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Gold Dust Interview

Posted on 02 November 2007. © Copyright 2004-2018 WriteWords
A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
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WriteWords talks to Jill Dawson, novelist and creator of mentoring scheme Gold Dust

Tell us something about your background.

Iíve launched a mentoring scheme, called Gold Dust (http://www.gold-dust.org.uk) , in response to many requests from individuals to work with them on a manuscript. I realise from my past tutoring on MAs in Creative Writing (Iíve taught at UEA and Bath Spa University, amongst others) that this is often what new and emerging writers Ė or those embarking on a new book - want most of all: detailed, dedicated, long-term input from another writer who is a little more experienced (and published), and who can help them on their journey to complete the work. Writers who mentor for us include myself (Jill Dawson), Louise Doughty, Jane Rogers, Kate Pullinger, Sally Cline, Carole Angier, Michelle Spring and Kathryn Heyman, and there will be others added as time goes on.

How do you find/choose writers?

Applicants to the scheme can use the application form on the website and must send some sample chapters (all details on the website). We have three judges to read the work and one of these judges will be the mentor who eventually works with the writer if they are chosen. As well as the quality of the writing we will be looking for signs of genuine commitment to the process of working on an extended piece Ė a novel, memoir or biography (sorry at this stage, no poets are included, although Gold Dust is in the process of adding screenwriting). A lot of the mentoring will be about this creative journey as much as the outcome Ė and we are careful not to promise publication, that would be unethical - so anything an applicant says in a letter to indicate how they would approach this journey, would be helpful.

As for our mentors, they are all writers who have had plenty of published work (usually upwards of four books) and are mostly Royal Literary Fund Fellows, meaning they are experienced at working one to one. Iíve deliberately chosen highly experienced mentors as I think that what they have to offer is a greater knowledge of the creative process Ė what it takes to keep going, or to go back to a novel after it has stalled; or find the courage to begin again. These to me are valuable lessons that newer writers would like to know more about, and so I am not choosing flashy young writers who to my mind havenít - yet - proved themselves!

Gold Dust is a slightly re-vamped version of a scheme I ran for the Royal Literary Fund, called Writers Pool.


What excites you about a piece of writing-

Me personally Ė itís first and foremost the quality of the prose itself, rather than the story or plot Ė but as Iím not the only judge, thereís a chance for all kinds of writing to shine!

and what makes your heart sink?

Again, speaking for myself, itís probably a journalistic, third-person/past tense perfectly competent voice Ė I just find it boring. Since thatís entirely a personal choice, again, I am not judging every entrant Ė only the ones where Iím a potential mentor for the candidate.



A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
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Comments by other Members



Shika at 15:58 on 02 November 2007  Report this post
Hi, this is very interesting. I have one question if you are still around: As mentoring is so subjective (on both sides) what in your view, would make a scheme 'gold standard'?

Steerpike`s sister at 18:55 on 02 November 2007  Report this post
A great list of mentors, but good lord, the price! Maths is not my best subject, but £100 an hour?

Anna Reynolds at 15:53 on 03 November 2007  Report this post
Jill Dawson says, in response;

'You can make a grants for the arts application for the total cost (and why not apply for a little more while you're at it to cover your time in writing the novel) as some of our candidates have done.

Also, on a serious note, something people are perhaps not aware of is how badly paid our most eminent writers are - especially biographers, who often have to eke out tiny advances of a couple of thousand pounds over the many years it takes them to finish a book. I want to show respect for writing as an art form and value writing and older writers a little more than our society currently does.

On the question of the 'gold standard' I'd say that a scheme that has been tried and tested (as Gold Dust was under its old name, Writers Pool) for three years and modified according to the feedback we got from the many new and established writers who took part, has the best possible chance of succeeding. I would hope that your readers also take a look at the testimony of those who have been mentored to see if they like the sound of what is on offer.

Plus, importantly, we are adding screenwriting to our list of genres on offer! Check back in a few days to the Gold Dust website for further info.'

Steerpike`s sister at 20:20 on 04 November 2007  Report this post
people are perhaps not aware of is how badly paid our most eminent writers are - especially biographers, who often have to eke out tiny advances of a couple of thousand pounds over the many years it takes them to finish a book.


I do appreciate that, but am also aware of how even worse paid our least eminent writers are (such as me :)). A grant from the Arts Council certainly seems like the best way to pay for it.

Dee at 07:29 on 05 November 2007  Report this post
This sounds like an excellent and well thought out scheme. Such a shame that, like so much else in this writing business, itís based in the south-east. £2,000 is a lot of money by anyoneís standard. Add to that, for someone in my situation, ten train journeys to London at £115.50 each (thatís the cheapest available today) plus ten days lost wages, and the prospect is just not feasible for me.

I wish you every success Ė but could you consider in your future plans some way to enable the huge numbers of writers not in the south-east to consider the scheme as a viable option?

Best wishes

Dee



EmmaD at 15:09 on 06 November 2007  Report this post
A very interesting scheme. Mentoring is such a delicate relationship, and it's hard for aspiring writers to know where to start looking for the right mentor. So this should help a lot.

There's no need for the two parties to meet physically, though - as you say, Dee, the train fares could make it prohibitive. I can imagine this working very well based on perhaps one actual meeting, and the rest by emailing work and discussing it over the phone - my MPhil worked like that.

If you think of it as costing about the same as four manuscript assessments by one of the big editorial services, and with support and flexibility built in, it doesn't seem so much, perhaps...

Emma

<Added>

And it's much cheaper than an MA, for about the same amount of tutorial input, though obviously without the workshop element.

<Added>

Ah, just looked at the site, it is face-to-face only.


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