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A Writer On Writing: Letters And Libraries

Sally Jenkins sets herself some writing targets.

After a pep talk with Helen, my writing buddy,http://blogaboutwriting.wordpress.com/ I’ve set myself some writing targets to get me through to the end of the year.

One of them is to write a letter a week for publication in a magazine. There are several benefits to this:
• The satisfaction of something quickly written and submitted
• Lots of potential markets – so hopefully the possibility of success
• I will need to scan the magazines available in the newsagent and might spot new markets for other types of writing.

I told Peter Hinchcliffe, editor of Open Writing, about my new goal and he suggested a further benefit of letter writing. Many years ago, as a young man, he was trying to break into journalism and started writing letters to his local newspaper every week, with a good ‘hit’ rate. Then he wrote and asked to join them for work experience – the editor recognised Peter’s name from the letters and he was taken on. A successful career in newspapers followed.

I don’t expect to land a job on a glossy magazine through the letters page – but occasionally letters can get followed up…

At the weekend I went with my daughter to Leicester University – she’ll be sending in her UCAS application for a Zoology degree in a few weeks time. Whilst we were there we went round the David Wilson Library.http://www2.le.ac.uk/library/for/visitors It is a wonderful, light, airy building, opened in 2008 by the Queen. At the time students waxed lyrical about their new library’s toilets. One was quoted in the Independent as saying, “If these toilets were a bird, they would be an eagle as they soar above the rest of the competition.” http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/higher/a-new-library-with-spectacular-lavatories-is-wowing-students-at-leicester-800902.html The toilets were nice – but not that outstanding! Although if I was living in grotty student house, I might think differently…

So it seems that whilst our public libraries are cutting opening hours or shutting down altogether, university libraries are thriving. Let’s hope that these wonderful facilities make young adults value the benefit of libraries so that as they start work and settle down, they might join in the campaigning to save and improve our public library system.


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