London Lit Lab post-MA sessions with Zoe Gilbert and Lily Dunn: London & Bristol: turning lightbulbs into books
Q: How many writers does it take to change a lightbulb?
Sadly, I have no punchline for you, because this is no joke. The lightbulb is the metaphorical one we know and love – it is your idea for a novel. So, the real question is: how many writers does it take to change a lightbulb… into a book?
If you’ve done a Creative Writing MA, you’ll already know the answer to that question is not ‘one’. We do a much better job of this lightbulb-to-book magic trick if we have other people to steady the wobbly ladder, check the wattage, advise on screw versus bayonet fittings, and cheer us on as we flick the switch and pages begin to flutter from the ceiling rose. This metaphor isn’t proving very elegant, but turning lightbulbs into books is a messy process too.
Finishing an MA, and finding yourself without that crowd to cheer, steady and advise you, can be the trickiest part. It also tends to come along at the toughest stage in novel-writing: the saggy middle. It’s not just plots that risk sagginess in that tender spot; the middle of the writing process is also when most writers sink into a crisis of confidence… or take up matchstick modelling as a displacement activity.
After far too many conversations about the post-MA slump in motivation, and the mid-novel slump of the soul, we decided to do something about it. Last year, London Lit Lab ran workshop sessions for post-MA writers in both London and Bristol. It turns out we made the right decision: our groups of writers were dedicated, passionate, and hugely supportive of each other. They were also meticulous in their critiques. After eight months of intense, productive workshops, they had all learned a lot, written a lot, and made lots of new writer friends. Our lightbulbs had many more pages, and good ones.
So, we’re doing it again. From October 2018 we’ll be running two sets of sessions in London, and one in Bristol. Writers will share their work ahead of critical discussion at each meeting. Everyone will have previous experience in critiquing and being critiqued. The groups will be chaired by us – Lily Dunn and Zoe Gilbert. We’re both completing Creative Writing PhDs, and regularly teaching and mentoring writers through universities or our very own London Lit Lab.
Our aim is to build strong, supportive groups of MA graduate writers from a range of universities, so you can get fresh eyes on your work. If you’d like to get involved with one of these workshopping groups, you can find out more about the London sessions here and the Bristol sessions here.
We love helping to turn lightbulbs into books. The best way to get through that dark bit in the middle is to surround yourself with other people’s lightbulbs. This metaphor is getting no better, so instead, here are some nice things writers said about the London Lit Lab post-MA sessions 2017-18:
‘I went along with curiosity, but hearing Lily’s feedback on my work, I was reassured. Lily has helped me solve many problems with my manuscript.’
‘Zoe gives great feedback and is a warm and friendly tutor. The workshops felt productive and democratic with everyone able to have their say.’
‘The highlight of this course is the structured method of receiving feedback and the wonderful sense of community which has really helped to keep my motivation up!’