Interview with Nikki Dudley
“It’s all about being brave enough to ask.“ – Nikki Dudley
Today we feature Nikki:Dudley, the founder at MumWrite. We hear their story in their own words, their successes, their challenges and their insights.
Let’s start by getting to know you. Can you please tell us a little bit about you and what you do?
I am a poet and novelist living in London. I am the winner of the Virginia prize for fiction and my second novel will be published in 2021. I am also a freelance editor and in 2020, decided to set up MumWrite, which is a development programme dedicated to mums who write.
I offer workshops to mums, and other people, in order to help people nurture their creativity, grow their confidence, and achieve in their writing careers. I am also managing editor of Streetcake Magazine and administer the Streetcake writing prize, which offers mentoring, feedback, and publication to writers creating experimental work.
A great introduction and start to this interview. Can you please tell us, how did you start, from what age, and what made you decide to change direction and start?
I am a published writer who was born in London. When I finished my MA in creative writing, I started my magazine, Streetcake, which still exists to this day. I began by working in publishing but found it wasn’t for me, so I worked for a charity that gifts books to children.
While that was amazing, I then went off to Madrid for a few years and qualified as an EFL teacher. After doing that for many years, I moved into freelance editing and proofreading. In 2019, I set up the Streetcake writing prize with the help of ACE funding, which recognises experimental writing and aims to develop writers under 30.
In lockdown, as a mum of two young children, I found it much harder to write amidst the responsibilities of parenting, and after applying to the ACE Emergency Covid fund for a bit of start up money, I set up MumWrite. MumWrite holds workshops at times that are convenient for mums (weekends/evenings) and offers a supportive community of mums and guidance from myself.
It’s been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever worked on and has really channelled my energy for helping others write and create a non-judgmental space for them to grow and develop. I also founded MumWrite in order to focus more on my own writing, which has been a happy side-benefit.
Thank you for that insight. So can you tell us…What does your business do and where is your company based?
I am currently in London but since MumWrite is an online community and the workshops take place on Zoom, it places no limits in terms of geography. For the pilot programme this year, there were mums from all around the UK and Ireland. I would be happy to have mums from anywhere, as long as the timings work for them!
MumWrite offers a series of workshops on a range of writing (poetry, fiction, hybrid writing) and encourages the use of new techniques to experiment with words. MumWrite also provides writing buddies, feedback, an online community of supportive peers, and writing prompts to keep the mums writing and thinking. It isn’t just about writing though – it’s about self-care, understanding peers, resilience boosting, and a communal spirit.
What’s the story behind your success? What led to your aha moment? how did you get to where you are now?
I’ve always been determined to do things and I’ve tried to chase those things. I worked hard through university and had several jobs during my MA to support myself. That’s not to say my parents didn’t help me out because they’ve always wanted to help but I’ve also always wanted to make my own money and pay my own way.
I’ve had different roles over the years and learned a lot from each one. I think the role that changed everything though was working as an EFL teacher. I began to realise that I loved teaching people and learning from them in turn.
I think this has hugely influenced what I’m doing now and reaching out to mums makes sense because I’m in their shoes too – I understand how hard it is to find opportunities that work for you as a mum in terms of income, time, mum-guilt and capacity.
My partner, Joe, has always been my greatest supporter and he’s excited to see me using my experiences as a mum and a writer in combination.
Thank you for sharing that. What’s been your life’s biggest lesson so far?
MumWrite is still pretty new as it only started in May 2020. However, I’ve already learned not to undervalue my time and skills. Though I want the programme to be affordable, I also need it to be sustainable. Since I started with a very low amount of money, I was giving out too much feedback and not being compensated for it, therefore I had to reign it in a bit. It was a good lesson to learn though.
In order to give people the feedback they deserve, I need to pay myself to dedicate my time to it properly. It’s the only way it’s fair for both of us.
I’ve also been learning a lot about marketing, which has always been a tough area for me because I’m not particularly boastful! Though I’m realising that the best marketing tool is just to myself and I’m a sociable, friendly and supportive person (I believe!) and people seem to respond to that, which is really positive.
Be confident and be proud of what you do from the start.
If you were to go back in time, what piece of advice would you give to your younger self?
I think sometimes when you look for something for yourself, as I did with writing courses for mums and mums who might not be producing traditional writing, and you don’t find it – that can be the biggest motivation for starting something.
The first part is always the hardest and there’s a lot of self-doubts as you set things up and wait to see if anyone will sign up. When people do start paying attention though, that’s a brilliant feeling.
I think it’s important to remember that it might take time to build things up, that you might make mistakes sometimes but you’ll learn too, and most of all, that you need to try your best and that’s all you can really do. I’ve always found it’s important to talk to other people, see what they’re doing well, and learn from that.
We’re nearly halfway through our interview so it’s a great time to ask how does your business run. What three tools make your business run better?
Zoom is essential!
I also have a Slack community for the mums.
Weebly is the platform for my site and I find it easy to use.
What do you know now that you wished you had known before?
Be confident and be proud of what you do from the start.
What has been your greatest or proudest achievement or moment?
When the participants have told me that the course has changed their lives, has made them feel more confident and less isolated, that I’ve encouraged them to do something differently.
What future life goals do you want to achieve and why?
I want to keep writing and hopefully have more published. I also want to keep working with other writers to help them develop and reach their goals – that makes me very happy. I’d like to keep developing MumWrite and Streetcake.
To finish our inspire questions…”We believe that sharing inspiring words can inspire others.” If there was one positive thing you would say to someone to inspire and empower them what would it be and why?
I would say: ask for help. I wouldn’t be where I am without asking people for help with my budgeting, marketing, and networking. If you think someone might be able to help you, just ask! They can always say no or they might be happy to help if you help them. It’s all about being brave enough to ask.
“Thank you it has been great learning more about your founder story and MumWrite”
To learn more about MumWrite Visit www.mumwrite.com
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