Michelle Barter was looking to find a way of re-building her confidence and learning new skills that would help her earn some money. The Writers Bureau Comprehensive Creative Writing Course helped her do just that and now she has commissions, columns and freelance work to bank her at least £15,000 in 2009.
To celebrate the success and achievements of our students we are pleased to run our annual Writer of the Year Award. First prize is £250 and there are four equal runners-up prizes of £50 each.
Congratulations to all of our students for their achievements!
If you are a student of The Writers Bureau and would like to enter this competition for 2010 please click here.
You could walk away with the first prize of
Amy Sparks, England
Cathal Coyle, Northern Ireland
Shuchi Kalra, India
“I seem to remember that I enrolled with The Writers Bureau with desperation rather than ambition. Having been unable to work for more than a year due to chronic illness, I wanted to rebuild my confidence and learn new skills that I could translate eventually into cash. Although my secret ambition was to become a screen writer, I was also determined to work hard on all parts of the course, even in areas that did not appeal to me as I felt that all experience was good and as I knew nothing to start, everything was a plus!
“No sooner did I start the course, than I started selling. I could not have wished for more success. Not only have all but 1 of my assignments sold, but I am a regular contributor for five mainstream national magazines and a columnist in 2 others.
“I did not dream that I would spend my days cooking, gardening, taking photographs and writing – and getting paid for it too. Admittedly I don’t get my assignments done very quickly (I am still only a third of the way through the course), but that’s because I get so carried away with all the other things I’m writing and all the ideas I’m having. I love the way the course is so flexible and puts no pressure on me to meet deadlines.
“I haven’t lost my screen writing dreams either. After contacting the BBC with an idea for a comedy drama, and after they had seen some of my other work, they asked that I write it myself for their primary consideration. Not bad for a writing novice. In the future I would like to spend all my time with screenwriting, but for now I’m still learning and happy with my workload.
“After months of receiving £100 per 1000 words or so, the turning point came in November when I started receiving £250 per half page (approx 500 words plus two photos). I have received over £5,500 so far this year for my work and have commissions, columns and freelance work to bank me at least £15,000 next year.
“I have had so many wonderful moments in my first writing year, from receiving my first acceptance, to becoming a columnist, to receiving my first payment and discussing commissions with the BBC. But, from a confidence point of view, my most memorable moment came when I wrote a comedy piece for an assignment. I had been told comedy is hard to sell so I didn’t hold much hope. Within one hour of me emailing it to my target magazine, the Editor called me and bought it immediately. He said it was “pure genius” and invited me to write regularly for his magazine.
“I could not be happier. I am my own boss, can write what I like, where I like and, most importantly for me, when I like. I don’t feel I would have had the confidence to achieve all this without The Writers Bureau. It’s not just the writing side that’s important, but all their legal and practical knowledge that is just a phone call away. My tutor is very positive with me and always compliments my work as well as correcting it.
“2008 has been a great year for me, and it’s all thanks to The Writers Bureau for giving me the reassurance that my work is good enough to be published and the confidence to try new things.”
“I had always dreamed of being a writer, but I had no idea where to begin. I started the course a couple of years ago but progressed slowly, due to work commitments. However, since leaving work to be with my two small children, I have found more time to write and things are now looking very exciting.
“Before starting the course, I’d only ever thought about writing fiction, but the non-fiction part of the course is so inspiring, I’ve had several articles published so far. This year alone I’ve had three magazine articles published in ‘Woman Alive’ and have been paid £95 for each one.
“The course has worked perfectly for me, as it has offered me the flexibility to work around my young family. It’s also provided me with the motivation to write and I have become more self-disciplined as a result. For example, when my baby and toddler were both having a nap, instead of collapsing in a chair and eating chocolate, I pulled out the laptop and wrote a picture book, ‘Hodge the Hedgehog’.
“I would never have had the confidence to approach anyone with my writing had I not undertaken this course. The Writers Bureau has been invaluable for teaching me how to present my work, as well as helping me look more critically at what I’ve written. I decided to approach Meadowside Books, who this year have paid me an advance of £1000 for ‘Hodge’! I’m so excited that my first book is going to be published in both the UK and America in September 2009! Even better, Meadowside are planning this to be the start of a series. This year, Meadowside have also accepted another picture book called ‘The Gruff Guide to Fairytale Land’.
“Throughout this process, my tutor has been an invaluable source of help, encouragement and advice, so I didn’t feel out of my depth although I was dealing with a publisher for the first time.
“2009 looks set to be a very interesting year. I have just finished my first novel for older children, and already have a publisher reading it. I have plans for 11 more picture books and 13 novels, and I hope to work on some of those in 2009. I am now approaching literary agents, and I also have the rest of the course to complete!
“Thanks to the Writers Bureau, I have sold both fiction and non-fiction and I’m finally realizing my dream. I feel very optimistic about the future. I was attracted by The Writers Bureau guarantee, but I have earned far more than the course fees! Studying with The Writers Bureau has changed the direction of my life – I am now convinced there is no other career for me but writing and with the help of my tutor, I know the course will help me reach my full potential.”
“In 2006 I had become increasingly disillusioned with my lack of progress in my chosen career, so I decided to invest some of my efforts into writing a number of articles for a website based in Northern Ireland about sporting events in my own area. Apart from the decent rate of pay received I discovered that I actually enjoyed the different stages of producing the articles: research, interviews, writing and proofreading.
“I figured that writing came naturally enough to me, and I continued to write for the website. As 2008 approached I had attended a number of writer seminars in a local university and these reinforced my view that I should undertake some other type of training to assist with my writing skills. I joined the Freelance Journalism course run by The Writers Bureau in January 2008 and it has literally transformed my outlook on my ability to write for a variety of publications.
“When I commenced the course with The Writers Bureau I must admit I was a bit ‘green’ on where to look for writing markets, and my ambitions were quite modest. I was hoping to sharpen my existing skills and the prospect of having an assignment marked by a qualified tutor appealed greatly to me. I received positive feedback from my tutor on my early assignments and this built my confidence to a great extent; so that by Easter I was approaching editors of magazines with the article ideas that I had formulated.
“I approached the ‘Ireland’s Own’ magazine in early May with an article idea based on a news story that I had read about a few months previous. The article idea focused on the fact that a local clergyman in County Offaly could trace American presidential candidate Barack Obama’s ancestral links to that part of southern Ireland. Having worked in the field of genealogy I was confident I could produce an informative, yet interesting, piece of writing for this particular magazine.
“I contacted the editor by email and he immediately asked me to write an article circa 1000 words on the story for consideration. So I obliged, and he emailed me back to say that he was satisfied with the article and that it would be published in the September edition of the magazine with yours truly receiving a £50 fee in return.
“Since then I have had two other articles published with another two lined up to appear in the January 2009 edition. I pitch my article ideas to the editor on a regular basis, and he is usually quite receptive towards them. So while 2008 was a great year for Barack Obama in winning the race for the White House, his Irish ancestral background story helped me establish a reputation in a notoriously difficult writing market to penetrate!
“I have also begun writing part-time for a local newspaper; supplying a weekly feature article on sporting events in my area. I continue to review books for another local magazine, Verbal; and while this is less regular, it’s an extremely enjoyable activity. A book review fetches £50 and the editor also allows me to keep the book I have reviewed – happy days!
“My short-term intention is to continue combining writing for newspapers and magazines with my current job. I’m enjoying my writing ‘sideline’ but I may find as time goes on that I may want to make the transition to full-time writer.
“I’ve considered this quite a good year – it’s been the most I’ve ever made financially (circa £1200) between January and the end of November, and I would expect to make substantially more next year due to my involvement with the local press. In terms of writer development and self-esteem, The Writers Bureau course in Freelance Journalism has been invaluable, and furthermore has been instrumental in creating a deeper awareness of the marketplace. “
“I realized very late in life that I wanted to take up writing as a full-time career. The Writers Bureau course more than made up for the lost time and helped me get my name out there and got the cash coming in sooner than I could imagine. I was not even through with my third assignment when I started receiving calls from editors of reputed magazines asking me to write for them!
“I originally belonged to the nobody-can-teach-you-to-write school of thought. Having said that, good writing talent is no good if you don't know how and where to market it. The Writers Bureau has introduced me to markets that I had never heard of and taught me to tailor my writing to suit the market needs. I also learnt the broad scope of the word "writer". Today I deal with various forms of writing like:
“The eventual aim for any writer is to pen a bestseller and I am now slowly and steadily heading in that direction – I am halfway through my short-story anthology.
“My journey as a WB student and a writer has been an exciting and delightful one. Today, I take pride in myself when readers compliment me and loyally read my blog posts. In the past year (between March 08 and Nov 08), I have earned a around Rs 1.5 lakhs (£2,000) from my writing (with two vacations in between).
“At present, I am so flooded with projects and commissions that I find it difficult to make time for my WB assignments. I love my creative freedom and would not trade a freelance writer's career with anything in the world. I really want to thank Writers Bureau for making all this possible for me. I am deeply grateful to my tutor for his valuable guidance and expert advice. I hope and strive to grow more and more as a writer and as an individual.
“Thank you again for giving me an opportunity to be a part of this wonderful institution.”
“Since starting The Writers Bureau's The Art of Writing Poetry course in June 2007, I have been published many times under my pen name Sarah James, won competitions and made money. (So much so, that not having finished all my assignments, I've already won back the course fees in cash, vouchers and subscription prizes!) But as important as this financial gain and external recognition is the huge boost the course has given to my confidence as a poet.
“It is often said that writing is a journey. However clichéd this may be, it is true. When I started the course, I had already set off and had some publication and competition successes in my bag. But creative writing had to take second place to my role as a full-time mum.
“Although I had never hoped for great fame and fortune, nor Dick Whittington's streets paved with gold, I was finding progress frustratingly slow and jolting; like a bank holiday trip plagued by traffic jams and closed roads. I wasn't overly enjoying it and I didn't feel I was really getting anywhere.
“What I needed were some clear directions from a good sat nav. What I got was the literary equivalent: the excellent help and guidance of Alison Chisholm – a renowned poet herself and a tutor with years of experience, a critical eye, a positive approach to student feedback and a far friendlier tone than I've ever heard on a real sat nav!
“The course reading material and a couple of assignments down the road, I suddenly realised my writing style had already changed – and significantly improved. I was becoming more adventurous. I was writing more prolifically, faster, and editing better by myself. Yet, for all this increased pace, I was also enjoying the scenery along the way. This, in turn, provided yet more inspiration. I was gaining more from poetry than I had ever done before, both reading and writing it. Moreover, I was even getting paid!
“This is all very well, I hear you say, but where's the concrete evidence? The answer is a long list of competition successes.
“My poetry has also been widely published in literary journals, websites and anthologies. This includes breaking into new markets; with my first ever publications in Orbis, Poetry Nottingham (forthcoming), Guardian online (chosen by renowned poets) and writelink.co.uk's paid-for monthly resources slot.
“One can also use poetry in many ways. My confidence and C.V. boosted by the course and my ensuing competition successes, I became a poetry competition adjudicator for the first time in June 2008 when I judged the writelink.co.uk 'Write Angles' poetry contest, earning £25 in the process. The course has also encouraged me to perform my poetry in public and I am now set to run some poetry workshops at my son's first school.
“But it doesn't stop there. Improving my poetry skills has improved my other writing too, so that I came runner up in three writelink.co.uk fiction contests: in January 2008, October 2007 and August 2007.
“On the domestic front, my five-year-old son is delighted, if embarrassed, to hear me read poems I've written for him. Meanwhile, my husband is glad to have relinquished his role as amateur critic.
“He said: ‘It's great to see my wife so much happier with her poetry. Her confidence has grown tremendously with success after success. And the more time she spends writing, the less we fight over the television remote control!’
“After 18 months, I am now nearing the end of my Writers Bureau poetry course, with one assignment left to go. In many ways, the journey has still only just begun but I have come a long way already and now have clear directions and a detailed map of skills in hand. My destination is in sight and I look forward to a road ahead lined with more competition and publication successes, not to mention a few streets paved with gold.”
“I’m currently working on my fourth book, have been paid for my writing by at least 15 different magazines, and now earn half my income from writing – all thanks to The Writers Bureau’s course."
Sarah Plater - Writers Bureau Writer of the Year 2017