The courses I run are centred around timed exercises - moments of concentration and contemplation. As the hand moves across the page, the mind opens and images flow out. These exercises are created in such a way that anyone from a raw beginner to a seasoned professional can benefit from them. They can be used in a number of ways, including using them to:
• kick-start you into creating something you'd like to write
• to create pieces to add to a manuscript or short story you're already working on
• to free you from something that may be blocking your imagination
WHAT YOU CAN ACHIEVE
• confidence to start writing
• techniques to keep you writing
• the inspiration to create
• motivation to continue after the course ends
In the residential workshops, there will be the opportunity to read on "Open Mic" night where you can receive feedback on prose, poetry or plays written prior to the course (prose limit: 1300 - 1500 words).
In addition to running creative writing workshops for fact or fiction, I also run courses on "Finding Inspiration to Write", "So You Want to Write a Novel", "Workshop Your Fiction", etc. Currently in development is a new 6-week course, "So You Want to Write a Short Story".
A TASTER OF WHAT I DO
To give you an idea of how I work, here is a sample exercise for you to try entitled "Making a List" .
MAKING A LIST
The imagination teems with memories and impressions. The act of making a list helps order the thoughts that constantly fly around in the mind, enabling your imagination to take off in ways you might not think possible. The following text is from an 2003 exhibition before the invasion of Iraq, entitled “Our Life in Pieces: Objects and Stories from Iraqis in Exile”. The items on display reflected the cultural diversity of the Iraqi diaspora which includes Arabs, Kurds, Assyrians, Mandaeans, Turkomans, Muslims, Jews and Christians.
"An Arabic atlas kept since school days. A Kurdish dress, covered in gold coins. A carpet woven by a mother for her son. A bowl brought back from a pilgrimage to Mecca. Wedding linen and bedspreads embroidered by a grandmother. A handwritten book documenting the stories of one family’s women. A plate for serving Masgouf, a Baghdad river fish eaten at family gatherings. An Iraqi House of Fashion hashmi, a traditional Iraqi dress covered in calligraphy. A silver birth cup engraved with scenes of the Tigris. Pages from a fighter’s diary in Kurdistan. An Iraqi ID card. An account of a nightmare."
Make a list of objects displayed in a similar exhibition if you and many of your countrymen had been forced into exile. The list should reflect the cultural diversity in the land of your birth. Without stopping to edit, think or admire the paintwork, write for 10 minutes. Go.
A TASTER OF WHAT A STUDENT HAS DONE
To give you an idea of the incredibly imaginative things that are written in every workshop I lead, here is a sample exercise. The brief was for students to take 5 minutes to look through newspaper cuttings of text and photographs, then write 6 sentences. Four were to be random one-sentence quotes from the pile of clippings they were supplied with and two were to be phrases of their own suggested by their choice of pictures. Course members were then given 15 minutes to weave as many of those 6 lines as they could into a narrative. This rather astonishing piece was the result. Except for some added punctuation, it has not been edited.
'Dionis Petushkev, born 1897, arrested 1931. Sentenced for anti-Soviet activities. Nothing more known of him until Vlado Petushkev, Dionis’ great-grandson was allowed to search the archives of the Lyubianka prison, St Petersburg, in 1999. Dionis’ trial was on one scrap of paper and contained these words and no more.
Accused: "How long do I get?"
Prosecutor Zivanov: "Until all you have known have died."
JUDGMENT OF THE PEOPLE’S COURT and this underlined:
The court must reach a conclusion counter to the interests of the accused.
Not much to go on there. Vlado knew only that Dionis had perished in the gulags of far-east Siberia, Kakazka province. He had survived thirty years in the coal mines of Bijelvograd. Vlado did not know the cause of death. But someone had sent him a notebook containing his great-grandfather’s writings, written in coal on pieces of newspaper that had been carefully bound together between two arctic fox hides. It had a sort of beauty about it, the materials and craftsmanship, although for Dionis it would not have been a beautiful object, but a necessary one. Vlado had no doubt that he would have regarded it as a peasant regards his physical surroundings. A necessary adjunct to life and survival, not something to be admired.
The notebook contained the writings of a prisoner who was clearly no counter-revolutionary, but a supporter of the Left opposition. Dionis referred to his time as a Bolshevik organiser in the metal works on the edge of St Petersburg. He had fought in the Civil War.
His last words, "Sunlight moves through an abandoned human environment. One day the humans will return with the rising of the sun." Then a sketch of a horse; not so much the drawing of a horse, but a horse brought into being.'
© D I Douglas-Wilson 2005
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