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Could You Be A Writer?Susie Busby Principal of The Writers Bureau

Marian Ashcroft talks with Susie Busy, Principal of The Writers Bureau, Britain’s largest independent writing school, about what it takes to be a writer.

Who do you think can be a writer then, Susie?

Well, a writer is someone who communicates ideas through words. And most of us do that every day via social media … so we’re all writers to some degree.

But can you really say someone is a writer if they text and tweet?

Not really. I suppose when we talk about a ‘writer’ we usually mean someone who’s earning from their writing. But telling stories to friends online is writing too. And even there, you come across people who craft their sentences and play with words, which is a good indication that writing is their thing.

So, do you need to be a ‘special’ person to study with The Writers Bureau?

Not at all! WB has been going for 28 years now, and though some people come to us with very clear objectives, others have little more than a vague desire to do something creative. Our students come from all sorts of backgrounds, and all sorts of cultures - leafy home-counties villages, bustling African cities, and everywhere else between. The majority haven’t really written much before, so we give them skills, and a safe space to explore their options, then prepare them for approaches to the editors, agents and producers who’ll eventually push their work out into the world.

But you must be looking for something …

Determination. Apart from a reasonable level of written English, that’s all we’re after.”

Not talent?

Well, that helps. But talent’s no good if you won’t put the hours in. It’s the same in all the creative industries. Like Mo Farah said back in 2012 – ‘Anything’s possible, it’s just hard work and grafting.’ And in our experience, grafting beats pure talent every time.

Okay, but if someone already has that ‘grafting’ spirit, where does The Writers Bureau fit in?

Well, to stick with sporting analogies, for any student ready to go for it, Writers Bureau is the coach in the background. Our courses and tutors build a new writer’s confidence and help them find out what they’re good at. They then show them how to get pieces ready for submission, so they’ve got the best possible chance of turning whatever talent they may have into proper, paid work.

Is that what happened with this year’s Writer of the Year – Sarah Plater?

Exactly. When Sarah first joined us she wanted to write novels (still does). But on her course she discovered a talent for non-fiction. She’s now onto her fourth non-fiction book, earns half her income from writing, and runs a writing business with her husband - Mr and Ms Creative. We’re so proud of her. She’s worked hard and run with opportunities as they’ve arisen, which just goes to show what a little confidence and determination can actually do.

Is there an ideal age to start writing?

No, of course not. Young is fine, but for many people, looking after children or relatives is what starts them off - writing fits around their other commitments. Retirement can be a spur too. One of our students, Martin Read, created a whole second career for himself after enrolling at the age of 74. He’s now producing some 250 articles a year, which is good going for any writer. And our oldest student is 95!

Many people dream of writing a novel – is this realistic for a novice?

If that’s someone’s burning passion, they should absolutely do it. It’s a mighty challenge, but if you have great characters and a story that fits the bill – why not? We’ve got plenty of students who’ve finished, and published, novels. It’s a fabulous achievement.

Any final words of advice for aspiring writers?

Apart from taking one of our courses you mean? No seriously, I believe a writer must do three things. Firstly, read lots, and widely. Next, write as much as possible – ideally every day. And finally, learn to edit. Anyone who can do these three things is well on the way to producing great work.

If you’d like to find out more about how The Writers Bureau can help you become a writer request your free prospects here or call 0800 856 2008.

Theresa Gooda Writers Bureau's Student of the Year 2021

“I began my first Writers Bureau course (Comprehensive Creative Writing) in 2007. Having more than covered the course fees from published pieces I have never looked back. Initially my ambitions were to get going. I knew I wanted to be a writer, I just didn’t know how to go about it, or, if I’m honest, quite what I wanted to write. Since, I have gradually blended a teaching career with writing, first with articles and short stories, then increasing the writing commitment dramatically when I secured an agent in 2016 to ghostwrite a series of memoirs. This year I have undertaken The Art of Writing Poetry course to really hone my skills in what I now realise is a genre I love - and have already had my first poems published.”

Theresa Gooda - Writers Bureau Student of the Year 2021

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