Monthly Archives: August 2016

Spreadsheets and Moxie…. Introducing my (our) new project

Spreadsheets and Moxie…. Introducing my (our) new project



I’m so excited to let you know that Viccy Adams and I* recently received Arts Council funding for a new R&D project, Spreadsheets and Moxie. There’s a short mission statement for it above.

This has been a long time in the planning, thinking, dreaming stages, so – HURRAH – we can now finally put it into motion. Over the next year, we’ll be collaborating with fellow writers and arts professionals across Britain, reading talking reading reading as much as we can, getting things wrong, getting things right, and working on new and existing models of what skills are needed to create, run and lead arts projects, and the best ways of getting those skills.


The idea behind it came from an initial conversation about how many people working in the arts field tend to be largely self-taught on certain aspects of running projects. So while we may be very good at facilitating groups, perhaps we have never actually been shown how to do spreadsheets, budgets and evaluations OR we could be whizzes with funding applications but not that confident on the creative side. Or or or… But hey, we are nothing if not versatile and somehow we manage to get by, but what if we could do it better – and with more confidence and enjoyment? Hence the title, Spreadsheets AND Moxie. Our belief is a good project needs both skills, plus a good deal of sparkle, courage and ‘just plain guts’. And that’s just for starters.



We’ve been lucky enough to recruit eight brilliant skills-sharers – step forward Clare Best, Vanessa Gebbie, Kris Johnson, Helen Limon, Lisa Matthews, Juliana Mensah, Ellen Montelius, Susannah Ronnie (née Pickering), Catherine Smith and Kay Syrad – who have already provided us with questions for our first research trip to Arvon’s The Hurst next week. Here are just some:

  • What does leadership mean?

  • Where might we be (professionally) if we were men?

  • What kind or styles of artistic collaboration seem to be more conducive to ‘creativity’ and why?

  • How do we stop being people-pleasers and develop a tougher exterior – to say ‘No’ to projects that aren’t right for us and not to worry about causing offence/never being asked to work again.

  • How to have  a ‘presence’ if socially shy and allergic to current social media platforms? Could this be in the form of occasional blogging on subjects/writers by which/whom we are genuinely fascinated?

  • How do we charge properly for what we do?

  • Where can we find new audiences for our work?



Sound familiar? I know I was nodding along to nearly all of them.

So the project is off to a stimulating start, even if we come back with more questions than answers. Of course, we are going to come back with more questions…. who am I kidding! However we have resources…


We’ll be sending out a survey later on in the year, so if you would like to be involved please do let me know and I’ll add you to the list – men are welcome at that stage too, but we’re keeping the main emphasis of our research to women professional writers. Also if you have any thoughts, things we should be reading, suggestions for people, places, ideas to follow up, I’d love to hear those too. We are at the initial stage of not even joining up the dots but working out what they might be… see my new Spreadsheets and Moxie file…


We’ve decided not to do a separate website, social media presence etc for the project, but will be blogging individually on our own websites. This will include not just our progress but our reading lists, our findings and any gems we pick up along the way.  This project is all about sharing knowledge and skills. If you’d like to join us on the journey, please follow this blog – just type in your email in the box on the right! Or email us on More soon…



(*ps I’d originally called this blogpost Voxie and Soxie = Double Moxie, but now I’m saving that for t-shirts for Viccy and I…. Do put in your orders if you’d like one too)

Ten Lessons On Setting up a Co-Publishing Venture….

Ten Lessons On Setting up a Co-Publishing Venture….




There’s been a lot of information about independent publishing recently, and September sees the launch of a really exciting independent publisher, Blue Door Press, a new imprint for literary fiction, memoir and poetry. Making the most of all the opportunities now available to writers, Blue Door Press is a collective of writers working with top editors and designers to navigate new technologies and produce high-quality, thought-provoking printed books and e-books.



Because I know  how many people are interested in doing something similar, I’m so pleased to invite Blue Door’s founders, Pamela Johnson and Jane Kirwan on here to talk about setting up a co-publishing venture. Thank you to both of them for being so generous with their knowledge.






Here are 10 things Pam and Jane say they’ve learnt from setting up Blue Door Press: 


1. Know why you are doing it

We wanted to find a way through the closing doors of the unsettled world of commercial publishing. Payment of advances to authors is dwindling, publishers are wary of literary fiction and poetry. We know of work that deserves to be read – including our own. We’ve both been published in mainstream; both have won prizes and awards for our writing. We wanted to create a positive response to the current state of publishing.


  1. Write a basic plan

Does it stack up? Show it to friends. Re-write your plan. As you do this, ask yourself – do you have the time, the stamina? The point is not to work out every last detail but to test your enthusiasm. The main thing is to see if your excitement grows as you outline the project, even if it does feel scary!


  1. Don’t rush. Be professional. Get a logo.

We took time coming up with a name that suited what we wanted to do – open the door to publishing books that we think should find readers; we like blue doors, we each have a blue door; the domain name was available and it gave us a simple strong image for a logo.


  1. Find the experts you need.

We did a bit of sketching of our blue door but we needed someone who knew what they were doing. Pavla Ezeh came up with our simple, clear, open blue door. She also helped setting up an equally simple, uncluttered look for our website.


  1. Appearances Matter

Spending time on creating logo and website isn’t about superficial presentation. Initially it was a way of seeing our idea taking shape. Now we have a visual identity. We see our website as the hub of our community of writers and readers.


  1. Be clear about the money

We see this as a break-even venture. It’s about finding readers, getting overlooked books out in the world. It’s not about becoming millionaires. We are keeping overheads low, paying with our time, learning to skill-swap. As new writers join the collective we ask what skills they might bring to the venture, beyond their wonderful book.
pam's book

  1. Covers matter

One thing that is worth spending money on is a designer for a striking cover. As our books will be sold mainly online we needed images that worked well as thumbnails. We took our time and are very happy with results. Our first two books have covers that evoke something at the heart of each novel and both images work well on screen.


  1. Dont give up.

It’s tough but it’s interesting and exciting. For months we’ve been on a very steep learning curve with new hurdles at each stage. Thank goodness for the advice that comes from the Internet, and the newly acquired skill to separate out what is useful. Using CreateSpace, for example, is initially hard work, baffling, but they give quick and excellent support. And soon you find yourself designing the interior of a book.


  1. Demystifying the mystique.

We’ve learned a lot about the skills of the editors and designers who’ve fed into the project. Publishing a novel takes more than just producing a strong story. How a book is presented, how the story is framed and offered to readers is all part of the process. As writers, we’ve begun to appreciate all the expertise involved in publishing. We’ve gathered a fine bunch of associates to support us in producing more books. Very soon we’ll be announcing our next titles.


  1. dmh (1) Embrace social media & celebrate

You need to get over the ‘not me’ factor. It’s easy to think you can send a novel out into the world and convince yourself that it’s up to the book to sell itself. It won’t. It needs all the support it can get from its author and others in the Blue Door Press. And if that means social media, so be it, now is not the time to be squeamish about Twitter. And what better way than Facebook, Twitter, Mail Chimp to keep in touch with our audience and invite them to our launch. Now that our first two books are out we’re having a party to celebrate. (nb you can follow BDP on twitter here and on Facebook here



You can buy Taking in Water here, and Don’t Mention Her here…. Please do. If you’ve been reading this so far, then it’s clear you have some interest in independent publishing, and it’ll only succeed if we support it. Besides, these are really VERY GOOD books – both of them.

I can’t wait to see what Blue Door Press do next….

Sunday Sports(woman) No 4

Sunday Sports(woman) No 4

To my shame, I’d never heard of Wilma Rudolph, but as the Olympics start it’s good to remember her here today: women and sport,


According to Wikipedia, Wilma Glodean Rudolph was considered the fastest woman in the world in the 1960s and competed in two Olympic Games, in 1956 and in 1960. In the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, Rudolph became the first American woman to win three gold medals in track and field during a single Olympic Games.

This achievement is all the more extraordinary, given that she had polio as a child. Wilma died in 1994, but the Woman’s Sports Foundation Wilma Rudolph Courage Awards are now awarded to athletes who exhibit extraordinary courage in athletic performance, demonstrates the ability to overcome adversity, makes significant contributions to sports and serves as an inspiration and role model to those who face challenges, overcomes them and strives for success at all levels. Amazing. I’m so pleased to have learnt about her, and to read about the amazing athletes who continue her legacy. The latest winners are here – inspiring!