Rosie Garland writes:
Since I wrote about the Power of Asking, I’ve been heartened by how many writers have told me they’re going to ask for Writers’ Residencies too. There are plenty of questions: What do you say? What do you ask for? This blog offers a few suggestions.
Where do you want your residency to be?
Chip shop, bus stop, lighthouse, theatre, cemetery. The choice is yours. Think of where you’d love to write. It may be a place you pass every day on the way to work, or somewhere you’ve stumbled on by chance. Perhaps you have a connection already. For example, when I was invited to read at The John Rylands Library, I fell in love with this Mancunian gem. It sparked a train of thought…
What do you want to do?
I’ve a pretty simple plan: my next novel is set in The John Rylands and I’m exploring what it’s like to write ‘on site’, drawing inspiration from the spirit of the place. You’ll have your own ideas. It’s a wonderful opportunity to try something new, with time to focus on your writing in an inspiring workspace. The clearer you are about what you’d like to create and how it’s connected to the venue you’ve chosen, the better. Do your research, and put together a proposal. I’ve broken this down below.
How long is a residency?
Weeks, months, or a year – it’s largely up to you and the organisation. My residency is running for a calendar year; time to produce a first draft of the novel. I’ve committed to being on site for one day a week, but can’t keep away from the place…
What can you offer?
As well as being clear about what you want to achieve, think about what you can offer your host organisation. Ideas can include giving talks, workshops, writing tutorials or readings, and writing blogs on the progress of the residency. You might produce a poem etched in the window, or devise a grand finale performance. There’s no limit.
If you’re unsure, ask for advice from writer friends (or friends of friends) who’ve done residencies in the past. If you don’t know any – ask the internet. Social media can be a lot more supportive than you might imagine.
How do you get an introduction?
You’ll need to approach your chosen organisation to find out of they’re interested in your idea. I asked writer friends for signposting, and got an introduction. People were only too pleased to help, a warm reminder that we’re in this together. There’s a community of writers out there, and we are pretty groovy people.
What about money?
This blog is about building your own residency from scratch, not applying for a funded opportunity. So, when the question of money and payment arose (pretty much the first question), I said no. Nowhere has money for residencies, unless it’s a regular gig like the Forestry Commission
And, unsurprisingly, these residencies are massively oversubscribed.
A personal tip is to source funding elsewhere. I applied to the Arts Council, successfully.
Then again – aim for the stars! One writer told me she’s asking for a residency at a private members’ club with buckets of money. Needless to say, she IS asking them to fund it.
What’s the worst that can happen?
Fear of the word no can stop us asking in the first place. Your chosen venue may say no. But they’re not going to poke you with forks. Trust me on this one. And in the words of Steve Jobs: “Most people don’t get experiences because they never ask. I’ve never found anybody who didn’t want to help me when I’ve asked them for help.”
Keep going. Keep asking.