Q+A with Aesthetica Creative Writing Award Finalist, Jo Gatford

Twice finalist in the Aesthetica Creative Writing Award Jo Gatford has now established a new competition for emerging writers, run by her organisation Writers’ HQ. Her short story Someone Else was selected for publication in the Aesthetica Creative Writing Annual 2015, with other short stories and flash fiction in Litro, Open Pen and Smokelong Quarterly. We catch up with Gatford along with her business partner, Sarah Lewis to find out more about why they feel it is important to support writers through awards and competitions.

A: You were a finalist in the Aesthetica Creative Writing Award twice. How has this experience impacted upon your literary career?
JG: Being published in Aesthetica was a massive confidence boost, and gave me a bit of a push to keep writing and submitting stories to literary magazines and competitions. Since then I’ve had over 20 short fiction publications, and my first novel, White Lies, was published by Legend Press in 2014. Aesthetica was something of a starting point for me – my third ever publication – and the first recognition that I might be doing something right!

A: You have your own business and recently launched a competition to support other writers. What was your motivation to launch an award for writers?
JG & SL: Our whole shtick at Writers’ HQ is to provide courses for time- and finance- poor writers. So many of us are in that situation – trying to juggle a creative practice around work, family and other commitments – and we really identify with that struggle. We wanted to create something to help those people.

A: How can writers enter and what is the unique prize for the winners?
JG & SL: Entrants send us up to 1,500 of their finest words. It can be a short story, a flash piece, or the opening of a novel.  Plus a paragraph introducing yourself and explaining why you’d benefit from the courses. The entry form is at www.writershq.co.uk/competition.

The prize is a whole year’s worth of access to our online creative writing courses, including idea generation, plotting, editing, manuscript submission and short fiction. The courses are designed to be completed in small, manageable chunks over 1 to 6 weeks, and include a private student forum (with plenty of feedback and advice from tutors), video interviews with top authors, online writing tools, and a supportive writing community.

A: What do you hope to achieve with the competition? How does it make a difference?
JG & SL: We want to help five developing writers to hone their skills and find ways to work in the time and space they have available. We’d love to help them get published too, where we can. We also have a great online community around Writers’ HQ – writing is often a lonely, frustrating, face-palming activity and it’s nice to have others to share your angst with sometimes.

A: With the support you are already giving to writers and the achievement of receiving a grant by the Arts Council, what are your hopes and plans for the future?
JG & SL: We’re adding another, longer online course to our repertoire soon – 9 Month Novel Gestation – and next year we’re looking to expand our famous one-day retreats across the UK.  As writers ourselves we’re (attempting to) build a business that allows time for our own creative practice while still managing to pay the mortgage. Oh, and become award-winning bestseller authors, of course.

A: As a former successful contestant, do you have any tips for writers aiming to expand their reach?
JG: Keep writing, keep submitting to competitions and literary magazines, and keep going, no matter how many rejections you get. Write to challenge yourself – and write what you enjoy. Don’t try to please a certain audience or competition judge or literary magazine – write something that means something to you. There will always be a literary magazine or publisher to suit your work; you just have to find the right home for it.

To find ut more about Writers’ HQ, visit www.writershq.co.uk

For more details on the competition, see www.writershq.co.uk/competition

To enter this year’s Aesthetica Creative Writing Award, go to www.aestheticamagazine.com/cwa

You can also pick up a copy of the Annual 2015 with Jo Gatford’s short story, Someone Else here.

1. Marcus Lyon, EXODUS VI – West Lamma Channel, South China Sea 2011.