Write to Work Blog
What was your speciality that you were tutoring on the course?
Arts criticism: telling stories about contemporary art and culture. I set up my own online arts magazine platform, The Double Negative, with writer Mike Pinnington in 2011. It's still going strong, and I'm now Editor-in-Chief. Since then, I've written for various international art magazines, like Frieze, ArtReview, and Art Monthly, and most recently US journal hyperallergic, and I'm a part time lecturer in Visual Arts at The University of Salford. I love my job!
What was the reaction you got from the group when you talked about The Double Negative?
I think people are always surprised and encouraged to hear that we were actually on Jobseekers Allowance in the run up to launching TDN. We made the most out of a difficult situation, and we responded to a gap in the market. Six months prior, Mike and I were volunteering a lot and also doing 'money jobs'; juggling our love for the arts (which didn't yet pay) and full time employment outside of the sector. When we were both made redundant in the same month (!), we sought help through the Jobseekers team to gain self-employment training. We used our time to research a business that would combine our degrees (BA Visual Arts, and Media and Cultural Studies) with our joint voluntary experience across art galleries, studios, arts education and freelance writing. The business needed to fill a void in Liverpool's otherwise healthy art scene -- there wasn't yet a dedicated platform for contemporary art reviews and features. Luckily, all our hard work paid off, TDN was a huge success, and it helped us gain more writing and teaching work across the UK and Europe.
What did you find engaging about tutoring on the course?
The students. I was thrilled to find out how talented they were; all of the writers were at a higher level than I originally expected. They came from a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences -- some had been published before, and had worked in radio -- and they were keen to boost/refresh their skills. We had fantastic discussions about the importance of clearly communicating cultural experiences to others, debating, sharing ideas, and analysing the people, projects and places around us that mattered... All of which are key to understanding arts criticism.
Is there anything you would say to people who were unsure if this course was for them?
Sign up. You'll meet a diverse peer group who will be important supporters (maybe even collaborators) for years to come. You'll be encouraged to write in brand new ways; perhaps, like me, you'll be familiar with non-fiction writing (like criticism, or writing for news outlets or PR), but will learn how to write poetry and short stories. You'll come away with an exciting and significant portfolio (hard copy and online) that you can then use to pitch for paid writing commissions. Write to Work really is an engaging, comprehensive, practical and welcoming course for any writer looking to enrich their skills, boost confidence and get some much-needed support and mentoring. Being a part of the Writing on the Wall festival is also integral -- you'll hear about and be able to take part in all their associated writing events, competitions and opportunites. It can lead onto great things.
Want to join a Write to Work course? Help us reach the finals of the Aviva Community Fund by voting for us here.
I've tutored on quite a few courses in the last few years, but never quite like this. For one thing, the cavernous space under Toxteth Library carries footsteps from the public space above, making it feel as if your characters have come alive and are flitting around. And, more importantly, is that this course is aimed at actually making a living from writing- the clue's in the name.
I felt quite well placed to advise on this, as I do many types of writing to earn a crust. I was tutoring about Flash Fiction and Writing for Games, but we also chatted about scripting, getting novels published, and the joys and pitfalls of being a playwright.
There's a great balance on this course. There's creative tutoring, of course, but there's also practical advice on how to create a career in writing.
It was clear to me that a real friendship had developed between the participants of the course, and I certainly made friends there - We still often chat about work and where to take our ideas.
Having recently joined the Writing On The Wall team as Project Assistant Lauren Buxton had the pleasure earlier this week to interview Duncan Lyon who is a Liverpool based self-published writer. She asked Duncan about his participation on the 12 week course which gives the opportunity for writers to explore the different avenues in which writing can lead to paid work, through various fields such as creative writing, social media, blogging, copywriting & marketing.
What was your main attraction to the Write to Work course?
My main attraction to the Write to Work course, was primarily to try and find financial opportunities, however contrary to my expectations I found the creative writing aspects of the course to be enjoyable and also highly beneficial.
How did you find the varied styles of the guest lecturers and what did you take away from it?
I wasn’t expecting to get anything out of the creative writing session and to be honest I was surprised; this was mostly due to the teaching style of the head of the English Department at John Moores University Sarah Maclennan who focused upon among other things the value of discipline in your writing, which I found to be constructive in regards to my own experiences with self-publishing. Similarly, I enjoyed the session on writing for the gaming industry with Welsh Writer Manon Steffan Ros and although I’m not being paid as of yet I found the experience beneficial. The other things that she spoke about, just in terms of creative writing, instilled the confidence to say that I am a writer and I found that was really worthwhile.
How did you find the group dynamics of the course?
From the beginning of the course everyone one was really respectful of each other’s work and appreciative of each other’s position. I found it to be a great cross section of writers in Liverpool. Also by the end of the course strong friendships were made which has now progressed into the continuation of our group meeting and forming a writing collective. I am a confident writer and didn’t really go into it thinking about gaining support from other members of the group so that has been a pleasant surprise.
What are your avenues going forward?
The avenue going forward from my taking part on the course is that. I am currently concentrating on finishing my third book, while also promoting my debut novel Incredibly Selfish in conjunction with my second novel Sand Paper Stone (both available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle).
Why do you write?
For me I write because it is the only way for me to make sense of things.
Why you decide to self publish your book?
I’ve been through the process of working with agents and publishers and sort of run into the ground with it, whereby they would find themselves in financial difficulties. I decided rather than put myself through that whole process again and wait for people to make judgements on it, I was content in what I had created and to have it finished. It was more important for me to have a physical copy of the book than to get anyone’s approval.
How do you find the self publishing process?
I would advise anybody to go down the self-published route as the process, it’s really easy, once I realized that I could do it. There is a lot of different self-publishing packages out there, which guides you through the entire process of editing and formatting your book.
What attracted you to apply for Pulp Idol (WoW's annual writing competition)?
I applied to Pulp Idol as a last-minute decision thinking if I don’t do it would I regret it, also I knew that there would be an agent from London present and I thought when would there be an opportunity like this to show my work.
Duncan Lyon was a runner up in the 2017 Pulp Idol Competition with his entry titled Hodder Place.
Ever since I was young I always loved writing. There is something magical about spilling my thoughts onto a page and witnessing a story beginning to take shape. It never occurred to me that I could turn this from a hobby until by chance I discovered the Write to Work course.
It took over 12 months of struggling trying to find work - no thanks to my dyscalculia (numbers aren't my friends) and lack of experience. However, on one Tuesday in January I found myself not only enthralled with a group of 15 strangers, each giving their insight into their writing as we set the ground rules of how we wanted the course to be (a supportive, encouraging environment) while also being told about the broad spectrum of the curriculum I knew there and then the age-old adage patience is a virtue to be true. If this was just the introductory session then I couldn't wait to see what else was in store.
During the next twelve weeks, I immersed myself as tutors from diverse fields such as traditional creative writing to the gaming industry came into deliver sessions, each one of them with a common thread of parting wisdom to the group, yet with their own varying perspectives on how to take our writing and make it pay. Each week we would take part in writing exercises to condition us into the right frame of mind, sometimes pairing off in twos or threes relaying ideas back and forth. At the end of a session I would come away feeling inspired. Having those hours of study, I learnt more in-depth about the craft and techniques of sensory writing, structure, characterisation and tone of voice, along with the benefits and usability of social media, blogging and how to capitalise upon it. Ultimately, I learnt that this is a process which will ultimately lead you towards your end goal, but to remember to always have fun and to be attuned to your surroundings. That being said I noticed I'd also accumulated copious amounts of notes and handouts ready for me to delve into and pick apart at my own leisure. Knowing that further down the line I would have them safely tucked away, if I ever fell into a rut in my writing arises.
I have to admit there were times on the course when I felt a sense of Imposter Syndrome, but my insecurities were always dispelled, finding that not only do other members of the group share the same thought process as me; so do the tutors. It was a normal part of being creative. This resonated with me particularly during the session with award-winning Welsh writer Manon Steffan Ros when she said, “From now on when you sit down to write, it’s okay to call yourself a writer!”. With this new-found knowledge, I dove head first into the homework which was set each week by the tutors, allowing myself to be fine with the challenge that it presented. Especially the week of the copywriting session with Matt Cook, because I knew the following session we would review and discuss our struggles and achievements with the group.
Over the duration of the Write to Work course I have explored avenues of the writing sector, I never dreamed I’d be interested in, I mean if you would have told me on my first day that by the end of the course, I would be sitting here in the office of WoW as Project and Social Media Assistant, let's be real, I would've laughed in your face… But here I am!
It is thanks not only in part to the brilliant tutors who encourage, challenge and allow you to tap into your hidden potential. It is also being surround by a group of supportive, respectful and inspiring writers, knowing that yeah these are my people!
I'm on the 82 bus, off to Toxteth Library and one of my favourite jobs delivering sessions with WoW on the 'Write to Work' course. This is how I became a published writer; inspired by a leap of faith on a community course for the unemployed in Liverpool 27 years ago. WoW has built on this idea of continuous learning by creating opportunities to learn and share new skills (and make new friends along the way).
Becoming a poet has allowed me to travel the UK working with universities, community groups and inner-city projects, it has meant publications and collaborations with Book Trust, the BBC and the Poetry School and many inspiring writers. I regularly send thanks up for that original course and am so glad to help Write to Work carry on the tradition.
Delivering a session as part of Write to Work has been an insightful and invigorating experience, the participants/learners involved were engaging and knowledgeable but needed that extra push to boost their confidence. I taught Writing for radio, using radio skills to market your CV and be your own PR machine and proving that sometimes a change of vocabulary can really boost your CV and experience.
Write to Work is a fantastic programme that has brought in a range of people with fantastic experience, however, for whatever reason, have lost themselves through life’s hurdles. I hope it continues as it would be a shame to lose such talented individuals and we also need to find those hidden gems.