Serendipity, Opportunity and Social Media

At last, some very good news. You may recall some months ago, I submitted an application for consideration as part of a writer development programme. I had mixed feelings in terms of the likely outcome and was certainly not overly confident that I would be accepted.  I took it as a huge step forward however, in getting my writing back on track, more so that I had become sufficiently galvanized to have at the very least created the chance of getting onto this programme even if the submission came to nothing.

Sometimes good things do happen and I’m delighted to say that I have been accepted! I will be one of the 2014/15 cohort for Room 204, the writer development programme provided by Writing West Midlands. I’m also a little apprehensive that I will be able to live up to the confidence they have shown in me by my selection. I will keep you posted of my progress. My first meeting with the team is coming up in early May and I’m really looking forward to seeing where it all leads.

The fact that I am on this programme at all is in itself a testament to the value of social media from writers.

Toward the end of 2013 I was pretty sure my writing had come to an end, I had lost focus and worse, the desire. I was more or less on the point of giving up altogether when two serendipitous things happened.

I saw a blog post from the Arvon Foundation about Bec Evan’s Write-Track trial in my Facebook feed. Before I could give myself the opportunity to decide not to, I volunteered to be part of the trial. I have absolutely no idea what prompted this rashness, although in my more whimsical moments I like to think this was a sign that even though I had given up on writing, it had not finished with me. The same day a notification from Satya Robyn at Writing our Way Home about the upcoming 31 Days challenge also appeared in my feed. I had enjoyed doing the River of Stones previously and the next thing I knew I’d signed myself up. The combination of trialing the Write-Track website, a project designed to help writers become more productive through regular tracking and self-accountability, and the 31 Days Challenge seemed made for each other and proved to be just the jolt I needed to extract myself kicking and screaming from the ‘woe is me – I can’t write/ don’t want to write’ doldrums.

Suddenly I was dusting off projects and goals that had long since slipped off even the back burner, even the tedious task of correcting my print manuscript and re-formatting it for Kindle ( as an aside here, let me tell you although there’s a fairly steep learning curve – it’s nowhere near as difficult as some would have you believe). During the course of tidying up my old material I realized what an idiot I had been for not submitting the collection to a particular competition when I had the opportunity. I second guessed the judges and decided my work wasn’t ‘literary’ enough—the bottom line was I never gave myself the chance to even find out all because I had crawled back inside my comfort zone and pulled the drawbridge up. Unbelievably stupid but ever so slightly human.

Around this time, I bumped into Jo Bell, the Canal Poet Laureate in my local hardware store – I recognised her from a photo on our local community blog; she had recently moored up here on the Trent Mersey canal. In a fairly uncharacteristic move for me, because I’m normally very reticent about being in someone’s face, I introduced myself. I put this down to the fact that Stone is a little bit of a literary backwater and I was just excited to have someone else in the town who was passionate about the written word, anyway we became Facebook friends.

A few weeks after that I saw a re-post by Jo, again on Facebook linking to Writing West Midlands and the Room 204 submission deadline and thought, bugger it, I’m going to have a go at it. As I say, I wasn’t at all confident but I had at least wound the drawbridge down and given myself the chance. The point is, without social media, none of this would have happened.

Social media also led me to Future Learn where I recently studied my first MOOC on Cognitive Poetics and am currently in the throes of my second and third. I am the Queen of Over-Commitment but I wouldn’t have missed either of these courses for anything. For me as a writer knowledge is key and anything which can help me bring more authenticity to what I write can only be a good thing which is why I am currently burning the midnight oil chucking around about 10-12 hours a week into these courses – the sacrifice is way more than worth it, even if it means eating into my writing time, it will pay me back down the line I am certain.

The second MOOC is Forensic Science and Criminal Justice, is quite frankly fascinating – no leggy blondes in impossibly high heels chasing down the bad guys while simultaneously analyzing DNA and trace evidence without so much as breaking a sweat or wearing a protective suit, no this is the much more interesting reality of the field and I count myself very lucky indeed to have the opportunity to join this excellent course with the University of Leicester, led by experts Drs. John Bond and Lisa Smith who have most recently been working on the Blazing Car Murder case from 1930. The University is also home of Professor Sir Alec John Jeffreys, FRS, famous for, among other things, developing DNA Fingerprinting and profiling now used by law enforcement all over the world.

I’m equally as enthralled by my third MOOC which is Community or Hyperlocal Journalism, this time with the University of Cardiff and led by Professor Richard Sambrook, former Director of Global News at the BBC and his team. My goodness have I learned some interesting and very useful things and I’m only at the end of the second week’s study.

The amazing thing about these courses is they are all completely free and readily accessible to anyone with an internet connection, anywhere in the world.

So it’s nice to have something good to say about social media for a change and I can also honestly say, without it I probably wouldn’t still be writing and I certainly wouldn’t be looking forward with equal parts of excitement and trepidation to the next phase of my writing career with Room 204. Sometimes it is tough to step outside the comfort zone, but it can be ever so rewarding if you let it.

If we stay where we are, where we’re stuck, where we’re comfortable and safe, we die there… When nothing new can get in, that’s death.

Anne Lamott, Help Thanks Wow: Three Essential Prayers

Well that’s it for me today, I hope everybody has had a very lovely Easter break and wish you all peace and progress, whatever your endeavours.

4 replies »

  1. Sallie – we didn’t have time to chat properly in that hardware store so let’s get together over a coffee soon – come and see Tinker next week some time?

    • Absolutely Jo, will do – am around most of next Monday but will PM on Facebook – I promise not to bring Plottdog!

  2. Congratulations, Sallie! All of this sounds marvellous and hugely exciting. I’m looking forward to finding out how you get on and so glad your writing has not come to an end. You are so talented and have so much to offer. Please never stop writing! x

    • Thanks so much Joanna, I’m hoping the words are flowing well with you. I’m really looking forward to seeing where this leads although I know ultimately it’s really down to me so am getting ready for some hard work! x