Friday 21 September 2012

The Creative Café as Part of Free-lance Writing Life

There are a few ways in which the Creative Café Project can help a writer lead a free-lance writing life. Some help the writer to earn money, some help to raise the writer’s profile, some do both and some will raise money eventually.
Advertise all events at the café itself, local libraries, local adult education centres and on your Facebook page. Create your own newsletter  - Mailchimp is good for this – and ask people to subscribe.  
Writer’s surgery
Offer a script surgery. Offer a fifteen minute session free of charge. The writer comes with the script, buys a coffee from the café and you discuss their script with them for fifteen minutes. If you offer editorial services, you can give them your price list.
Raises profile, may lead to payment
Creative writing workshop
Offer anything from a couple of hours to a whole day. This works especially well if the café has a function room. Negotiate with the manager / owner to have the function room for free if the delegates buy drinks and lunch from the café. Charge a modest fee.  If you can’t have the room for free, you will have to charge a more realistic fee. You may get a reasonable charge if you ask for an all-in package – drinks on arrival and / or mid-morning coffee, lunch, afternoon tea.
An alternative model is to arrange a course over a few weeks, with each session being up to a couple of hours. You might charge by the session, perhaps making a taster one free.
Makes money straight away but take care to budget properly.
Be a writer in residence
You spend set amounts of time at the café, perhaps spread over anything up to a year. You offer all of what is mentioned here. If doing this on a small scale, you may simply “camp” at the café for a day, chatting to people interested in reading, talking about your books, offering advice on writing and selling signed copies of your books.
Makes money eventually. Raises your profile.
Launch a book from the café
You might make a loss on this unless your publisher agrees to pay some costs. You will need to provide some refreshments for your guests. They may not all buy a copy of your book but they will now be more aware of it.
Makes money eventually. Raises your profile. 
Author readings
Work with a couple of other writers and offer readings, Q & A sessions and sell copies of your books. You can share the costs.  You’ll probably make less on your books than at a single launch – most people will buy just one book.
Makes money eventually. Raises your profile.
Hold a literary salon
Ask the café to put on an evening or afternoon event at a set price. Charge your guests a little more – to cover all costs and perhaps reward you a little for your hard work. Invite all of your writerly / reader friends and fans.  Ask two or three people to come and talk about their work – probably best to ask published writers. Agree to pay them a fee and expenses.  They can bring copies of their work to sell.
My first salon was free of charge but I would like subsequent ones to make a profit for the project. I’m actually going to ask people to donate as they see fit. I’ll tell them what the actual costs are. 
You probably wouldn’t sell any of your own books here. But see my more detailed description of the literary salon on this blog. You can put one of your own into the book swap.      
Do this often enough and it will raise your profile anyway. 
Raises profile. Makes money eventually.
Start a reading group
Perhaps make this a couple of hours long and negotiate for the café to waive charges but encourage members to buy drinks and cakes. Take it in turn suggesting books. Never one of you own. But you can invite your group members to your launch and give them flyers about your books.  Curiosity will probably make members try one of your books eventually.  
Raises your profile. Makes money eventually.
Writing project
Organise a writing project. Arrange meetings at the café. Perhaps you’d like to collect ghost stories from the old town in which you live, for example. Discuss ideas. Offer workshops on the writing. Hold critiquing, editing and design meetings. You become the publisher. You may even be able to get an Arts Council grant for the right sort of project. TheCreative Café Project can help you with the publishing process.
Raises your profile. Makes money eventually.      

Tuesday 11 September 2012

The Creative Café as a Networking Space

If we think back to one of the most fundamental ideas behind the Creative Café Project, the replication of the Viennese coffee houses, one of the project’s greatest benefits becomes immediately visible; the Creative Café offers a space where creative practitioners can network.
Accidental meetings
You get quite a good feeling when you go to your favourite café and are open to the idea that someone else just like you might turn up and be willing to talk. Or maybe one of your readers will.  You go there perhaps without too much expectation. Maybe you have your laptop, your notepad or a physical note-book with you.  Maybe you are reading via your e-reader or looking at a newspaper or a piece of flash diction delivered via an app on your Smartphone.  Maybe while you’re there some opportunity will present itself. Of course, staying tuned into Twitter may have the same effect but once in a while it’s good to get out of your garret into the real world. Besides, as both Bach and Balzac discovered, the smell of fresh ground coffee can enhance creativity. Not to mention the cake.
A place for prearranged meetings
Do you need to meet a writing buddy to get feedback on your work? Or do you have a show or an event to engineer?  Maybe you just want to share the woes and joys of the creative life with people who know that life. Sure, you could meet in each other’s homes, or the pub – and remember some pubs can be classed as creative cafés – but meeting in a café is likely to leave you clearer-headed and keeps you on neutral ground. Maybe it’s the coffee / cake combination that provides the lift. The café owners / managers are happy too. The creative process often uses a lot of energy and increases the appetite!
Can we make this happen?
Does this seem a possibility for you? Consider instigating one of the following activities:
·         Sit and read or write in a café.
·         Meet a writing buddy to discuss your work.
·         Invite a group of your fellow creative practitioners for a good old chinwag about all things creative.
·         Organise a meeting about your group project in a café.
·         Arrange with your favourite creative café’s manager to let other creative practitioners, perhaps less experienced ones than yourself,  know that you are there for a half day to give out one-to-one advice about the creative life.
And then let us know how it goes and perhaps be a guest on our blog.