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How would you shape the future?
NALD has commissioned a number of articles about the future of writing by young writers themselves. What do you think?

NAWE Young Writers' Hub Coordinator, Wes Brown, writes:

On the 15th of September NAWE, Arvon and NALD members came together for a day of discussion and debate about how to ensure that the next generation of young writers and literature activists can flourish. The event focussed on the needs of young people outside formal education and explored ways in which they can be supported. 

To provoke and inform the discussion, NALD commissioned a number of leading young writers and activists to share their thoughts on how we can help the next generation to flourish. What do they want to see happen? What needs to change? What would flourishing mean? What’s working well?

Helen Mort a poet and five-time winner of the Foyle Young Poet Award, argues for, ‘a more low-key, constant set up support opportunities for young writers who are still experimenting with different ways of writing’. This is a powerful point. While there are many eye-catching and brilliant schemes – many brilliantly funded – long-term, low-key support can be equally, if not more valuable. Helen reminds us that while young poets have plenty of opportunities, for something “to flourish and maintain its bloom, it needs to be nurtured and sustained as well”.

The pathways to support are changing. Adam Lowe, a publisher and novelist, cites the difference between the word-of-mouth and arbitrary Google searches he used to rely on to social media and the way the industry opened up as soon as he met key contacts. He makes the case that, “there needs to be greater recognition of the changing face of literature. A written work may now include multimedia and be interactive. There is a continued blurring between writing and performance, writing and art, writing and music.” Might the changing form of the novel lead to new kinds of writers? How well does the sector accommodate them? It’s vital we join up the dots of existing provision without directing it, to offer expertise without rules, without creating arts cartels and infrastructures run by the same people in the same way. The problem of an arts ‘establishment’ and the conventions of poetry are tackled by David Tait, “If we’re to believe what we read, very few operate outside of [the established] framework.”

David makes the case that too many are playing it safe in contemporary poetry. There are too many voices that are sub-Duffy or sub-Armitage. To use Harold Bloom’s figuring, too many are ‘suffering the anxiety of influence’ and for poetry to truly ‘flourish’, poets need to be braver, and take on more “exciting range of subject matter”.

Being braver is the encouragement offered by Nici West. Young writers and activists should, “be provided with support to become independent within the literature development industry, and no longer rely on larger funded organisations.” There’s a balance to be struck between support and setting people free. There is a danger that too much support, and dependence, forever being labeled a ‘young writer’ can act as a stabliser and stop young people taking risks. For Nici, flourishing means, “[making] that step from volunteering and participating in free work, to producing themselves.”

For the rest of the article and more provocations