#100women100books launches online

Inspired by our Spreadsheets & Moxie residency in the Compton Verney 19th Century Women’s Library back in January, we wanted to know what books were dear to the hearts and minds of contemporary women. So we asked 100 women in our lives – from toddlers to eighty year olds – what one book they’d like to see on our library’s virtual shelves and why they’d recommend it. 

In the middle of the sweltering heat this week, Sarah Salway and I launched #100women100books: a virtual women’s Library for the 21st Century.

Inspired by our Spreadsheets & Moxie residency in the Compton Verney 19th Century Women’s Library back in January, we wanted to know what books were dear to the hearts and minds of contemporary women. So we asked 100 women in our lives – from toddlers to eighty year olds – what one book they’d like to see on our library’s virtual shelves and why they’d recommend it.

Between now and July 19th we’ll be posting a daily selection of their responses on the #100women100books Facebook Page. There’s a delicious mixture of bonkbusters, cookery books, poetry, plays, essential essays and riveting short stories. As well as old childhood favourites we have cutting edge literary fiction, obscure titles I’d never heard of and a cornucopia of non-fiction. It’s just glorious.

Then on July 19th we go analogue: Sarah returns to Compton Verney in Warwickshire for the second half of our residency (I’ll be cheering her on long distance from the Maternity Ward), taking a bound pamphlet of the full list to donate to their library. If you’re in the area then high-tail it along on the 19/20/21st to write/chat with her in the Women’s Library.

We’ll also be making a PDF of the pamphlet available to download from the 19th, for all you lovely people who can’t make it down in person. At the time of writing this, we have over 250 of you in the virtual Women’s Library with us, which is a joy to behold and we’re not even close to running out of imaginary seating space.

I bet you’re thinking of a book by a woman that you think we should have in our library… so tell us about it! We have a nifty little web form on the Spreadsheets & Moxie website for you to help us grow our virtual library.

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Talking about professionalism in the creative arts #spreadsheetsandmoxie

We think we’re great as we are.

We don’t need to be fixed.

But we do need to find new ways of using the strengths we have to support ourselves and our creative communities.

Thanks to everyone who came to last week’s talk about Spreadsheets & Moxie as part of the NCLA First Thursday series – either in person or watching the live broadcast.

A video of the hour-long talk (inc. Q&A) is available to watch online, and gives a whistle-stop overview of Sarah and my process over the past 6 months in approaching professionalism in the creative arts, how we’ve worked with our (audacious, daring, lively) Associate Artists in the North East and South East of England, some of the advice we’ve picked up along the way, Sarah walking round a labyrinth and a sneak preview at the early results of our online survey. We’re aiming to be a positive, honest voice for sustaining and developing a career in the creative arts and are always happy to answer any further questions people care to throw our way.

Sarah will be talking at a similar event in Kent in May, dates TBC.

Next steps for the project? We’re knee deep in our mid-way evaluation (I’m an analysis geek so this is seventh heaven for me), working on creative pieces from the Compton Verney residency (fast-forward to the end of the talk to hear me read the opening of a draft of mine), and beginning to think more solidly about what shape a follow-on might be when our R&D finishes in the summer. All this alongside our ongoing skill-sharing and letting our questioning minds range broadly across the wider issues.

First Thursday event in Newcastle

Tomorrow lunchtime (2 March) I’ll be chatting about the Spreadsheets & Moxie project and what Sarah Salway and I reckon it takes to develop and sustain a career from your creative practice.

Part of the NCLA’s First Thursday series, the event is designed to fit into your lunch hour and starts at 1pm in room 1.75 of the Bedson Building, Newcastle University. It’s free, no ticket booking required, and you’re welcome to bring your sandwiches.

Have you done our survey yet? #spreadsheetsandmoxie

Closing date of 31/01/2017 set for our survey on creative professionalism: take 15 mins to fill it out now as your Christmas good deed!

As Sarah and I make our final preparations for the Spreadsheets & Moxie Christmas Party (to be conducted via Skype, with crackers & pre-posted Secret Santa), we’ve agreed on a closing date for our R&D survey on Creative Professionalism.

For those of you who’ve missed out on previous posts, I’m working with fellow writer Sarah Salway on a year-long R&D project funded by Arts Council England. We’re taking a rounded approach to professionalism for creative practitioners – e.g. artists, dancers, photographers, actors – with a particular focus on women writers.

One element of our work this year is to reach out to fellow creatives to find out more about their experiences and views on professionalism within our industry. The people we’re targeting are self-identified professionals within one or more artistic areas. You might work part-time, you might just be getting started, you might already be an international superstar. We want the views of all ages, backgrounds and levels of experience. The survey is anonymous and takes about 15 minutes to complete. You can find it here.

We’ll be closing the survey on 31st January 2017.Please do pass on the link to anyone you think might be interested- we’re keen to have as wide a pool of experiences represented as possible, preferably extending far beyond our own existing networks.

 

Our Associate Artists & the questions they raised #spreadsheetsandmoxie

Introducing the Associate Artists for Spreadsheets and Moxie, alongside an exercise for you to try at home.

For those of you who haven’t come across it yet, Spreadsheets & Moxie is one of my current projects: a year of R&D (funded by Arts Council England- thanks guys!) working alongside the inspirational and talented writer Sarah Salway to take a rounded approach to professionalism for women in the creative arts. More details here. Skip to the end of this post for an exercise to try at home.

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Viccy & Sarah in the middle of a silent walking (& silent selfies) exercise in the grounds of The Hurst, Shropshire

Over the coming months I’ll be blogging some of the exercises and approaches we’re taking, and soliciting views and experiences from the wider creative communities (FYI men: your thoughts are very welcome) via an online survey. Today I wanted to introduce a layer of the structure we’re working within. As you’ll already have gathered, the project is led, jointly, by Sarah and myself and feeds off the coaching sessions we’ve been swapping with each other since we met four years ago on an Accredited Coaching Skills for Writers course run by the National Association of Writers in Education and Arvon. The next layer we’re working within is an invited network of five women creative arts professionals based in the North East of England and five based in the South East of England: our Associate Artists.

The Associate Artists are a sounding board for Sarah and I to challenge our ideas, get directed feedback on our work in progress, build a wider picture and think things through differently. We’ve hand-picked women who approach the world in interesting ways, are generous to others and who produce high quality artistic work. They are (in alphabetical order): Clare Best, Vanessa Gebbie, Kris Johnson, Helen Limon, Lisa Matthews, Juliana Mensah, Ellen Montelius, Susannah Pickering-Ronnie, Catherine Smith and Kay Syrad.

 

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Tackling some of our Associate Artists’ questions in a glorious, outdoors setting

While Sarah and I were at the Arvon Clockhouse last week setting out the backbones of Spreadsheets & Moxie (it’s lovely there BTW, I highly recommend it as a writing retreat option), our Associate Artists each gave us a short activity, prompt or discussion point to consider over the six days. These ranged from keeping appropriate boundaries in collaborations to taking decisions on when to stop working on a piece and start a new one, from standing up for ourselves in public situations to considering alternatives to commercialisation. What I want to share with you today is the blanket approach Sarah and I developed as a way of making sense of the different questions in the context of the project.

With so much to cover in the six days we had working together, rather than trying to set ourselves up as Agony Aunts or the definitive last word on what’s ‘best’ and ‘right’, we did a 6 minute freewriting exercise to get down on paper different ways in which we might approach answering the question. After the 6 minutes were up, Sarah and I would explain to the other what we’d thought up and discuss ways of expanding or refining them. It was fascinating how many varied pathways this offered us, and even more surprising how little overlap there was in the techniques suggested. It made a great starting point for thematic discussions. It also helped us keep our responses to the questions/prompts/discussion points linked firmly back to the project. I found that my responses normally started by unpacking the language of the question or re-phrasing, for which I blame my background in research academia, but which became my route into understanding the question better before trying to work out how it might be answered.

DO TRY THIS AT HOME:

Take a blank sheet of paper & write your question/prompt/discussion point at the top. This might be set by someone else, it might be something you’ve been stuck on with your writing, it might be an area you want to know more about.

Set a timer for 6 minutes.

Freewrite as many possibilities as come to mind how you MIGHT approach answering it.

When the timer goes off, if working as a pair/group then share your approaches. If working solo, set the timer for 3 mins and freewrite on ‘when I read this back I notice…’

* If you work professionally as (or with) a writer or creative arts practitioner & want to help us out by filling in an online survey about your experiences later this year, sign up to the Spreadsheets & Moxie mailing list*