Based in the UK, Gold Dust is a unique mentoring scheme for writers, founded by novelist Jill Dawson. An invaluable resource for new and emerging novelists and authors of non-fiction, Gold Dust offers eight hours of face-to-face meetings with an established novelist, biographer or short-story writer, usually taking place over a year. In between meetings the mentor will read your work for a further eight hours, and offer feedback on the writing, as well as an insider’s advice on the publishing world and finding an agent.
In 1992 I was a newly single mother, and unemployed. I had published stories and poems but what I longed for was to complete the novel I was struggling to write, and publish it. I saw an ad for a new course at Sheffield Hallam University, an MA in Writing. It cost four thousand pounds and I really had to think hard about finding the money and whether it was a sensible thing to do. Not just the money but the travelling up to Sheffield, and finding someone to look after my three year old for the day – I seem to remember it was just one day – perhaps it was a mad idea. But I did it, and not only did I never regret it, but it changed everything.
Wonderful things came out of that course. I met Kathryn Heyman, a would-be novelist like me, and made a lasting friendship. And I met and got to know the poet Archie (E.A) Markham and novelists Lesley Glaister and Jane Rogers. At that point in my life I’d never met any published writers. I was on the dole and living in a council flat: why would I have? What I longed for, was not the MA itself, or the qualification, or the other students work-shopping my work (an experience I found bewildering and hateful) – it was an opportunity to meet and learn from those I thought of as ‘real’ writers: published authors with a body of work, and discover if I really could count myself among them.