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A Christmas Message From Pen to Print

Christmas Wreath with Candy CanesHi Everyone,

It’s become a bit of a tradition to send everyone a Christmas message, so here goes.

This year seems to have been quite a difficult one, with manyKing Charles III Image of us facing significant challenges. These include financial constraints brought on by decreasing budgets and increasing costs, loneliness, the loss of friends and loved ones and, of course,  poor health. Then there’s politics, ever-deteriorating international relations, war, extreme weather… The list goes on and on. Even when we’ve had events to enjoy, such as the King’s Coronation in May, it doesn’t feel like there’s been much to celebrate. To get away from all the ‘doom and gloom,’ I must admit I’ve stopped watching the news, so preserving my own mental health.

With all this going on, and working in the arts sector, I’m very aware that, at first glance, things can seem very ostentatious. In these times it’s difficult to justify spending precious time and money on arts and culture. Trust me, I’ve had these thoughts more than once this year! However, just as I start getting into a funk about it, there is always something that happens. Like magic, I get a reminder that what we do matters and suddenly these feelings are washed away. More than once this year we’ve been approached by someone thanking us, telling us that what we have done has saved their sanity, brought a bit of joy and meaning into their lives and made them feel part of a vibrant community. Fundamentally it’s why Pen to Print exists: to bring together writers, poets, artists and readers into our growing community network. Writing can be such an important form of expression and release and, if you’re part of Pen to Print, being a writer needn’t be a lonely occupation, either. What’s the point of going through the trials and thrills of creativity if you can’t share it? We do that too.



We’ve had plenty of highlights and I could write many hundreds of words on these but I’m not writing my book just yet…. However, here’s just a short round up of some of the wonderful achievements we’ve helped make happen in 2023.

We provided mentoring for five more writers through The Book Challenge to complete manuscripts which are now going to be published as books. We’ve taken another enthusiastic group of young writers to Hay Festival, inspiring them as well as  opening them up to opportunities in the publishing industry. We have showcased Write On! magazine to the international audience of Hay Festival by holding our first Hay event and distributing Write On! to festival goers.

Left to Right: The famous Hay Festival Letters, Barking & Dagenham students get to see behind the scenes at the festiival Managment Office,  Seeing the Tech used backstage on Baillie Gifford Stage, YA author Laura Dockrill speaks to students on stage at Hay.

Pen to Print has delivered another year’s worth of classes and workshops with a variety of amazing experts. Working with the London Library, we have again provided access to facilities not normally seen as assessable to working class and minority writers.

We have connected with even more high-profile writers and organisations sharing their insights into the publishing industry with our local audiences.

This year’s Write On! magazines have been the best so far. It seems as though the quality just  gets better with every issue! The circulation has increased, showcasing our talented pool of writers and contributors to a growing readership and I’m pleased to say the Write On! volunteer team continues to grow and develop. Although, of course, we are always  looking to welcome new people.

What we’re most proud of though, is that we’re back to delivering in our venues and to our local audiences again. I especially love how we’ve brought back ReadFest in a new and even more exciting form.

As we celebrate Christmas and the New Year, we know there are more difficult times ahead with many more challenging decisions to be made. However, we do have strength in the knowledge that we are supporting and supported by an amazing network of friends and we can get through anything together.

Thank you all for being part of our community. We hope you get as much pleasure from it as we do. So, even though we face another tough year ahead, we all need to remember that many of us are having a hard time, albeit in different ways. Compassion and understanding should therefore be our first response to any situation and we should never be tempted into acting in anger and retribution, instead channelling our feelings into writing and creativity. The best work comes from passion, after all!

We can’t wait to see what 2024 brings and look forward to discovering this new year together.

Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year from the Pen to Print Team – Lena, Lisa and Mohammed.

All the best
Lena Smith,
Pen to Print Library Project Manager.

We do know that Christmas can be a very difficult time of year for some people.
If you need help, please visit our Advice and Support Page
with links to organisations that are there to help you.
You are not alone this Christmas.

The Write On! and Pen to Print team have put together a small Christmas gift. You may have already seen it, if not here is a very special treat, Christmas at Melrose by Leslie Pinckney Hill  Enjoy!

Channel your feelings into your writing and creativity, as the best work comes from passion!