2020 has the been a YEAR, right?
As you all know very well by know, I am a person who is hugely self-critical and takes every possible opportunity to review, analyse, self-evaluate and try to improve WriteMentor, and how we can help the most important person in this organisation: YOU!
With that in mind, and with my usual level of over-sharing transparency, I’d like to take you on the journey of running a writing organisation over the course of 12 months, and THESE 12 months into the bargain!
We kicked off the year with our brand new Writing Weekends. Full of excitement and enthusiasm, the feedback we got from these was brilliant. But it came at a cost – both financially and mentally. I spun ever, ever closer to physical and mental breakdown organising these (I tried to do nearly 40 before COVID arrived in March and took out the rest of the year). In hindsight, this was a blessing, as I’m not sure I could have coped. In doing the end of year accounts, this column shows by far the biggest loss. It’s important to remember that all new ventures come with risk, however I do not regret this one, as I met some of you in person, and know many more of you got a chance to meet. We learn more from our failures than we do our successes, and this one thing taught me more than all the other successful things in 2020.
We also launched our 12 month novel course – an experimental course, but which again was received really well by a majority of the participants and what I’ve loved most about this course is the year-long, moral-boosting, closeness that has developed with the group and this was actually part of the inspiration for our new Community Learning Hub, which we launch in 2021.
We also closed our 2nd annual Children’s Novel Award – we accepted picture books for the first time in 2020, and it was absolutely the right call – the standard was superb and we’ve had a couple more success stories from those listed.
We announced the WMCNA 2020 longlist and readers favourites – did you make it? If you didn’t, we hope the feedback we sent over to you helped you understand why you didn’t and how to improve.
COVID arrived and our Writing Weekends came to a sudden halt. I was gutted that those scheduled for April, May and June could not go ahead, but we hope to run some (fewer) in-person events in 2022 and beyond, when it is safe to do so.
As many of you were home-schooling, and I myself was teaching my biology lessons from my computer, we spent a tough few months leading up to the summer, unsure how this new world would develop. We were all shaken and worried, but one thing persisted. YOU, and your love of writing. We planned for many things to not go ahead from this point, but not only did you attend, but you attended in greater numbers throughout the rest of year. For this, and everything you do to support us, I am forever thankful to you.
We also announced our WMCNA 2020 shortlist!
We launched our 3rd annual summer mentoring programme, and received a record 444 applications.
Our second edition of our quarterly magazine was launched. We had our first the previous December and subscription numbers are steadily growing.
Our summer mentees were announced, and began working with their mentors until August, with 60 mentees paired with 45 mentors.
We held our first ever #WMPitch event on Twitter.
June and July and August
We had some quiet months here, but continued with our online courses, which have grown in popularity and we now have an extensive waiting list. (remember to sign up if you fancy doing one of our courses).
Our summer class of mentees worked exhaustively all summer, overhauling whole manuscripts and one even wrote a whole new one!!
Worth mentioning at this point the growth in our Spark Mentoring programme, which I’ll disclose up front is not free, but is absolutely brilliant value compared to other paid mentoring programmes and is super flexible and easy to opt in or out of. We have a great group of mentors, who are all now very experienced, and have helped several writers in their journeys this year, whether measured by signing with an agent or not.
Our third edition of our quarterly magazine was released.
September began with our summer programme showcase, where our mentees posted their letters and openings for brilliant agents to browse and make requests. We are delighted to say there were many matches and success stories from the class already, with many more still submitting to agents.
Our 2nd annual WOWCON was a real hit this year with record numbers signing up – we had more than 300 people attending the conference, watching 3 brilliant keynote speakers, attending 26 superb workshops, 4 brilliant panels and nearly 250 agent 1-2-1s.
We held our 2nd #WMPitch event on Twitter. Several writers have contacted us since to say they connected with agents via this event and we are absolutely over the moon. We hope to organise these in the new year, also.
October and November
Our 4th edition of our quarterly magazine was released in November.
I also am proud to say I became a Father for the second time in late August, but we had so much on, I thought I’d leave to this month. Probably also the point at which the honeymoon period of baby just sleeping all the time ended and sleep (for me) became extinct. Man, I have some horrible selfies of those long, dark nights…
We opened our 3rd annual novel and picture book awards, with discrete categories, judges and prizes this year. We have already received record numbers of entries and we’re going to have a busy start to 2021 reading all of those.
Overall, it’s been a busy, difficult, but also inspiring year for us. We’ve found things hard at times – working as a teacher full-time, raising a young family and running WM doesn’t leave me with much breathing space in life. It does get dark and difficult a lot of the time, but I’m grateful to a number of people for their help this year.
Firstly, to Florianne, who joined as social media co-ordinator in late 2019 and has now grown her role so much, and proved herself so capable, that I’ve handed to spanner over to fix the hyperdrive to her. She is the new Chewy, but with much better hair. Seriously though, she’ll be taking charge of the courses, many aspects of our new learning hub, in addition to her current roles of website, social media and, of course, the ever-growing WriteMentor Quarterly Magazine. I think you’ll agree that her layouts, visuals and the overall quality of the magazine is stunning and that is all her. And of course, the best thing about having someone else help out, is being able to share problems and worries, and she’s had to listen to a lot of those this year (although to be fair I literally did say that in the job description!). Thank you!
And secondly, to our amazing authors, too many to mention, who run our courses, mentor on our programmes, and have participated in our Writing Weekends, read for our novel award, and have been part of WOWCON or our magazine. THANK YOU! Anything good that is said about WM is down to you and the way you help other writers, however that may be, to inspire and teach, to mentor and help, to advice and to support. Thank you all.
Thirdly, to the small army of industry professionals who have always, and continue to, support WM in all we do. We have a wide, varied network of people in the industry who support us, who take part in our courses, events and programmes, and who add huge value to what we do. Writing is a world-wide web of intertwined threads of communication, connectedness and co-operation, and the ability to connect brand new writers with those who have years and years of expert, industry insider knowledge, is invaluable. And we owe all of that to those who always say yes to helping us. Thank you.
And finally, to YOU! The wonderful, supportive, loyal and friendly WriteMentor Community. It is for you, and because of you, that we exist. In the last 3 years we’ve come a long way from a small, voluntary programme, to the organisation you see reviewed above, and some days I do forget just how far we’ve come. And I say we, because ultimately it has to be a we. Thanks for all your support in the past, currently, and for all your future support. We appreciate it more than you’ll know, and every nice tweet, message or email you send us, really does help keep us going.
Have a wonderful end to the year, and an even better start to 2021.
May the Force be with you,