are you keeping up the academic side just for the money?'

That's easily answered in MS Paint:

To most people, if you have an 'artistic' side, anything else you do must surely be 'paying' for your artistic activity. If you're not giving up the 'day job', it probably means the artistic one doesn't earn you anything, or not enough. 

Even my academic colleagues have somehow internalised the notion that I would 'prefer' to write children's books as a full-time job; that it's what I really want to do. We were talking at lunch about what we'd do if we won the lottery (yes, students: that's the kind of thing your lecturers and tutors talk about at lunch), and several colleagues said that they'd quit their job immediately. I said I certainly wouldn't stop working - I like my research and teaching, and I'd get bored. The immediate response was, 'But you could spend all the time you want on writing your children's books!'

Frankly, if I really wanted to spend all my time writing children's books... well, I would take the jump and do it. And if I needed a job to subsidise this activity, I probably wouldn't opt for one that requires hours of teaching, reading, essay-marking, meeting-going, networking, jargon-deciphering, revise-and-resubmitting, email-sending at two in the morning, in a crazy incertain job market, with no weekends to speak of, holidays that are in fact conferences, and the absolute impossibility to stick to regular hours.

Well then, are you keeping up the academic job as a safety net, 'just in case the writing doesn't work out?'

(The notion of academia as a 'safety net' is just... I mean, I wish, but...)

If the writing didn't 'work out', it would probably be in part because of the other job. Writing success isn't some esoteric thing that does or doesn't work out according to the unpredictable movements of the stars - the more you work on it, the more likely it is to 'work out'. You might never be J.K. Rowling, but you can get very respectable sales by being strategic, working hard, meeting children and promoting your books. This is more difficult when you've got another job.

So of course, having another job isn't ideal for your publishers, agents and publicists. There is definitely faint pressure to 'quit the day job' and be a full-time author. School visits and festivals often happen during the week. Even if you can make some of it, you can't be one of these writers who do school visits all the time. Therefore your books might not sell as well, and you might not get as high an advance next time, or even asked for another book.

Gone are the days when it was acceptable to write your books in your 'free time', and to decide that this year, you'll only publish one, or none. It doesn't work like that in the UK (to a degree, it still does in France). The publish or perish rule applies here like it does in academia; being a part-time writer will always put you at a disadvantage.

Implicitly, there is pressure also from other authors and illustrators who are full time. There's a very legitimate worry that writers like me contribute to making our activity appear unprofessional, amateurish, dilettantish, something you do 'when you've got the time', or if a partner is subsidising your indulgent bohemian bourgeois lifestyle. I entirely understand this concern, and it does bother me that I contribute to this vision. Authors and illustrators should absolutely be in a position to live - and to live well - thanks to their work. Saying that your writing brings you 'pocket money' or is 'a fun thing on the side' is quite insulting to the rest of the community.

But choosing not to choose is perhaps the only authentic option when you have the luxury of having two activities that bring you different rewards, different challenges and different joys. And many people, I'm sure, secretly want to do not just one thing, but several. Recently a student asked me for career advice (I know, terrifying). She said she was split, because she wanted to be a film maker, but 'not just': she was also considering being a researcher in psychology, or perhaps a teacher, or even a consultant. Why can't we do several things at the same time, when we have so many interests?

I agreed of course, but said the reasonable thing: doing several jobs, especially an artistic one and another 'official' one, is difficult. She said 'Well, you manage it!' I told her 'managing' was a strong word - she doesn't see the moments when I'm marking essays all evening before updating my PowerPoint for a school visit the next day, or playing Google-Calendar-Tetris with deadlines on fiction-writing and article submissions and conference abstracts and book edits.

Since I was making it sound like my life was only slightly less sinister than that of the Baudelaire orphans, she blurted out: 'But you're happy, aren't you?'. I had to admit that I am...


Clementine Beauvais writes children's books in French and English. She blogs here about children's literature and academia and is on Twitter @blueclementine.

Monday, 21 May 2012

When Writers Play - by Rosalie Warren

How often do you play? In your work, I mean? In your writing, if that's what you do?

Most writers start out, I think, by 'playing' at writing - however young or old we may be at the time. In those early days, writing is probably a hobby - perhaps an escape from real life in the form of a dull or demanding job and/or a challenging home life. At the beginning, we are often bursting with enthusiasm and ideas, and what we lack is the space, time and (perhaps) expertise to get them into shape.

If we persevere and have a hefty dose of luck, we may end up earning something for our efforts. In the past, if not so much so today, some writers could make a part-time or even a full-time career out of it. If they were very lucky, they might even become rich, though of course most never did, however good they were.

The danger is that as our writing careers progress, it's so easy to lose that intial sense of fun and play. Writing becomes the thing we have to do - either to please a publisher or even just ourselves. I'm all in favour of self-discipline - the 'sit down at your desk at 9am (if only!) so the muse knows where to find you' and the 'minimum word count per day' frame of mind. Mostly, these things work for me. But it's when I lose that sense of play that trouble looms.

I've experienced this before, way back in another life, when I studied for a PhD and then became a researcher and, eventually, a university lecturer. As a student, my research was mostly fun. OK, I was lucky - I know that PhDs can sometimes be a terrible slog. But I happened upon a topic that fascinated me, had a good supervisor and made encouraging progress from the start. My main problem was combining this with caring for two young children. Not easy, but still, on the whole, satisfying and fun.

The fun continued when I gained an EPSRC research fellowhip for three years to do postdoctoral research. In fact that was eaiser, as it was actually a 2-year fellowship spread out over three years, which suited me fine.

The trouble started after that. My marriage broke up, which didn't help. I spent a year looking for a job in the city where my ex worked so my children could see us both. After months of struggling to get by, doing tutoring and gardening and PhD supervision, often all at the same time (well, in the same morning, anyway), I managed to get a lectureship at a unviersity. Perfect - except that I was now so busy, with several hours' commuting each day, a high teaching load, masses of admin, supervising students, giving pastoral advice, etc etc etc - my research slid into the back seat. It was no longer fun - and all my creativity dried up. It became something I had to do - in order to keep my job - and something I had to do well. In the odd hour or so between other commitments, I had to come up with earth-shaking new projects and theories. Hmmm....

The human brain just doesn't work that way. Or mine doesn't. A move south (the children older now) and a new job helped a bit at first, but the pattern was soon reestablished and the commute even longer. What's more, I now had an invalid mother-in-law waiting for me with all her demands when I got home - and two teenage step-children. Then my mother died and my father (110 miles away) became very ill. Something had to give and it was my health. I had a breakdown and was very lucky to be offered early retirement on a small pension, which put me in a position (just) of being able to fulfil my lifelong dream and spend my time writing.

That was wonderful - and still is. But just recently, six years on, writing has begun to feel like work. Like something other people expect of me, rather than a game I play because it's fun. And yes, there's bound to be some of this. I have obligations to my publisher and I want to help and encorage other writers as much as I can. And anything worthwhile is sometimes sheer hard slog. But I'm very wary of losing that sense of play.

Last week, after a month or so of hard work, I decided to give myself a few days off. Just a couple of days' messing about at home, not trying to do any writing at all. I even gave myself permission to stay in bed all day (bliss!) Catching up on reading, listening to Radio 4, dozing on and off...

Heaven. And then, after an hour or so of this, a little idea popped up, which I hastily scribbled down. After half an hour's scribbling I got out of bed and transferred it to my computer.

I kept writing until 11.30pm and at the end of the day I'd done 6500 words (very unusual for me! Possibly an all-time record. Usually 2K a day is my maximum for new work).

It all goes to show - take the pressure off and the ideas will bubble up. Maybe not always, but often.

Of course, finding time to play is not easy, for many people. But if we can - and if we can give ourselves, even occasionally, whole mornings or whole days just to mess around, with permission not to produce anything - who knows what might happen?

Man is most nearly himself when he achieves the seriousness of a child at play.
— Heraclitus 500 BCE, philosopher

The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct.
—Carl Jung

Happy playing!
Best wishes

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