Thursday, 26 March 2009

Jailbird - Part One

So far I have tossed in little titbits about my work but I think the time has come to reveal a little more about my job.
Or the one that seems most intriguing!

I have been a journalist for the past 20 years.
I started out in 1989 on weekly local papers progressing on to a daily regional newspaper in 1992 and then taking the plunge into the national magazine market in 2003 when I became freelance.
I love to write but the fickle freelance world means that unless you are flavour of the month the work can dry up and for every ten pitches you make maybe one is successful.
Two years ago it got to the stage where I needed to look around for work that would utilise my skills, allow me to write and still pay the bills.
I obtained some freelance PR work for the wonderful women's enterprise agency, Train 2000, but that was not enough.
I was so downhearted I was thinking about getting a proper job (regional fundraiser for a charity) and had an interview lined up.
But I decided to allow myself one final indulgent fling.
I booked myself on a travel writing course with Dea Birkett in London.
Dea is a freelance travel writer and during the lunchbreak I asked how she continued to earn a living as a freelance writer.
"I can't live on my freelance writing alone," she said before adding "I work two days a week as a writer in residence at a university which gives me a steady income."
"Oh," was all I could say before taking my seat and deciding I was probably doing the right thing.
After all whoever saw a job advert for a writer in residence?
At 5pm that Saturday evening it was time to get the train back to Liverpool and I picked up The Guardian newspaper.
It was a two-hour journey so lots of reading time.
By the time I reached the Midlands I was up to the Jobs section when I saw something that made me stop and start to believe in Fairy Godmothers or Angels or whatever higher power that is out there.
"WANTED WRITERS IN RESIDENCE FOR EIGHT UK PRISONS".
The advert was posted by The Writers In Prison Network which is funded by the Arts Council, The Learning and Skills Council and The Prison Service.
To apply for the job you needed no previous experience of working in a prison but you had to be a professional writer.
I checked the vacancies.
There was just one slight problem.
The only vacancy within travelling distance of my home was a Lifer's Prison.
And it was a men's jail.

Find out how I got on in Part Two - Jailbird - a girl's year in a male jail.

7 comments:

lunarossa said...

That sounds amazing. And so interesting. I'm looking forward to read more about your experience as writer in residence in a male jail. I've tried the freelance writer world as well som time ago but unfortunately in Italy it's even worse than here so I'd rather stuck to my day job as a translator. I do write the odd features and film/book reviews but that's more as a fancy than an earning activity! All the best. Ciao. A.

Mervat said...

Jane it was truely meant to be. I look forward to reading about the rest of your experiences.
M
xo

Christina Lee said...

DO go on!!!! I can't wait to hear more! I am also a freelance writer for a newspaper and it doesnt pay the bills-so I have my jewlery business on the side. B/C of the economy I keep wondering if freelancers will get the ax soon...

sallymandy said...

Wow! Can't wait to hear more.

Kayleigh said...

I am truly on the edge of my seat and can't wait to hear more -- this is FASCINATING!

Forever Amber said...

Hi Jane,

I don't think I've commented here before, but just wanted to say this is fascinating stuff - looking forward to the next installment!

chic said...

wow, what a story! I've gotten to know a few writers in residence at my universities (previous and present one), since both had this great program, where writers would come for a semester and offer courses. I'm sure the women at the prison are so glad to have you! I look forward to reading more about this! S.