“Just ask!” Creative writing and working with authors

Creative writing is something that I am very interested in myself as I write poetry, plus Louise Jensen is a friend of mine, and I knew that she would probably be interested in running a course for us.

Janice Parker

She had given freely of her time for us in the past by helping us with the Reading Ahead Challenge about two years ago (by launching the event with us, and by handing out the certificates at the end). She is very supportive of libraries and any initiative to promote reading and writing. Also, I thought that it would be something fun for everyone to do, so all our courses are not centred around work-based subjects.

Firstly, we had to make sure that Louise was willing to help us. This time, I wanted to make sure that she was paid for her time, as writing is her full-time profession and therefore her job. Apparently, authors do tend to get asked to do lots of different events, and people seem to expect them to give their time for free and feel honoured that they’ve been asked, so if anyone is thinking about running a course themselves, they should be willing to pay the author’s fee.

After that, we booked our venue. We used a room at the Corby Innovation Hub near us in Weldon, as the Council have a department based in there, so we were able to negotiate a good fee for the half day. This was paid for by Kickstart funding. The Hub also has its own canteen and catering company, so we asked them if they would provide tea, coffee, cakes and biscuits for us (also paid by Kickstart) so that the attendees didn’t have to pay for any refreshments. Louise’s invoice will be paid for from the UNISON Northants Learning Fund that we have in Northamptonshire (see below for more on that).

The room that we hired was a lovely, spacious conference room that could comfortably seat up to 18 delegates. Louise brought her own laptop with her, although everything we did was very hands on and manual in content. The reception area provided us with extra pens and paper, and I made sure that there were jugs of water on the table. The refreshments were brought in ready for our short break at 3pm, and the waitress came and cleared everything away at the end of the afternoon.

One important thing that I haven’t mentioned is that I did have lunch with Louise the week before so we could discuss how we envisaged the afternoon would go, and talk about what we both wanted the course to achieve.

Louise also requested if I could ask people if they had any questions for her, or if there was anything in particular that they wanted her to cover, so she could be prepared and also tailor the content to what people were most interested in. I felt that this was very useful, and probably a bit easier for me as she was already a friend.

Louise also brought along her friend and fellow author, Darren O’Sullivan, who she had also asked to help her prepare content for the course.

Darren specialises in psychological thrillers, but his persona is so light and funny, so they really complimented each other’s styles. Two for the price of one, you could say!

Everyone thoroughly enjoyed it and I have had some lovely comments and feedback about it. Louise and Darren also really enjoyed themselves. I think it all went extremely well, and I am amazed at just how much interest it has generated.

People said that it was very informative and motivating, and I for one can vouch for that, having written two more poems since the event!

In fact, it was the first time that Louise had hosted a Creative Writing course, so it was a big learning event for her too.

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Janice Parker

Janice Parker is a learning rep in UNISON Corby branch, part of the UNISON Northants Learning cluster. In this blog she explains how she worked with author Louise Jensen to put on a creative writing workshop for UNISON members from across Northamptonshire.