First off, we at CWAM want to extend a huge thanks to all of our participants and attendees who made Saturday’s session such an exhilarating success. You guys are the reason we’re here, and all of the thoughts and experiences that every single one of you contributed to the discussion Saturday were invaluable. As for those of you who couldn’t make it, we’d like to share all of the insights that we gleaned, and we invite you to get in touch (if you haven’t already) to take the discussion even further.
Chairman Cassi Camilleri opened the session with a short overview of the work CWAM has tackled so far, not only in updating our brand and website to reflect the vibrancy that we wish to bring to the industry, but also in making contacts, spreading the word to shake the industry out of apathy, and establishing a foundation for the road ahead. The floor was then turned over to our three panelists: Lizzie Eldridge, Malcolm Galea, and Teodor Reljic, who shared their diverse experiences and insights into the state of the writing industry in a Q&A session moderated by CWAM board member Amy Borg.
Though all three panelists admitted to various struggles, it’s not all gloom and doom, as emphasized by scriptwriter Malcolm Galea. Malta, in a lot of ways, presents unique opportunities for aspiring writers. Both Lizzie Eldridge and Teodor Reljic shared positive experiences in getting their works–Eldridge’s second novel, Vandalism, and Reljic’s debut Two–published on the island, where a close and easy-going network of professionals in the industry allows islanders to make connections and contacts fairly easily. Similarly, Galea praised the capacity for writers in Malta to make their own opportunities, often with less risk and somewhat better success than writers in crowded markets such as the UK and US.
However, the small-market nature of the Maltese industry does have its drawbacks, as it can often mean that resources are limited for writers, publishers, and producers alike. In some cases, industry gatekeepers may even use this as an excuse for not investing in the talent, work, time, and expertise that writers bring to the table, leaving writers with unfair contracts or inadequate pay. As shared by Eldridge and Reljic, advances for published work are pretty much non-existent and royalties can be spotty at best. Audience engagement can also be limited, though Galea’s experience in theater runs counter to the general narrative of works in print. Part of this challenge, as agreed by both participants and attendees, stems from the small population of Malta, which limits the market on the island, and this, perhaps more than anything else, proves a challenge to writers trying to make it in Malta.
Limited resources plus a limited market create an industry that is far too insular to promote work to a wide audience, and this was the greatest hurdle identified by participants and attendees during the session. Though the process of winning editors, publishers, producers, or competitions with quality work may be easier here than abroad, once a work is published or produced in Malta, it can be close to impossible to convince the publishers and producers to promote it beyond the Maltese sphere. And don’t rely on your own ability to appeal to agents in bigger markets–even if they fall in love with the work, they may find it less than ideal to reproduce works without having claim to first print or first digital rights.
Based on all the input gathered Saturday, it’s clear that organization is needed and that writers in Malta are looking to improve the situation. Out of all the ideas presented during the session, we see three primary avenues of support that we hope to be able to pursue in Malta over the coming years. One primary service needed is legal advocacy, including establishing minimum standards that can be agreed on by all writers who wish to work professionally on the island, and perhaps also assisting in disputes and negotiations of local and foreign contracts. In addition, educational opportunities for aspiring writers would help not only to raise the standards of the craft in Malta, but also to clear a path for those who wish to make writing their career. And finally, CWAM is working diligently to organize further events that will provide guidance and information about the industry, encourage writers to collaborate and meet, and establish networks with other industry professionals, both local and international.
We Still Need Your Help
“You can do things in isolation but within a coherent group of individuals, all of them supporting each other, we can get much more done.”
Now it’s your turn. For any of this to happen, we need two things: information and hard work. As always, we are open and eager to hear your suggestions and ideas, either through email or on our Facebook page, and we would appreciate all those interested in CWAM to go here and fill out a short survey about their experiences with the industry in Malta. The small amount of time you spend doing this will help us greatly in the long run. However, if you really want to see improvement in the Maltese writing industry and are willing help CWAM make these positive changes, we need more than just your voice. We are asking anyone who is willing to commit time and energy to the cause to get in touch and sign up as a volunteer. Let us know how you would like to help, and remember that every little bit counts. If we work together, even if each of us does just one small thing, we can make huge changes far more effectively than working alone.