By Jonathan Taylor
I've never believed that writers are in competition with one another. I believe in a democratic community of writers, a Republic of Letters. The same goes for universities: I don't believe in the myth of competition between university Creative Writing departments, for example. Writers in universities, whether staff or students, are all part of the same community, the same carnivalesque republic.
It seems to me more important than ever to hold onto this idea at the moment. We're all confronted by huge challenges in education and the wider writing world. There's no point pretending otherwise: it's an incredibly difficult situation for everyone, and we're all facing the toughest year in higher education most of us have ever known. There are so many challenges we've got to deal with in the next academic year - safety, sickness, mental health, shielding, lockdowns, economic pressures, new technologies, fallible technologies, new ways of learning and teaching, situations that change every week ... and so on, and so forth.
It's important to acknowledge these things, I think, from the start. It's not going to be easy, and there are going to be problems, mistakes, hiccups (to say the least) throughout the year, as we all struggle to stay upright on the shifting sands of Covid World.
Above all, in Covid World, I think it's important to be kind - to pack away any notions of competitiveness between writers, between departments, between universities, and substitute instead a model of cooperation, support, mutual aid. Faced with such huge challenges, I think writers - staff and students - should support one another, both within and between universities. I know I'm preaching mainly to the converted: in my experience, this is exactly what writers do. I've been helped immensely by other writers over the years, and found the writing and university-writing communities very supportive.
On a practical level, therefore, I'd like to make some suggestions to writers who work at all universities (in whatever capacity), about sharing resources, information, opportunities, knowledge - above all, about talking to one another, and supporting one another as both creative writers and learners or educators.
In my own small sphere, there are things I can offer - for example: 1. if you have a book out, and you'd like it reviewed on Everybody's Reviewing, contact me, and I'll see if I can find a reviewer; 2. if you have a book out, and you'd like it featured on this blog, again, please contact me; 3. if you'd like to join the Facebook group I run, "Creative Writing at Leicester University," on which I post news, articles, opportunities, jobs, calls for submissions and competitions, you are more than welcome, whether or not you are in Leicester; 4. if you have any questions about writing, teaching, publishing, or want any advice, and think I might be able to answer them, please do get in touch - I'll try my best, and, at the very least, I might be able to put you in touch someone else who can help; 5. if you teach in a university, and want someone who is in the same boat as yourself to talk things over with, share resources and rants, then again, please do get in touch. My email, for all of these things is jt265 [at] le [dot] ac [dot] uk.
Conversely, if you would like to share information about your own events or opportunities, or if you'd like to write an article about your own experiences, as a teacher or learner in Covid World, for this blog, or if you'd like to write a review for Everybody's Reviewing, or if you have any other ideas about how we might all support one another, in terms of writing, learning and teaching, then please do email me.
None of this is intended to undermine the necessity for writers to be paid for their work. Sharing information, resources, help, rants is not the same as working for free. It's just a way of supporting one another at a difficult time. Let's all have a conversation about how best we can do that - how we can carry on the literary carnival in an age of social distancing and lockdowns.
It goes without saying that all these opinions are my own.
Thank you for reading, Jonathan