Louise Hare on the Riff Raff writing community.
Writing is considered a solitary activity but doing it all alone can be hard. If you’re writing purely for your own enjoyment then it’s all well and good, but what if you yearn to see your work in print? How do you find out if your writing’s any good? How do writers find an agent? Do you even need an agent or are there other options – digital publishers, indie presses, self-publishing? What if you’ve already done an MA and are missing the support of tutors and fellow students? After finishing my MA at Birkbeck last year I and many of my friends on the course wondered – what next?
One option is to find a writer’s community such as Riff Raff. I spoke to founder Amy Baker to find out more about what makes the Riff Raff so special.
Founders Amy and Rosy Edwards originally met as newly published writers, looking for someone else to share their experiences with. It made sense that if it helped them to meet fellow writers, it would help others too, and so Riff Raff was born.
The main event is held monthly in Brixton and is designed to introduce debut writers to an audience, many of whom are writers themselves. It’s a reciprocal deal: newly published writers get to read their work aloud and sell copies of their books; aspiring writers get to hear about the writing journeys of new authors and meet other folk in the same boat as them. And it’s a super friendly event.
Since its inception, Riff Raff has taken off with publishers and authors now actively looking to participate, though the main aim of each event still remains the same: to present a cross-section of authors who can present their different experiences. Diversity in age, race, genre and publishing experience (indie published and crowd-funded novels are welcomed and celebrated) is important.
Amy says it is important to them to showcase the many routes to publication, though saying no is hard. With Rosy recently departing, future events will have a guest author co-hosting alongside Amy. Future co-hosts include Kate Leaver, author of The Friendship Cure, and Justin Myers, aka The Guyliner, author of The Last Romeo. As well as sharing the workload, Amy hopes that for debut authors this is a safe way of building their confidence in public speaking as well as having a second chance to talk about their work.
Anyone who doesn’t live within striking distance of south London need not despair. The Riff Raff podcast is a great way of listening to more focused author interviews and discovering new writers. Recently Amy interviewed Wendy Mitchell about her recent memoir ‘Somebody I Used to Know’, a record of living with early-onset Alzheimer’s. ‘I couldn’t not interview her,’ says Amy.
Recently Riff Raff began offering mentoring and The Riff Raff Manuscript Shakedown, a manuscript assessment service that aims to be affordable with packages starting at £150. A range of authors are available for this service covering a range of different genres. Amy is keen to emphasise that clients will work with someone specific to their writing. It’s also not limited to those writing novels; short story writers and poets are also represented.