Page 7 - Demo
P. 7

Thatcher’s graduatesA slightly younger generation of writers, manyof whom came to young adulthood during the tough Thatcherite years, seem to be taking a more entrepreneurial approach to their futures. For novelist Jill Dawson, for example, necessity is the mother of invention. ‘I’ve been toughened up bya lifetime of being self-employed: longing to bea writer, but having to survive financially too,’she tells me. ‘Having spent all my adult life, until the age of 36, being really poor, and trying every which way to earn money and look after my son and find time to write, has made me resourceful.I take my own time, and the value I put on it,very seriously. I still do plenty of things unpaid – judging competitions for Amnesty, for instance, or offering free mentoring as a prize for something– but these days I expect to be paid for talks and for teaching and mentoring.’Dawson is passionate about ‘trying to change the climate for experienced writers who don’t have an income besides their writing’. The Gold Dust mentoring service offers eight hours of intensive tutoring for a fee of £3,300, a sum that can help stabilise a writer’s rocky and unpredictable finances. ‘Usually the organisation offering this kind of service keeps the lion’s share of the fee, but at Gold Dust the bulk of the money goes directly to the mentor. All our mentors are over 50 and offer a lifetime of writing experience and achievement. I have priced that input accordingly.’Australian novelist, playwright, and Gold Dust mentor Kathryn Heyman is not alone in realising the need to take her future finances seriously.‘I came to thinking about pensions very late, inaround 2008. I didn’t have a safety net – a husband who works in the City, an inheritance, a trust fund. No one was going to give me anything asI got older. What the hell was I thinking? So I starting throwing money into a superannuation programme.’Heyman reminisces fondly about her youthful naivety. ‘In the early days I lived on the dole. I’dget paid for a play, and when that money ran out I’d go and sign on again.’ She still believes in the need for a certain rash innocence when starting out, but thinks that these days ‘writers have had to become more entrepreneurial’. Heyman has now set up a similar mentoring scheme to Gold Dustin Australia (learning from Dawson, with whom she has become friends – the two talk obsessively about pensions, apparently) and a branch of the Faber Academy. ‘The money I get for that helps to fund my writing work.’Impoverished cultureHeyman makes an interesting point about what the new entrepreneurialism has done for literary culture as a whole, which is to allow ‘only two kinds of writing to flourish. On the one hand, you see the rise of well-paid genre fiction – crime, chick lit, whatever. On the other hand, we are seeing poorly-paid “literary” writing being done entirely by people who are financially enabled – which results in a literary culture made by the ruling class.’ So we are losing out in terms of literature – writing that Heyman says ‘makes us bigger, better, smarter’ – because low-income and marginalised voices are absent, including large numbers of talented older women writers.WRITER’S RIGHTS► Pensions: The basic state pension is low and is unlikely to rise. But there is a campaign to challenge the recent decision to delay pensions to many women born in the 1950s. Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) is requesting a non- means-tested bridging pension for women who have been affected.► Backlist: The SoA’s Nicola Solomon says it would helpif ‘publishers were obliged to revert rights to books they are no longer marketing’. Authors could then self-publish, and make a small income, which might be significant to the author but not to the publisher. The SoA reverted the rights of Catherine Gaskin’s books to her estate, which is now earning about £7,000 a year from each title by publishing as e-books. ► Join forces: A union or professional society maysecure a fairer deal for you. The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) helps freelance writers negotiate on issues suchas payment and copyright. Professional societies not only provide grants (see ‘Here to help’ box) but may also pay copyright and royalties; they also conduct surveys and campaigns. Recent SoA victories include securing payment for appearing at literary festivals and an EU Draft Directive to include a bestseller clause in writers’ contracts, so writers can benefit from any unexpected literary success. The festivals campaign has resulted in typical fees of between £175 and £200, plus expenses for appearances. ► Lean in: According to Becky Gardiner, former Comment Editor of the Guardian, ‘I can count on two fingers the women who asked about money when commissioned to write an opinion piece. Women need to realise that when you’re being commissioned is the pointwhen you possess your greatest power. Negotiating – assertively and pleasantly – may not get you more money. But it might’.mslexia Mar/Apr/May 2017 7PHOTO: RUSLAN GUSOV / SHUTTERSTOCK

   5   6   7   8   9