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Tips for running a digital writer residency

Marjorie Lotfi and Claire Urquhart, the team behind Open Book, share their tips and advice for running a successful writer in residency programme online

Language: English
Audience: Writers

Last updated: 04 April 2023

What will your residency look like?

In the initial planning stages, there are some key questions to ask yourself while developing your residency. What does your organisation hope to get out of the residency? Why are you running it? Who will benefit? What are your organisation’s intended outcomes? Who from your organisation will manage this residency? In developing ideas around a possible residency, consider:

Choosing your writer

What sort of writer are you hoping will apply? How will you attract that person? How do you assess those who apply? When you have a clear idea of what you hope to achieve, this will inform the call you put out for the writer in residency (WiR). You can see a number of different calls on the Open Book blog(this link will open in a new window). Depending on your reason for the residency, you may want to ask for:

Think too about whether you will need interviews, and how you might score applicants. Who within your organisation will be responsible for choosing who gets the post and on what criteria?

Communicating with your writer

What early discussions do you need to have with your newly chosen WiR? It is vital to the success of the residency to set clear expectations on outcomes at an early stage. This can take the form of a follow up conversation with a chosen applicant to be sure that the agreed plan for the residency (timeline, output, engagement) is understood clearly on both sides from the outset. This is also a good time to discuss any additional expectations around agreed output (content, form, materials used, types of participants etc). For example, at Open Book we need our materials to be as positive as possible, and this is the time we flag that again to a new WiR.

Practical questions for running your residency

Once you have your writer, it's time think about how you will go about setting up the residency together, be sure to cover:

Payment and delivery

You also need contractual arrangements that cover payment and delivery. Important connected decisions include:

Think about outputs

What are the outputs you expect? And how do you plan to use them?

Things to consider for workshops and events

Things to consider if you plan to commission writing

Ways to get the most out of a residency

Feedback can be a really valuable part of a residency, allowing you to make changes to your programme where needed. Think ahead to see where and when you might be able to gather feedback.

Ways to conclude your residency

It’s useful to think about how to wrap up a fixed term residency so both the organisation and the WiR get a sense of completion. This could take various forms:

This article was commissioned as part of our digital events training for authors(this link will open in a new window) Industy Lab. Check out the companion article with Jan Carson(this link will open in a new window) for insight into a writer's side of the table.