Introducing: New Writing North
Supporting creative writing and would-be authors across the North of England is a key part of encouraging Northern publishing. At the centre of this work is a small organisation making a big difference, New Writing North, a group dedicated to supporting and investing in reading and writing culture across the North of England.
Set up in 1996, New Writing North originally aimed to be a ‘DIY agency’ for writers, in order to provide opportunities for authors in the North. Over time, this function developed into a broader support network for all areas of Northern literature including film and television. The organisation aims to highlight the wealth of literary talent in this part of the country, as their website explains:
‘We believe the arts are for everyone and talent is everywhere. We want to make the North of England a culturally rich place and we work with many brilliant partners to achieve this goal.’
Part of this goal involves running several programmes set up to help support Northern writers, including various writing awards; the best-known are the Northern Writers’ Awards, which make up the country’s biggest writing development programme. The organisation helps to mentor up-and-coming writers and provide connections to important groups in the industry, such as publishers and agents.
A large part of their mission is to encourage young people to read and write, raising the next generation of publishers and authors. They have had notable success in engaging with students through a combination of in-depth schoolwork, open access creative writing groups, summer schools and short-term projects.
Finding connections for writers is not the group’s only influence in the publishing world, however; they also run Mayfly Press, ‘the home of good books from the North of England.’ The publisher comprises two imprints, one specialising in literary and trade and the other, Moth Publishing, in crime writing. Profits from the titles produced by Mayfly Press are then reinvested back into the business, allowing New Writing North to further support their programmes and writers.
Having joined forces with Arts Council England in 2011, the team have been able to expand their reach across the North, with recent figures showing a £914.6k spending based off £1.1million. New Writing North is taking the publishing world by storm, continually reaffirming the fact that the North is a cultural centre on its own. As we can see, larger commercial publishers are now recognising this fact which bodes well for the future.
Review: Summerwater by Sarah Moss
by Grace Robinson
Sarah Moss was born in Glasgow and raised in Manchester and has been writing novels for over ten years. Bodies of Light (2014) followed two sisters growing up in Victorian Manchester; Cold Earth (2009) told of a group of archaeologists on a dig in Greenland who find themselves stranded after a deadly pandemic takes hold of the mainland, a tale eerily pertinent to our times. As well as chronicling areas of the UK often overlooked by mainstream contemporary fiction, she casts a critical eye over the relationship between humans and the natural world we inhabit. In 2016, she came to critical attention when her short novel Ghost Wall was nominated for the Women’s Prize and her latest polyphonic piece, Summerwater, feels like her best work yet.
Set on the longest day of the year as rain hammers on the windows of a small holiday park up in the Scottish Highlands, Summerwater is the perfect solstice story to curl up with on a rainy summer's day. In her perfect stream-of-consciousness prose, Moss inhabits a character in each of the holiday park's claustrophobic cabins as, cooped up on account of the weather, they watch one another through twitching curtains and pass judgement on each other’s lives.
One family eventually seizes the attention of everyone else, a mother and daughter who don't quite fit the bill of the typical highland holidaymaker; as night eventually falls over the murky Loch, you'll find yourself breathless with the tension of the unfolding tragedy.
The blend of nature writing and politics is pitch-perfect in Summerwater: its characters and their thoughts are as viscerally real as the raw wilderness of the watery world in which they dwell. As in Ghost Wall, Moss manages to call upon the land and its history to pose questions about the present day, about our relationships to one another and the world we live in. Although the impulse to avoid the comparison to Ali Smith is strong, it's hard not to see the similarities between the two, particularly given the simultaneous release of these two seasonal reads. If you're excited about Summer, get excited about Summerwater, because Sarah Moss is sublime and we promise this is one of the best books you’ll read this year.