Review of 2021
I guess, first of all, I should start with how difficult this year has been for us all. It started in the worst possible way with the second wave and the lockdown (where I was at home trying to teach a 5YO to read/write and do EIGHT activities a day, when she’d only been in school for a term – I know some of you will be able to relate!). And at times, while things improved on that front, there were other challenges that presented themselves, both in our own lives, and the wider world.
It could have been very easy this year to feel like distance and sadness and helplessness was creeping in on you from every single angle…and to, perhaps, just give up. Write this one off. Start again next year. But we’ve seen that those spectres of the wider world appear to be remaining with us for some time yet.
We lost loved ones, some close to this community, others close to ourselves – friends, family, neighbours. The sadness, for me, was at times unbearably painful and I has spent more than a few moments buried in a pit (of my own making) berating myself and the world for this life.
But what did all of you do?
You persisted and persevered with your writing, in spite of all the doom and gloom. You continued to shine a bright light into this world.
You wrote stories of love and kindness, of caring and friendship, of self-sacrifice, and some of you wrote some really dark stuff, too! Of betrayal and forgiveness. Of death and new life. And you did so, both for your own therapy, to help you better understand yourself and your world and the people in it, but also to bring potential joy to a young person who may one day read your stories.
You came to WriteMentor (and other reputable writing organisations – of which we encourage, btw. No petty rivalry here! Like everything in the world, and life, not everything is for everyone) in greater numbers than ever before (I’ll illustrate some of those numbers in the post below) and you supported yourself, each other and us, with as much love and energy as we tried to support you.
You even made us so busy we had to bring Melissa onto the team – a move which has ultimately made us a much stronger place to be – she now leads our Hub and Spark Mentoring programme with all the fun, good humour and enthusiasm that I, myself, could never muster. She has been a real asset and friend this year, and I hope she’s positively impacted upon all of you, too, in your interactions with her over the last 9 months.
The absolute rock and stalwart of our team, Florianne, continues to produce (IMO) the best digital magazine for children’s writers out there (is there another one? lol) and she runs our courses, hosts many of our live events in the Hub and of course does all of our social media, graphics and organises all of the reading opportunities for the kids we love to get involved with WM. She is possibly the main reason WM is still running at this stage, approaching everything with a sensible and balanced approach, to my much more scatty, impulsive and ambitious (mostly too ambitious) vision. Simply put, she is invaluable, and probably irreplaceable.
And to all of you, who read this, who enter our awards, who are members of our Hub, who do our courses and who buy the magazine, we want to say a humungous thank you. We pour our heart and souls into WM, often at the expense of ourselves, both in a metaphorical and literal sense, but we do all of it in good spirit due to the love that we receive in return.
You engage with us, and you publicly shout about it, and us, and you give us reasons to carry on, when it all gets a very tough and dark and I’m sitting at 2am on a Monday morning trying to write something for the newsletter, while thinking about getting up for work in 4 hours.
To each and every one of you reading this today – you inspire me.
Clutch onto that feeling, that hardened and ingrained perseverance that you must all surely have to still be here, in spite of it all. Clutch it, and hold on tight into 2022, because I reckon we’re gonna need it.
But I know you will do it. The Force is strong with you.
Nothing is going to stop us now.
We received a record 1361 entries into our Novel and Picture Book Award this year. Judged by Lauren Gardner, Justine Smith and Paul Moreton, the Picture Book award was won by Stephen James and the Novel Award was won by Sean Dooley.
You can rewatch the emotional ceremony here if you wish.
We also launched our inaugural Novel-in-Development award for CB, MG and YA. Judged by agent Christabel McKinley, this was won by Amanda Thomas, with Katja Kaine as runner-up. Amanda received and has begun her 1 year of Spark Mentoring with the wonderful Simon James Green to turn her novel from development to finished! Look out for details of the 2022 award in February.
862 applicants. 64 mentors. 4 months of mentoring. 2 weeks of deliberation. 1 agent showcase.
Our biggest programme yet, saw more applications, more mentees taken on (more than 70 this year), and more opportunities within the programme itself.
We will be back in 2022, aiming to help those of you who feel close, to get your work over that line! Look out for details on applying to mentor in January and to apply to be mentored in April.
Community Learning Hub
HubAs we approach the end of the year, and we look ahead to 2022, here’s a few reasons why the Hub was a great place to be in 2021:
- online modules on every aspect of craft and each stage of the writing journey, from idea to post-publication
- monthly online critique groups (from PB to YA)
- monthly book club
- pitch hero (a chance to pitch your work to an agent 4 times a year)
- monthly beyond-the-agent chats (with an author or publisher professional on an aspect of writing life)
- 3 x weekly writing sprints
- weekly community Zoom catch-up
- kid beat readers
- monthly webinars from our resident authors, plus guests throughout the year
- monthly workshops from our resident authors, plus guests throughout the year
In 2021, we had chats/sessions with 21 authors and publishing professionals and have plans for even more in 2022. We also arranged agent 1-2-1s for every Hub member who asked for one, so more than 50 in total.
We welcome new Writers-in-Residence, Rashmi Sirdeshpande and Marcus Sedgwick, who take over from Clare Helen Welsh and Vashti Hardy. And we have plans for a few Hub member only events in 2022 – watch this space.
In 2021, our Spark programme has helped mentor over 100 writers and more than 250 since it’s inception in January 2019.
We are always here, at any time, to help you with a flexible and low cost helping hand on your work. Our group of mentors includes award winning and listed authors from a wide range of genres and age categories.
We also introduced, because there’s a mammoth waiting list for both, some untutored Picture Book Courses, which you can complete on your own and at your own pace.
We published 4 editions (last one coming this week!) in 2021. We are every proud of the content of our magazine, and Editor Florianne works so hard throughout the year to secure pieces by top authors and industry professionals and we thank you for all your support with it. We are now in position to commission more content per edition going forward due to the growing subscription numbers, so look out for even more great content in 2022.
Podcasts and YouTube
This a new thing for 2021 and we’ve worked hard all year to bring you even more free content on our podcast and YouTube channels. With interviews from top authors in WriteCast, to honest and raw discussions in the Rejection Diaries, to the newly launched Demytisfy series, we hope to continue to bring you more great free things on our podcast and YouTube channels in 2022.
We’ve even done a few YouTube live events, such as our Awards ceremony, and a couple of Book Launches for veteran mentors Melissa and Marisa.
We continue to adore sharing success stories of all of our community – from those in our programmes, courses and awards. Florianne is the person to contact if you have a success story we do not know about.