Reflections on hosting a Quick-fire Q&A for Emerging Writers

January 7, 2020

Mariah Whelan is an alumna of Kellogg College graduating from the MSt in Creative Writing in 2013. In this blog she reflects on one of her passions: running cross-community professional development events for writers.

On November 12th I was delighted to find myself returning to my alma mater to host a ‘Quick-fire Q&A’ session for emerging writers. Generously hosted by The Centre for Creative Writing, who already run their popular seminar series, Kellogg seemed the perfect place for this cross-community event. The College regularly attracts audiences from inside and outside the university and I knew our friendly and professional community would be the ideal place to invite emerging writers to pose their questions to established practitioners.

The Event
I organised the event as a representative of Writers in Oxford, a professional society of working writers eager to donate their time and expertise to support emerging writers. Attendees were given the opportunity to spend three minutes posing their questions to some of Oxford’s greatest literary talents. Experts included Man-Booker shortlisted MSt in Creative Writing alumna Daisy Johnson. Representatives were also on hand from literary agency Felicity Bryan Associates and poetry was represented by prize-winning poet Penny Boxall.

While there are many literary events in Oxford, what made our evening unique was the opportunity for emerging writers to pose practical and career-focused questions to experienced writers. Moving around the room in small groups, attendees commented they loved hearing about the ‘real, non-idealised life of a writer.’ Participants also relished the opportunity to ask their questions about the ‘editing, publishing and submitting’ process.

Cross-community Dialogue
One of the great strengths of the event was how it continued the Centre for Creative Writing’s work in bringing our Oxford community together. Indeed, 73% of attendees were resident in Oxford and of those 45% had no affiliation with any of Oxford’s universities.

While attendees enjoyed the wealth of knowledge on show, they identified the cross-community nature of the event as a major highlight. One attendee commented that ‘who they were with and went through the journey alongside’ was an essential part of the experience. Another participant commented the event was so useful because of the relaxed format ‘with less pressure’ than other literary events.

Going Forward:
Reflecting on this event, I’m struck by its incredible success. Our goal was to give new writers the opportunity to pose their career-related questions to some of Oxford’s brightest stars. By doing so, the event went a long way towards bridging the gaps in information access that can often stifle emerging voices.

We sourced 14 celebrated writers who generously supported the event with their expertise. I’m grateful to the Centre for Creative Writing for hosting the event and to my colleagues at Writers in Oxford for their invaluable help and support. Thanks are also due to the wonderful support staff at Kellogg. Every time I return to our college I’m struck by how lucky we are to have our excellent front of house team and professional services.

Despite the cold drizzle outside on this cold November night, inside experts and emerging writers alike enjoyed an evening full of warm artistic exchange and information sharing. It was a pleasure to collaborate with the Centre for Creative Writing on behalf of Writers in Oxford and we hope to host many more evenings of creative community engagement in the future.

Mariah will be hosting another Q & A Session for Emerging Writers on Tuesday 25 February, here at Kellogg. For more information and to book your place, please visit: www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/quick-fire-qa-for-emerging-writers-25th-february-2020-tickets-88254123459