Week 11: Winners

Eleven down, one to go. The second to last batch of winners is about to be announced.

Quite indulgently we asked you to write about what you loved most about Thanet Creative Writers. If I am honest, the thought “how can I ask people to blog about us” was how I ended up with “wouldn’t it be cool if we had a 12-week writing competition”. And the rest, as they say, was history.

Honourable mentions

Before we carry on, I’d like to give an honourable mention to Author Buzz. While not part of the competition there is a good post on that site all about us at Thanet Creative Writers. I know because I wrote it. Now on to the important folks – you wonderful writers.

Likewise, I’d like to shout out to L. L. Winder. Who might like to add Wedding anniversaries to the list of things that stop her writing. Congratulations guys. I wish you many more years of happiness together.

Top Three Posts.

In no particular order of sexiness, here are the three front runners for this week. Of course, that could be because there only were three entries that I found but even so…

I hope each and every one of those posts finds their way to /r/ThanetWinners2017 for the big vote off at the end of next week. (Hint, go and post them there you amazing writers)

Talking about the big vote off, if you still want to write for a theme that has passed you have one last chance to win by entering it into the big vote off. Just saying…

Winner of the best post

Here we are once again. Three great posts and I have to pick just one. Honestly, this is so hard. This section of the post has been blank for an hour now.

In the end, I had to pick one and it was the one I realised that I had liked so much that I had left a comment saying how easy it was to read.

This week’s winner, by a nose, is: It’s in the small print by Jess Joy.

Winner of the best comment

For sheer novelty value, I am going to award Benj the best comment award.

On the Night of the Hats post, his comment was not only interesting but in verse. That’s gotta count for something, right. Anyway, I liked it and so I am awarding the prize to Benj.

Winner of the most votes

As this week, the Reddit vote was a dead heat between our best post winner (Jess) and Niel, I think it is fair to award the people’s choice award to Night of the Hats, Thanet Love.

Closing thoughts

This week coming up is the last of the 12 themes. I challenge you all to write your best ever entry. Consider the gauntlet thrown down.

Over to you…

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Peace of writing

There have, over the past year or so, been some fairly negative moments in the Thanet literary scene. That’s sad, so let’s fix it.

Thanet Creative Writers can’t, as a single charity, solve every problem in Thanet but maybe we can set an example and take the first step.

Let me first address some of the petty rivalries that have been stoked up between our group and others. Writing has never been a competitive event. Sure, a good plot needs conflict but we writers ourselves do not.

If you are part of this rather silly conflict then you know who you are, and if you are not then you have not missed out. But each and every person who was caught up in all this, I am publicly inviting to become friends.

As of this moment, consider the past a closed box; the slate wiped clean. Let us work together and make the enjoyment of writing our only priority.

As for my part in all this silliness, I have no doubt that I have not been perfect. For whatever slights, real or imagined, that you feel that I personally had any part in, I ask for your pardon. I am not really sure what I, or the group I chair, stands accused of but I am willing to ask for forgiveness anyway. The reality is that whatever the facts are (and they might forever be hidden) if feelings have been hurt, I want to start the process of healing.

Let me personally extend an open invitation to all of you to come and go from our groups, events, and website as you see fit. You are as welcome as any other and I would be pleased to see you. No one (and I will make that my personal responsibility) will bring up the past. The past is over and no one can change that but we can choose how we move forward. I want us to move forward inclusively.

The local blogger who felt the need to unload on us publicly. You know who you are but let us put that behind us. Sure what you wrote hurt a lot of people, and maybe there may be some repercussions to unpack from that event. I doubt either of us covered ourselves in glory in the way we behaved and no one was ever helped by a war of words (which no one can win).

It is too easy to hate people when they have no face, so come and join with us, not to unpack the past but to start a fresh relationship. Come to one of our trustee meetings if you want, or one of our tea and chat events, or poetry events. Come and meet the people that enjoy our group. Let us be friends.

The local poet who spat out a massive wall of vitriolic text at me over private message, you too. You know who you are. I am going to choose to believe that you were just having a bad day and needed to vent. I am glad that I was able to be that vent for you. It is fine. I’m big enough to take it.

You, sir, are still welcome to come to our poetry events on the last Thursday of the month. Not just welcome but actively invited. Let us have a cuppa, share some rhymes, and put the past behind us.

Finally, the person or persons who feel the need to stir up hatred. All I can do is ask that you stop. Hate and conflict have no place outside of the plots we write. Let us keep conflict where it belongs – in fiction alone.

There is so much good that we can build together. Our future lies with each other. Let us start building it today.

Why Thanet Creative Writers exists

I am a contradiction – my grammar is poor, my spelling is horrendous, and my grasp of the English language is rudimentary at best. But I love writing.

I love talking about writing with other writers. I love seeing writers succeed – seeing good writers walk the path that takes them to being great writers.

More than that, I love seeing people who never thought they could write go on to realise that they are writers.

That last point, seeing writers realise they can, was an eye opener for me. I never realised how much I would love seeing that happen until the day I first saw it happen.

One day I might tell that story but all that love is not why we formed Thanet Creative Writers but it is a large part of why we keeping doing what we do.

So why did we start?

Back in 2010, I started saying to people “do you want to start something for writers?” I did that one very simple reason – I love writing but being a writer alone is hard.

Skip forward to 2013 and four people, all of whom had toyed with writing, got together. We did that not because anyone was making us but, like me, those other writers did not want to be writers alone.

Being a writer alone means that when you get stuck with a plot point there is no one to ask for advice.

Being a writer alone means that if you don’t quite get how to write strong dialogue, there is no one to nudge you in the right direction.

Being writer alone means having no peers to give you feedback or to learn from.

Being a writer alone means that you never, ever, get a chance to see inside the creative process of another writer. You get to see finished books on shelves and are left wondering – “how do I get there?”

Being a writer alone means that you have no way to know if what you are writing is any good or how to make it good. More importantly, you have very few options to get help figuring out how to keep improving.

I knew full well that writers groups existed in Thanet. My dad used to take me to poetry circles when I was young. The chances were that there were more somewhere.

I had no idea how to find these groups. It was hard work to find even a clue of other groups and, at the time, what I did find online was so old I could not be sure that the group still existed. None of those few groups had Facebook, Twitter, or even email. That suggested to me that the people in those were probably a lot older than I was.

When I was a child, all the writers seemed to have been doing the same thing for a long time and they all seemed to know what they were doing. Whereas I, quite clearly, had no idea.

So I did what anyone else could have done. I called on my Facebook friends and three people answered the call. Then a few more. Then a few more. That was how Thanet Creative Writers was founded.

What we do is enable people to come together and share their love of writing. What we have is a vibrant community of people not only closer to my own age, but all ages. That gives us all the benefit of youth and aged wisdom at the same time.

That same vibrancy is present in our in-person events, in our social media “forums”, and in our wider writer’s community.

Whatever we do, it comes back to the same thing – we love writing and we want to be with other people who love writing.

If you love writing then come and join us.

Whatever you do, don’t be a writer alone.

Why TCW are becoming a charity

red and black pens

In February 2017 Thanet Creative Writers will be transitioning to a charity. For most people, this change means business as usual but there are some features of us being a charity that might make a big difference.

In this (rather long) article I will try to break down exactly what it means to be a charity, what you can get out of us being a charity and how to get the most out of this change.

Charities are important

Charities are an important part of our country. They exist for the public good. In fact, it is impossible to be a charity if you cannot prove that you exist for the public good.

What is a charity?

A charity is an organisation that operates for the benefit of others. Specifically, a charity must be:

  1. Not be for profit
  2. Have exclusively charitable purposes
  3. Operate for the public benefit

Thanet Creative Writers (TCW) runs for the benefit of writers in Thanet and not, in any way, to make a profit. Our hope is to make Thanet (and by extension, the world) a better place by encouraging people to embrace this satisfying and worthwhile pastime. If some of our writers can go on to make a living from their work then this is even better.

Integrity and Credibility

It is generally seen as easier to raise funds from the public at large for a charity rather than a small independent group. This due to the positive image of integrity and credibility charitable status presents.

Help and guidance is available to charities from the Charity Commission. This, in itself, should provide the public with reassurance and help to show that we are sincere in our desire to further the interest of Thanet’s writers.

Furthermore, the model of charity that we have chosen, with elected trustees and open accounting, should help to foster transparency and show that we are an honest and reputable collective.

If course, just being a charity does not automatically mean any of that yet it is the right foundation to build an honest and open community for the betterment of writers in Thanet.

Governing Document

Charities are defined by their Governing Document. This is a technical and legal statement that says what the charity is, what it will do, and the bylaws under which it will operate. The website charityexpert.net has a more detailed explanation.

The Governing Document provides a clear set of rules that describes how the organisation will behave. Thanet Creative Writers has, so far, run on the rules of discussion and common sense. That is fine for a small group but as we grow so our structure needs to grow with us.

The attempt by a few members to take over and control the group, last year, demonstrates that without some set of guidelines eventually there will be chaos and anarchy. While a bit of personal chaos can be good for the creative mind, generally it is preferable to have a degree of order within a community organisation. If for no other reason than so that we all know where we stand with each other.

Our Governing Document is a fairly standard one. It describes what we want to do and how we will go about doing it. It describes how we will elect our trustees and what we will do if there is a disagreement. I see this as an important safety net to have in place before we try and start any further ambitious projects.

I see it as a personal failure that I saw the danger and did not push soon enough or hard enough for us to establish ourselves in a more formal setting. Our Governing Document has been crafted to rectify this shortcoming while being as light, informal, and flexible as possible.

The final draft of our proposed Governing Document is available in our Facebook group as a file. Click here to see it.

Funding Benefits

Currently, any expenses that Thanet Creative Writers’ projects might incur have to be paid for by whoever is running things. That hardly seems fair nor is it particularly scalable.

Certain sources of funding, particularly grants, are open only to organisations with charitable status.This includes “Gift Aid relief” on donations from individuals. This is of direct benefit to the writers and events that we support as we will be able to access or provide funding to help get things paid for.

Additionally, we may be exempt from VAT in some cases. This should make some things less expensive by a significant amount. That’s good because it means that we can do more for you with less money.

Read more on the benefits of becoming a charity.

Being a Charity Member

Charity members get to vote in our elections and may stand for trustee rolls. Members also get the most benefit from our charitable activities in terms of support.

You do not need to be a member to come to our events. That said, we feel it would be a great idea to think about being a member.

Benefits of membership include:

  • Priority registration to events with limited places
  • The right to vote in our elections
  • Access to all our events even those not open to the public
  • The right to have any relevant event you might run listed as an official TCW event
  • Access to any local discounts that we might negotiate

On that last point, discounts, this is an aspiration for us at present but should we realise this goal it would be for members only.

To become a member you need only make a donation of at least one whole pound each year. As members have a lot of power over the charity, full membership (where all the benefits are) has a short vetting process. You need to either be at the signing of the Governing Document on the 2nd of February, added by a trustee later, or sponsored by an existing member. While we are small and it is possible to know all members by name, that vetting process is likely to take a few seconds at most.

The benefits and requirements of membership are explained on the Thanet Creative writers: charity project page.

Being a Trustee

A charity cannot run without trustees. The trustees are elected each AGM and serve to carry out the business end of the charities aims and objectives. To become a trustee you must first become a member.

Being a trustee can be a hugely rewarding experience, especially when you see the difference that the charity is making. Also, and this never hurts, having spent time as a trustee looks great on your CV especially if you were able to help achieve something notable during your time as a trustee.

It should go without saying, but a trustee cannot be paid for the role. That may be a touch simplistic as there are conditions under which trustees can be paid for professional services but the charities commission will require a full and detailed explanation and justification. Sufficed to say, trusteeship is voluntary.

Read more (from the BBC) about the value of becoming a trustee.

Projects we already run

We already run a number of small projects. The most prominent are:

There are a lot more Thanet Creative Writers projects if you would like to read about them.

What being a charity means to our current projects

If you enjoy coming to Thanet Creative Writers: Tea and Chat or other events that we run then I have some good news. The change to charity means no change at all for you in terms of the events themselves. Tea and chat will continue as it always has.

However, it does mean that there may be money available in the future to run bigger and better events. It also means that if there is a problem there will be appointed and recognised people operating inside a fair and impartial framework that you can go to who will take care of the problem and help you get back to doing what you love – writing.

It also means that if you want to create something new then there is a framework within which we will be happy to help you make that something. It should be safe to invest time or money into a project know that there are safeguards in place which will keep things on track.

Finally, it also means that no new project should overwhelm existing ones. Should TCW launch a website, conference, or even a festival, then your current meetings and groups will not be overrun with talk of projects that you might not be interested in right now.

In short, becoming a charity means doing things the right way from the start.

Projects and event we would like to set up

Our members have a lot of idea of things that they would like for us to be doing. We have spoken over the years of setting up a literary festival, of running writers’ social events, of setting up a weekly poetry event for new poets, and of running training and presentation evenings. In addition to that, we would like to produce an anthology publication to showcase the best work of those that come to our events.

If we cannot do all that we would, at least, like to inspire others to do some of these things.

While we are doing that we would also love to support the many different writer oriented events and groups that exist in Thanet. We would like to help others who have innovative ideas for new events and groups to realise those ideas.

Becoming a charity, with the funding that this would allow us to access and the yearly donations of our members should allow us to make some of these dreams a reality.

Booking Specialist Speakers

How awesome would it be if we could get top writers like Niel Gaiman, J. K. Rowling, or Steven King to come and speak to us budding writers for an hour or two?

Who do you think they would be more willing to come and talk to – some local writers’ group or a legitimate charity with the funds to cover their expenses?

Becoming more

When I founded Thanet Creative Writers my only thought was that it would be cool to hang out with other writers. Things have grown since then and this change to a charity is in many ways simply a natural part of that growth. Thanet Creative Writers long ago stopped being about me and became about us instead. We are writers and we want to help other writers.

Things like dyslexia, dyspraxia, youth, age, career (or lack thereof) should not be things that stand between you and enjoying writing. If we can help remove those barriers, then this is a good thing that we want to do.

If you would like to be part of establishing Thanet Creative Writers as a charity then please come along to our launch.

Thanet Creative Writers’ Charity Launch event