News

Reviewers wanted for BATTLECRY

eQuality Time has a project we’ve been working on for some time.   It’s an artistic project and we’ve submitted to the arts council. We’ve been rejected.    Six times.

Each time we got back over the project, make big changes or little changes (there are two ways that the arts council can reject you, one has a wonderful amount of artistic feedback, and the other gives almost no feedback, we’ve had the feedback twice) and send it back, and each time we get rejected.

I truly believe that transparency is the silver bullet, so I wanted to share the application here in the hope that some kind passer-by might look over it and say something like “Oh, you need to make X clear, that’s what the Arts Council Like…”

The elevator pitch for the project looks like this:

The 2015 report: ‘Writing the Future: Black and Asian Writers and Publishers in the UK Market Place’ found that BAME authors were less likely to be published or have an agent and were pushed to have their characters match cultural stereotypes. The 2015 Diversity Baseline Survey Results found massive underprepresentation for disability at all levels in the publishing industry, At the same time, writers are more likely to been privately educated and older.

The results are novels far from the perspective of most UK readers, losing sales in an world that puts more and more value on ‘now’ and ‘real’.

Our project is the answer. Twenty of the best young British writers will team up create a topical novel that is relevant to the changes in life in 2016/2017. They will go from blank pages on Monday morning to a publication on Sunday night and show that the long-form novel remains a reflection of life rather than a memory of it.

eQuality Time will select these writers for their words and for their ability to speak to audiences that feel their voices aren’t heard in mainstream publishing. Audiences will be hit by the twin shock of characters that both like them and are reacting to events that they themselves are still processing.

This is a ‘time to write’ project, compensating two groups of ten professional- standard writers for the time over week-long periods to produce two full length literary works on topics in the ‘now’.  It is supported by industry figures whose testimonials are attached and our methodology and has been shown to produce spectacularly strong, heartfelt work with writers from primary school age to university students.

 

We know we can make this work – White Water Writers has been successful over 100 times and there are a dozen of those were university level writers.

Here are our files:

If you are passing, and you fancy a glance. Please get stuck in.

(If you are wondering why it’s called BATTLECRY – after the first four rejections I’ve started naming the projects alphabetically so I can tell which one is current in the arts council applications list)

 

Postscript

This application was submitted and later rejected, as was the one after it. The interested reader may find much to enjoy in the feedback we got here: export (and indeed, the feedback we had for our previous application, which actually scored better… export.1)

 

Research Snapshot: White Water Writers Novel Analysis

In the last post I talked about my (Joe’s) failing to get good results about the White Water Writers project.    By contrast, today I’m posting about the far far better science done by our team at Keele University.  Below is  the abstract that they have sent to the AERA conference recently.  Some bits that I’m particularly interested in:

  • “The process allows young people to explore issues through their novels, which creates an innovative methodology for exploring their views and understanding of topics.”   I’ve long been advocating that White Water Writers is an amazing way of unpicking complex social systems in a way that no focus group or survay could.
  • scientists were described as ‘mad’, ‘loopy’ and ‘dangerous’.  There was also a lot of discussion about how scientists had ruined the world, for example by turning people into robots and ruining the environment: ‘They thought the scientists could be totally unaware of the effects their experiments are having on the outside world’. ”  it is interesting to me that while we as as society spend a lot of time promoting STEM, we haven’t spent much time looking at the cultural picture of ‘scientist’ compared to, say, ‘programmer’.

Abstract

A novel way to explore young people’s views of science and scientists via their writing

Although there is a generally positive view of science, with 81% of people surveyed feeling that science will make people’s lives easier, only 55% think the benefits of science outweigh harmful effects (Public Attitudes to Science Survey, 2014).  Furthermore, young people often see scientists as ‘brainy’ and this can put them off science careers (ASPIRES, 2013).  Indeed it has been found that young people who do not view science and scientists positively may be dissuaded from pursuing a scientific career (Barma et al 1997).  However, much of this research has been explicit and asked young people to report their attitudes.  The current study explored attitudes more implicitly by exploring stories which had been written by young people.     

 

“White Water Writers” gives groups of young people the chance to collaboratively write and publish their own full length novel in a week.   The participants plan, write, proofread and develop their novel as a team. The book is placed for sale on Amazon and a few weeks later we host a book signing.  The project has demonstrable effects on literacy, soft skills and feelings of control.  The process allows young people to explore issues through their novels, which creates an innovative methodology for exploring their views and understanding of topics.   In this study we did not specifically invite writers to produce a book about scientists, but gave them a broad brief, namely that something strange was happening in their city and a group of young people had come together to solve the issue. 

In this study, sixty young people aged 15 wrote six novels based on this brief.  We thematically analysed the books and found a very strong theme of “elitism”.  Specifically, scientists were described as ‘mad’, ‘loopy’ and ‘dangerous’.  There was also a lot of discussion about how scientists had ruined the world, for example by turning people into robots and ruining the environment: “They thought the scientists could be totally unaware of the effects her experiments are having on the outside world”. 

Scientists and other authority figures were presented as being entitled “The way he spoke sounded like he was posh, Ava thought. Ava hated posh prats. They got away with everything. They didn’t earn a simple penny to their name.”  Scientists were also seen as unreachable “Lily tries to talk to the government about it in hopes of getting them to acknowledge the fact the loopy scientist was destroying lots of their things, their people, their crops, their animals. Strangely, the government brushed it off as if it were nothing.”

Thus experts such as scientists were seen as entitled, uncaring, arrogant and dangerous. They were also disconnected from the world around them and, for the young people in the stories, unreachable.  This negative perception of science and authority might explain why many young people do not aspire to these sorts of careers.  However, this also suggests novel ways of encouraging young people, by changing perceptions of scientists rather than focussing on perceptions of science.

 

 

 

Counting ‘good’ edits, failing at science, and sneaky writers

The books we make with White Water Writers help the writers get better at writing and feel better at life.

I’ve always believed that part of this was the time spent on checking the work – two whole days at the end of the week is nothing but checking.

Or so I thought…

We’ve been gathering information to create a research paper on White Water Writers. The ‘feel’ bit is mostly done – the writers answer questions at the start and end of the book about how they feel, and the school gives us year-long results later on.

Working out the changes in ‘writing’ is much harder. Nobody can turn a poem or book into a (helpful) number.

I did think that we could look at our younger writers and see how much of a change ‘checking’ caused. Some or our writers are 11 years old, and so they make the sort of errors that a computer can see: like writing “He will goes to the shop”.

I’ve been working on this for a couple of days and have to say that my idea of using the computer to do this has run into the sand. I’ve written code that looks at each book at different points in it’s history and takes a note of unknown spelling and if a word is in present tense when it should be in the past.

I’ve come up short – I’ve got lots of numbers, and I could tell you about the ones that were really good, but I like to think we do real science here and the truth is that this method doesn’t show the changes that we see in our writers.

It looks like we can show the changes, but only by going through each page and marking them by hand.

There is some good news. The work I did for this has also been added to IMPS, the software that runs our writing camps, and our camp leaders will be able to use it soon to notice if one writer is writing in a different tense than the others.

Back to the “two whole days at the end of the week is nothing but checking.” part.  While I was writing the code, I also noticed that the books were growing a lot more than they should during the ‘checking’ part of the week. It looks like some of our writers are trying hard to add more words rather than polish the ones they already have. I understand why they do this (and it means they really do want a good book), but we need to guide them to make the best possible book, not the longest. I’ll be looking at the best way to sell our young writers on that in the coming weeks.

(the young writers seem to manage this even when I’m at a camp in person, and working with them all myself – I’m kind of proud that one group snuck 8000 words past me while I thought they were checking their work over on paper)

eQuality Time is offically a registered Charity!

“Dear Contact

You have applied to register the above organisation as a charity.

We are satisfied that EQUALITY TIME LTD is a charity and it has been entered onto the Register of Charities with the Registered Charity Number 1177233.”

Yes, we have finally found time to offically register as a charity!

The process involved jumping through a few hoops – changing our objectives as an organisation (the CC thought that they could be more charitable) and filling out some forms.  We’re now offically a charity, rather than a social enterprise with charitable aims. This has a few advantages:

  • It’s much easier to say what we are; “a social enterprise with charitable aims” doesn’t roll of the tongue
  • We are much less likely to have to pay corporation tax
  • A number of funding streams open up to us that were closed before.

eQuality Time’s Trustees did a lot of work making this happen, and I’m very proud of them.

Open Source Medical Devices

The Open Voice Factory is an Open Source Medical Device, so when I saw a video called “Are We Ready for Open Source Medical Devices?” from Hackaday, I was interested. Althought Ashwin is much more hardware-focused than we are, but it’s worth watching the whole video, and my main highlights were:

  • Ashwin gives a nod to the difficulty in registering medical devices “More than the topic of a PhD” – I’d aggree with that, registering a medical device has been by far the hardest part of bringing Open Voice Factory to people.   It was interesting to me that Ashwin starts by saying he’s going to avoid talking about it, and then is forced by the topic to keep aluding to it right through the talk. I particularly liked (paraphrased) “The countries we want to work in don’t have standards anyway”
  • “about 90% of the world’s investment in medical research benefits only the most affluent 10% of its population” – that’s pretty awful.
  • There are *cheap* medical devices, but it’s hard to trust them – poor documentation and ‘questionable compliance’.   This was a reminder for me – I tend to think about Open Source being ‘cheap’ (because it’s free) and standing in contrast to expensive but much more well supported commerical solutions.  That’s true, but it’s incomplete – there are also ‘bottom of the market’ manufacturers that are also ‘cheap’ but also low quality.
  • “If it’s NOT easy to deploy, it’s NOT relevent”

Cover story

The books of White Water Writers have some amazing covers. Here’s two of my favourites.

Screen Shot 2018-02-18 at 18.39.27 Screen Shot 2018-02-18 at 18.39.06

These were make by artists from the same schools as the writers. I love getting great art because yet another student will see their work be part of something really real.

Like the writers, the artists work best when they know what to do and when to do it. Here’s what we ask of our artists and the writers working with them):

1. A deadline is a deadline. The words will be finished by end of the working day Friday, so the cover should be as well. No exceptions. Good cover artists talk to the writers on Monday, show a draft by Wednesday, and are handing over the cover on Friday morning. Great cover artists are handing in on Thursday (because we can get Amazon to check the cover over Thursday night to see if there is a problem).

2. Writers don’t do covers. If you have time to do a cover, you aren’t doing your job as a writer.

3. Artists don’t get to ask for changes to the book. Writers don’t get to ask for changes to the cover (unless something is factually wrong with it)
4. It’s 2019, covers are handed over digitally or not at all.

5. Cover artists can expect the book title by Thursday morning and the blurb by Thursday afternoon.

6. You may have heard that good artists steal. This is a lie. Even if it was true, good artists certainly don’t nick images from Google. If you are using a copyright-free image, you have to declare it, and that is the only type of image you can use (other than your own).

7. If you would like to start from a word template, it’s worth altering this one using your own images:  Walking Through The Ashes, and we also have Photoshop and pages templates available.

8. Laying out a book cover is hard. And printing is less precise that you think. It turns out that there are a hundred little rules about covers. We regularly have to make small changes between you handing a cover over and the printing starting.  If you give us all the original sources and easily editable files (Word, Photoshop) then it’s easy to make small changes. If you give us unchangable ‘final’ files (jpeg, ect) then it’s more likely we have to scrap it entirely.  Make it easy for us.

In general, we like giving another student the change to do something real and cool and get their work published. However, unlike the writers, we don’t have any clever techniques to get the best out of a cover artist, for this reason we only recommend using artists from year 11 and above (ideally 6th form), even if the writers are much younger.

White Water Writers Newsletter – Nov/17

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Introducing Adam, Laura and Richard!

Adam, Laura and Richard are the three new members who have joined White Water Writers.  

Adam is a writer, publisher and creative project manager.  He has worked in creative writing and publishing education for several years running projects to improve access to the industry through Silhouette Press. Most recently he managed the Disappear Here poetry film project. He lives with a Boxer dog called Gonzo. 

Adam

Laura

Laura is a Delivery Coordinator and has been helping young people to write online for almost sixteen years. A part of local workshops covering subjects ranging from costume design to circus skills, she’s also worked with various organisations and arts associations to deliver support in person, as well as with several charities.  

Richard is working up at Keele University with Yvonne and is doing a great job so far.

Camps Completed

Since we’ve been joined by Adam and Laura, they have had a busy few weeks running camps in Hinchley Wood in Surrey, St. Helens, The Complete Works (a school provided an alternative education for children) and a repeat school, Sutton Academy. And these are all without mentioning the nine simultaneous camps ran at London Design and Engineering Technical College! 

Below are a few of the covers from the camps. I particularly like the cover designed by Adam for the novel, Toxic Paradise: A London Story, written by students at The Complete Works. 

The D.O.T.

A Toxic Paradise

The Invation of Planet X

 

 

 

 

A Volunteer’s Perspective

One of our lovely volunteers, Eleanor Dixon, kindly wrote a short piece for the LDEUTC blog about her experiences during the writing camp extravaganza that took place. I thought it would be nice to include her post in this newsletter.

‘LDE UTC is one of my favourite schools to run camps in, albeit one of the more challenging. The students here are often the most sceptical of the project, and helping them discover that they are capable of writing, editing and publishing a novel in five days is so incredibly rewarding.

The leadership and teamwork qualities that develop in the students over the course of the week are key to the success of this project. I think it says something about the capabilities of the students in each group that, despite the diversity in their personalities, they made the process work for them and all put in the effort to produce nine incredible books.

It always surprises people who aren’t familiar with the process when we explain that the work is entirely the students’ own. Besides a prompt of maybe fifty words on the Monday morning, every character, plot twist and word on the page is the result of their own effort. I’ve had the opportunity to watch it happen so many times that it’s clear to me that every single student is capable of something incredible if you give them the space to try (and sometimes if you bribe them with sweets).  I hope their novel and its development has given them the confidence to tackle any challenge they might face in the future – and the pride they wholly deserve to have in what they’ve achieved so far.’

White Water Writers Research Snapshot.

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The team at Keele Univesity have sent over their a snapshot of their recent research into the White Water Writers project we run  and we thought you might be interested in reading it. There’s a full PDF of the research, and a short summary below.

Summary

179 secondary school students were given questionnaires before and after the White Water Writers intervention.    Student questionnaires showed statistically significant gains in:

  • Writing skill
  • Team work
  • Communication
  • Pressure
  • Novel writing
  • Understanding personal skills
  • Locus of control

Unsurprisingly, students did NOT believe that made improvements to their research skills (because we don’t get them to research anything).  Somewhat surprisingly student evaluations of there own self esteem showed statistically insignificant gains.  We would hope that this is related to the fact that they completed the second questionnaire before seeing the results of the work, but we are investigating further.

Opening up our bid writing process

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Most of eQuality Time’s projects need grant funding to run. So we’re keen to get good at writing grant applications.

We also want to be as transparent as possible.  We decided to bring these things together.

This blog post was created to document the process of applying to Virgin’s #iwill Take Action fund with the Supertitle project.

  • The Virgin #iwill fund Take Action is awarding grants to organisations with the aim of  encouraging “young people [particularly BAME] to use art and media as a tool to raise awareness of the issues that matter to them and their communities.”
  • While the Supertitle project is a way for BAME youth to use media as a tool to improve communication and awareness in their communities as well as increase their own sense of belonging and boost their self-esteem.

eQuality Time thought that the #iwill fund was a great a fit for the Supertitle project and so we applied, below is the process we went through while writing our application.

  • One of our staff  wrote the first draft of the application form as a word document, rather than using the online form itself, so that it would be easy to edit as we went along.
  • Every time we revised the application we added the new version to this post.
  • In keeping with our transparent approach, if a ‘passer by’ wanted to do us a favour and take a punt – all they had to do was go ahead and email us the results. No one did this time, but we’re ever hopeful that in the future members of the general public will be part of the process.
  • At the end of January we sent off the application and are currently waiting to hear back!

Versions

Financial Times Fame

A few months ago, Joe was interviewed by the Financial Times about The Open Voice Factory.

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The article highlights different assistive technology products that were contenders for the Nesta Inclusive Technology Prize. Other organisations featured in in the article include the fantastic SpecialEffect and Bristol Braille Technology (BBT).

Special Effect is a charity that modifies games controllers to be more inclusive so that everyone is able to use them. eQuality Time has long enjoyed a special relationship with SpecialEffect, in 2016 an amazing £1,850.14 was raised for them from the Flowers For Turing Project.

Bristol Braille Technology (BBT), is a company of sighted engineers that are developing the Canute, a device that plans to make Braille literacy far more affordable. The article explains that, ‘traditionally produced by embossing paper, Braille is a tactile system of raised dots that enables blind people to read and write. In digital versions, pins are raised and lowered to create the text.’ By simplifying the software and reducing the number of parts, BBT aims to also reduce the cost of Braille devices to hundreds instead of thousands of pounds.

The Open Voice Factory was the last project to be featured in the article and Joe came across really well in the piece. He spoke about his brother Richard and how augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices changed his life, but that the devices were extremely expensive and not everyone can afford them.

My favourite paragraph of the article was also the last, I think it really conveys the importance of making communication free for everyone and the amazing changes it can bring to people’s lives.

‘He hopes this will happen sooner rather than later. “Think of never being able to tell your family you love them or not being able to make the simplest choices about what you want to eat,” he says. Once people can communicate, they can avoid abuse, improve their healthcare by describing their symptoms and gain independence. “That’s life-changing,” Reddington says.’

If you would like to read the full article, please find the link below.

https://www.ft.com/content/ae91d600-8caf-11e7-9580-c651950d3672

If you would like to get involved in The Open Voice Factory or just learn more about it, please go to our website www.theopenvoicefactory.org