We are delighted to welcome Maz Evans today as part of the Who Let the Gods Out blog tour. Maz shares her career path to becoming a debut novelist.
Becoming a Creative Entrepreneur (aka Trying to Make Any Money Out of Writing)
I don’t mind admitting that three years ago, my career was a mess. Still emerging blinking into the light after three babies in three years, by the time they were at all school in 2014, I appeared to have misplaced half my thirties and all my professional momentum. Being a writer was tough at the best of times. Now, it was practically impossible.
While the kids were tiny, I did whatever writing work I could fit in between their need for me and my need for sanity. I had various bits of work as a scriptwriter, lyricist, copywriter and journalist, but nothing I could really call a job – especially if a job is defined by earning enough money for baby wipes. Just after my youngest was born, I had a part-time job as a lecturer in creative writing. But while I loved it, commuting from London to Bournemouth, finding any time to write my own work and trying to balance a very demanding job with my three incontinent pixies was proving too much on a lecturer’s modest wage.
I was lucky enough to return to my old job as a TV critic and feature writer two days a week. This was far more self-contained – although assemblies/nativity plays/Dress Like A Superfood Day always seemed to fall on the days I was due in the office. But it did give me a bit more time, which I used for two things: 1) to self-publish a novel I’d written years before and 2) devise a creative writing workshop to take said novel around schools and festivals.
The book became Who Let the Gods Out, my debut novel published by Chicken House this month. The creative writing programme became my business Story Stew, which for the past two years, has finally given me a proper job taking my daft writing workshops all around the UK.
Story Stew ticks all the boxes for me – it is flexible around my writing deadlines, mostly happens in term-time, it gives me a platform to promote my books and I absolutely love it. Working with children’s imaginations is an amazing privilege and has informed my craft no end.
That said – it’s been bloomin’ hard work! Building a business when no-one knows who you are or what you do with a working capital of roughly £3.56 was not straightforward. I’ve done festivals where I spent more getting there than I could ever hope to achieve in book sales, school visits where I was mistaken for a supply teacher and had so many nerve-wracking moments when I hoped the hole-in-the-wall wasn’t going to laugh at me when I put my card in.
But running your own creative business is deeply satisfying too. It hasn’t provided the perfect solution – I still work on the weekends more than I’d like to and am frequently burning fishfingers while firing off e-mails in the evening – but at least when I’m doing those things, I’m doing them for myself. I’ve made my creativity pay at last.
For anyone aspiring to do the same, think very carefully about you can offer the world – you will have many things. For me, I have experience as a teacher, so didn’t find large groups of children daunting. Well, not that daunting. I am a diligent researcher from my journalism days – I have spent hours finding and nurturing potential contacts. Many of them don’t pay off – but the ones that do make all that time worthwhile. And I’m stubborn and determined as a mule. That, perhaps, has been the greatest asset of all.
I have also harnessed the skills of those around me. When I was starting Story Stew, I had lots of brilliant Mum friends who, like me, were struggling to work around their childcare commitments. So we’d either swap skills, or do them for major mate’s rates. My website, marketing material and indeed my picture book Rosie Harker, Nosey Parker were all designed by friends for a fraction of what it would have cost me elsewhere. In return, I wrote them copy, proof-read their websites – even babysat their kids!
Where there is a will there’s a way. Becoming a creative entrepreneur isn’t easy – but what worth having ever is? You can do it. Now get to it.
Elliot’s mum is ill and his home is under threat, but a shooting star crashes to earth and changes his life forever. The star is Virgo – a young Zodiac goddess on a mission. But the pair accidentally release Thanatos, a wicked death daemon imprisoned beneath Stonehenge, and must then turn to the old Olympian gods for help. After centuries of cushy retirement on earth, are Zeus and his crew up to the task of saving the world – and solving Elliot’s problems too?