This month I attended the National Writers’ Conference 2017 held in my home city of Birmingham. Emerging and established writers were welcomed to a day of panel discussions on subjects including digital writing, how to raise your profile, and writing overseas.As a Brummie based in London, what impresses me most when I go back for a visit is how genuinely inclusive and diverse Birmingham’s creative scene is. Authenticity was a theme running throughout the conference and speakers emphasized the need for everyone in society to have their voice heard. Opening keynote speaker Andrew McMillan gave an inspirational talk on how writing should be ‘a political act of resistance’ celebrating the history and artistic identity of the under-represented in society. He particularly focused on working class writers and the reactions he himself has experienced as a poet and academic from Barnsley.
This resonated with me. I’m very grateful that I get to go to some lovely literary events in London and I always have a good time. However, I do occasionally get comments on my accent or the fact that I also work full time in a non-writing related role. I laugh it off but it’s frustrating. I personally love a regional accent and I’m happy to be part of a team. Although I must admit I would love to have more time to focus on writing!The first specialist session I attended was ‘Working with Agents and Publishers’ where I picked up some great tips on writers’ rights, the role of the literary agent, and submission guidelines. Then there was ‘Writing for Broadcast’ featuring TV and film writers and a producer from the BBC Writersroom. Again, the emphasis was on telling the stories you want to tell reflecting different backgrounds and cultures. Over a networking lunch we were treated to thought provoking readings from Birmingham Young Poet Laureate Nyanda Foday and Birmingham Poet Laureate Matt Windle.
Film writer Paven Virk perfectly summed up the day when she observed: ‘The beauty of the arts is that it’s open to everyone of any background. We are an open door.’ This was certainly true of the National Writers’ Conference 2017!