Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Encouraging Other Writers

Last week, I was having one of my regular chats with my "contact" in the children's book department at my local branch of Waterstones. I was really pleased when he told me that he had started writing again and had just entered a short story competition. I was even more pleased when he said it was partly due to my encouragement.

I have always tried to encourage people to write if they show even the slightest desire to do so, although I usually qualify it now by saying "Don't give up the day job"! I have also been extremely grateful to the many writers who have encouraged me and there is no doubt in my mind that I wouldn't have achieved as much as I have without their support and advice.

One of the first writers who really encouraged me was the novelist Jean Chapman. She was my first writing tutor at the Leicester Adult Education College when I started taking classes in creative writing. (I've always said it could just as easily have been classes in bee-keeping or ballroom dancing but that's another story.) It was great to meet Jean again recently at a writing event and to tell her in person just how much her encouragement meant to me when I was first starting out.

Only last week, I received a very helpful email from the poet Kate Williams ( after I had written to her asking for some advice about various writing-related matters. Her reply was very encouraging and gave me a great boost at the time, as well as making me determined to keep going with my children's poetry, however hard it sometimes seems to get anywhere with it.

I'm also very grateful to Rosalie Warren ( , a young adult fiction author, whose latest book "Coping With Chloe" is out now (quick plug for you there, Rosalie!) and with whom I was put in contact after my novel "Cracking Up" was shortlisted in the Earlyworks Press teenage fiction competition. Rosalie's encouragement, not to mention extremely constructive criticism, after reading "Cracking Up" and my current novel "Dear Egg", really made me feel that I could write for young people and was all I needed to get me back to my desk again.

Of course, there are times when it is hard to encourage yourself to keep writing, let alone anyone else. It is also "The Law" of writing that you will only hear about other writers' successes when you have just had your tenth rejection of the week. Guarding against "writers' envy" can use up almost as much energy as guarding against "writers' block" and is certainly something I've had problems with in the past. Now I try to be more positive and take encouragement from the fact that if they can do it, then so can I. Also, I like to think of writing as a huge cairn and each writer adds a stone to the cairn every time they get something accepted or published. In fact I'm just off now to start polishing another stone to see if I can add it to the pile!            


  1. Melissa, thank you for your very kind comments and the mention of my book. It was a pleasure to read 'Cracking up' and 'Dear Egg' and I wish you all the very best in your quest to find a publisher for them.

  2. Great to hear from you Rosalie. Good luck with your own books too.

  3. Mutual support and encouragement are hugely important. I'm very fortunate in belonging to a small online writers' group, Writers Abroad, where you are assured of honest but supportive criticism. There is also a chorus of congratulations whenever anyone gets something published or wins a prize.

    We all have dark nights of the soul and wonder why we write at all. Just knowing that other people have them too is a help.

  4. Thanks Vanessa. Your group sounds great and I agree that it's really important to remember that we all suffer from self-doubt at times.