Can you teach others to become good writers? I used to think not, but my involvement with the Royal Literary Fund (RLF) has radically changed my view. I nonetheless look on what I do as mentoring rather than teaching: helping people to find their own way of writing well.
Founded in 1790 to help writers in need (among them Joseph Conrad, James Joyce and Dylan Thomas), the RLF has since developed an educational arm that supports writers by enabling them to share their expertise and ‘engage widely in society’. What it also does brilliantly is to foster a community of writers who help and support each other.
I have enjoyed three RLF fellowships to date, providing one-to-one help to students and others who want to talk about their writing. The first was at Queen Mary University of London (2007–8) for students at all levels and across all disciplines, followed by King’s College London (2008–10, and 2012–14), where I developed a new fellowship in the Centre for Doctoral Studies focused exclusively on research students and staff. I was also one of the first RLF Fellows at the British Library (2018–19), available for consultations with anyone holding a Reader Pass. My sessions ranged across fact and fiction, poetry and prose, biography and memoir, doctoral theses and academic assignments; I loved every one of them.
For the last few years, as an accredited RLF Consultant Fellow, I have also run writing workshops and masterclasses for research students and staff at universities in London, Manchester and elsewhere; these will stop for a time, at least until my new book is finished.