SkyPen, the new writers forum from Blackstaff Press launched officially on 1st March 2013 to coincide with the beginning of Creativity Month. Stuart Quate from Blackstaff explains:
“The concept for SkyPen formed a couple of months when ago I came across the story of Beth Reeks, the Welsh A-Level student who was picked up by Random house and offered a three book deal after they found her writing on Wattpad. Around the same time I was in talks with some major book retailers who informed me that there is a lack of new local writers coming through ranks and that there is demand for it.
Added to this, Blackstaff Press have discovered that working with authors from outside Ireland can cause a number of practical logistical issues. Simple things like book launches, signings, promotions and interviews with the media all become a lot harder and more expensive if the author needs to get on a plane.
I contacted Wattpad to see if it was possible for me to scan authors via geographic location in the hope that I could find some new talent myself. They replied to say that they did not have this function and as they have tens of millions of users from all around the world and as I didn’t have the resources of Random House I didn’tt think it was feasible for me to use it as a tool to find potential new authors.
I decided therefore to create SkyPen as an alternative to Wattpad so that I could help increase my visibility of local writers.
I strongly believe that there is a massive untapped creative resource across the island and that some of our best authors have yet to be discovered. I find however that authors and creative types often have quite a shy personality which stops them sharing their work with others and sending in work to Publishers. In fact I would say that the greatest piece of literature ever written is currently stuck under someone’s bed because the author is too afraid to show it to anyone. SkyPen will allow people to come together in a supportive environment and share work anonymously if they wish. More importantly it is aimed at the people of Ireland and managed by an Irish Publisher. Beth Reekes was extremely lucky, but the truth is that for most writers you have a lot more chance of being picked up by a local publisher than by a global giant.
The forum is designed for two purposes, I wanted to create a community that was easily accessible for local writers of all abilities to come together and share their work in a supportive environment, but I also wanted to create a space were it was easy for potential saleable writing talent to come to Blackstaff, as opposed to using massive amounts of time scanning large global sites like Wattpad. That is not to say that everyone on the forum will get published and the Blackstaff Press submission process remains the same for the time being, but the editors will be casting an eye over the forum to see if anything interesting pops up.
Another aspect of SkyPen which might make it a bit different from other writers forums is that I want it to fuse with and promote physical writing groups. For example if you are a member of a writing group in your local area you can contact me and I will create a dedicated writing group for you on SkyPen. This can be a public group so that you can welcome new members or a private group so that only your members have access. You can then use SkyPen to store and share writing between the members of your local group.
SkyPen users are free to promote their own writing group, writing courses and literary events at no cost.
We are also happy to accept writing in Irish and Ulster Scotts.
SkyPen has been designed by the web company Chooboo who are based in Holywood, County Down and I think they have done a great job on it. I am really looking forward to seeing how it develops. At the moment SkyPen is there to promote all forms of writing of any length and I hope people will feel free to experiment in different styles and genres, but in the future I hope to include a structured author development program and image uploading features for people making graphic novels. It is still day one however, and at the moment I am simply delighted that it is up and working as it should. I have had a team of volunteers helping me for the last few weeks to try and iron out any bugs before going live and I would like to thank them for all their support.
Blackstaff are running a writing competition through SkyPen for Creativity Month with a Kindle and a range of Blackstaff Press books up for grabs. The competition is free to enter and with entries limited to between 500 and 1000 words people can enter as many times as they like. Full details can be found by going to SkyPen.co.uk clicking on ‘Groups’ and then clicking into the ‘Competitions Group’.
The three winners will also have their work published on the main Blackstaff Press website.”