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Travelling Back In Time

September 18th, 2015

The-Portico-Manchester-blogThanks to Simon for last Friday’s blog. That’s one of the great things about writing – you never know where it will take you and what doors it will open for you. It doesn’t matter whether it’s crafting an article for your favourite magazine, plucking up the courage to self-publish your book or trying your hand with a competition entry – there could be a pleasant surprise waiting for you.

But how much are you willing to pay to improve your writing skills? The Guardian newspaper group are now offering creative writing courses. They range from three-hour courses for less than £100 to their Level 3 ‘How to Finish a Work of Fiction’ which lasts nine months and comes in at a cool £9000! There’s no guarantee that you’ll get your novel published at the end of that time and with the average advance for a first novel currently standing at £2000 you’ve got to earn a lot of royalties to claw the rest back!

Last week was Heritage Open Days 2015. If you’re not familiar with this, it’s three or four days each year (usually mid-September) when some of our national treasures are thrown open to the public, free of charge. There’s also access to some places that are not usually open to the hoi polloi. Over the years I’ve visited Whaley Abbey, various churches, joined blue-badge guided walks, lectures and even had a tour of the local sewage farm (yes, you did read that right…and it was fascinating).

This year I visited The Portico Library. It’s a fantastic, book-filled space housed in an impressive Georgian building in the heart of Manchester. Opened in 1806 it was meant to outshine the recently finished Athenaeum in Liverpool. The rivalry between the two cities is a constant – then it was culture now it’s football!

Over the years the Portico has boasted such famous members as John Dalton, Peter Roget (of Thesaurus fame), Reverend William Gaskell (husband of the more famous Elizabeth), Sir Robert Peel (twice Prime Minister), Val McDermid, Guy Garvey (Elbow) and many more!

There’s a huge glass dome, letting light flood in; the walls are crammed from floor to ceiling with books and the easy chairs and polished tables are ideal for that club sandwich and glass of claret that are so essential to enjoying the latest periodical on a winter afternoon.

Each year they hold a number of literary prizes.  The Portico Prize for Literature is now closed for 2015 but with prize money of £10,000 it’s definitely worth keeping an eye on when it opens for submissions again next year.

And talking of competitions, don’t forget the Writers Bureau Short Story Competition which is now accepting entries. We might not be offering £10,000 – but with a first prize of £300 and a Writers Bureau course of your choice, it’s definitely worth having a go.

The blog next Friday will be a joint effort: Lawrence Pagett with Paul Millward. They’re both WB students who’ve achieved their ambition of writing a book on something that they feel strongly about, as you’ll see from the enthusiasm that they bring to the post.

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About The Author: Diana Nadin

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