Stora Enso Oyj: The era of the pandemic triggers a wave of creative writing

With more free time and shifting priorities over the past two years, many people are tapping into their lifelong writing and publishing dreams.

Whether it’s a manuscript hidden away in a drawer or on a hard drive, or the secret dream of publishing a delicious first novel, a growing number of people have actively nurtured their literary aspirations over the past couple of years.

Add to that extra free time due to fewer social obligations during the pandemic and a desire to connect with like-minded souls, and the international publishing industry has seen a surge in areas ranging from interest in writeshops to volume of submissions sent. to publishing houses.

An influx of manuscript submissions

In France, famed French publisher Gallimard, known for publishing big names in literature from Albert Camus to Simone Beauvoir, took to Twitter in the spring of 2021 to politely ask the general public to stop sending in their manuscripts. unsolicited: “Given the exceptional circumstances, we ask that you postpone the sending of your manuscripts. Take care and happy reading.

International news television channel France24 reported that before the pandemic, Éditions Gallimard received around 30 manuscripts a day, while during the pandemic that number increased to around 50 a day.

“We’ve seen an increase in submissions over the past two years, from agents and publishers – and that can be challenging for us,” says Alain Gnaedig, publisher at Éditions Gallimard in charge of foreign literature. “We cannot, for example, increase the number of Scandinavian titles that we publish each year – that is to say on average three to five titles from the five Nordic countries – and I will only hire one new author per year. This is the case at Gallimard. , but I know that my colleagues from other French publishing houses are experiencing the same trend,” he adds.

Gnaedig, who is also an award-winning literary writer and translator who has translated more than 120 books from Danish, Norwegian, Swedish and English into French, says he and his colleagues have a particular way of working at Gallimard. “When we publish a ‘new author’, we hope it will be the start of a long and fruitful collaboration,” he explains.

As for unsolicited manuscripts, which many international publishers have long had a policy of not accepting, Gnaedig offers a somewhat more welcome response.

“Unsolicited manuscripts? Yes, but only from published authors. Of course, I will read them. It’s my job to keep myself informed and take the pulse of new voices,” he says. “However, editors, publishers and agents are aware of our policy,” he adds.

Gnaedig says being an editor can be a tough job because of the need to keep saying “no” to very interesting projects and books. But at the same time, it’s great work, he says: “You give readers the chance to discover a new voice, a new universe, and a new way of seeing things.”

The importance of creative literary communities

In the German capital, new perspectives are one of the many attractions that have drawn record numbers of students to the Berlin Writers’ Workshop over the past two years.

“We have noticed a significant increase in student interest in our workshops during the pandemic. They fill up almost as soon as we announce them, which was not the case years ago,” says Ben Maukdirector of the Berlin Writers’ Workshop.

Mauk, who co-founded the workshop in 2017 and writes for publications such as The New York Times Magazine, Harper’s Magazines, The New Yorker, and The London Book Reviewsays the workshop is struggling to maintain interest because waiting lists are longer than they have ever been.

“We plan to offer around 25 classes this year, a mix of in-person and online classes, which is more than double what we typically offer in any given year,” he says.

But Mauk is quick to point out that not everyone is looking for a book publishing deal. “People are looking for both creative outlets and, in particular, online expressions of creative communities.

The shift from in-person to online workshops during the pandemic has also opened them up to wider audiences from across Europe, South Asia and the United States, says Mauk.

Students come from a variety of backgrounds, ranging from professional writers to college students and those working in communications-related jobs who want to brush up on their prose.

“Writing won’t make you rich or famous, but you can be part of a community where you share your ideas and your love of writing and books with others,” Mauk says.

Publishing mentor sees self-publishing trend rising

On a small Greek island named Tilos, British literary agent, freelance development editor and writer Jennifer Barclay lives a creative life by the sea that many dream of.

The Oxford-educated publishing insider has lived and worked in the UK, France, South Korea and Canada with top writers, including best-selling author and activist Naomi Klein.

“Clearly the shutdowns gave more people than ever the time, mental space and impetus to write. Many people saw it as an opportunity to achieve something when they were being prevented from continuing. other activities,” says Barclay, which specializes in travel, adventure and outdoor titles.

“Because I love working on the development stages of a book and mentoring authors, and I work a lot with memoirs, a lot of my clients are new writers,” she says.

Barclay says a trend she’s noticed over the past two years is that more authors than ever are keen to self-publish rather than seek a publisher.

“They know it’s been harder than ever to get a traditional publishing deal, with so many people laid off and books delayed. While self-publishing allows them to take control of all the aspects of the book, including when it’s published, they can publish in a few months instead of waiting a year,” she says.

Current trends in publishing

As for what people are writing about during the pandemic, especially newbies, it’s a big topic.

Gnaegid of Éditions Gallimard indicates that the strong themes are: “Motherhood – and the joys or difficulties associated with it, gender issues, gay/lesbian issues, immigration, dystopia and toxic relationships.” He also adds that at Gallimard, they have received many “covid books” from the public and “even well-known authors have tried their hand at this ‘genre'”.

Mauk from Berlin Writers’ Workshop says rather than specific genres or trending topics, he’s really noticed an increased interest in students who want to learn how to develop generative writing practices that nurture everyday habits such as putting a pen to paper. paper, so to speak.

And according to literary agent Barclay, as there have been fewer new travel adventures during the pandemic, many people have now had time to write about their previous trips.

“Fortunately, my authors who were published last year had already completed their travels – Ben Thompson’s book Tanked Up: A Diver’s Story was talking about his career or journey as a professional diver, Bex Band wrote about his life-changing walk through Israel in South Three Bandsand Tharik Hussain had already traveled through Muslim Europe for his book Minarets in the mountains – shortlisted for multiple awards, so I’m glad it found a publisher during the pandemic!” she said, adding:

“And I think more than ever, readers have been happy to immerse themselves in an armchair adventure during these times.”

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