My Writing, Travel, Uncategorized, Workshop

A week at an Arvon course

Recently, I was lucky to spend a week away at Arvon’s The Hurst writers’ centre in the beautiful Shropshire hills.

As I sat in the bright book-filled lounge with eleven other writers who’d travelled from all over, including one from the US, I wondered whether I’d made the right decision coming here. A week dedicated to writing was a lovely idea, but would I find it too exhausting? Would I be able to make the most of my time, or would I run low on ideas? What would the people I’d be sharing this grand old house with be like?

The course was on writing young adult fiction, tutored by the wonderful authors Anthony McGowen and Sheena Wilkinson, and I knew it was going to be an intense week of workshops, tutorials and time dedicated to writing.

20190413_095338Of course, I needn’t have worried. Everyone – my fellow participants, the tutors, and the Arvon staff – were warm and welcoming.

Each morning we took part in workshops, led by Anthony and Sheena, from 9.30am-1pm. It sounded like a dauntingly long amount of time, but each session, covering topics as diverse as characterisation, dialogue and editing, was so engaging and enjoyable that they passed so quick. I filled my Moleskin notebook with notes and ideas generated from the writing exercises set by the tutors.

Our afternoons were less structured, with time to work on our writing, one-to-one tutorials with Anthony and Sheena, or walking in the grounds. The Hurst is set in beautiful woodland, and I took many opportunities to go exploring, both on my own and with fellow writers.

20190410_155428After a delicious dinner (cooked on a rota by participants), each evening held something different – readings from the tutors, a guest author, and a free evening on Thursday. All accompanied by copious amounts of wine and writerly conversation. The Friday evening was a celebration of our work, where we each read a five minute piece of our own writing. It was wonderful to hear everyone’s pieces, ranging from the humorous to emotional.

As I was waiting for my fiancé to pick me up on the Saturday morning (we did a trip to the historic town of Shrewsbury on the way back to Stoke), I couldn’t resist looking on the Arvon website to see what other upcoming courses they have. I know I will definitely be returning – whether to The Hurst or one of Arvon’s other centres in Yorkshire or Devon. I left Arvon with a renewed confidence in and love for my writing, and the promise to myself to dedicate more time to this passion.

My Writing, Uncategorized, Workshop

Writing and wellbeing feature in Mslexia

MslexiaI’m really thrilled to have a feature, “Writing in the World: Mental Health”, published in the current issue of Mslexia magazine. I’ve been a Mslexia subscriber for years and it’s a publication that is well regarded in the writing community, so seeing my work in its pages is pretty exciting.

The article shares my experiences of running community creative writing workshops and how writers can work within a wellbeing context to support participants in a way that is inclusive and encourages creativity.

As I wrote the feature, it was useful to reflect on my practice as both a writer and workshop facilitator. Mental health and wellbeing is a topic very close to me, and I’m passionate about the benefits of art and creative group work – I’ve experienced these benefits myself through periods of ill health when I have been one of the people around the table who’s apprehensively taking part in an artistic activity, rather than being the one delivering it.

It made sense to write an article that combined these passions of mine, and they are areas that I’m hoping to explore further in my writing.

 

Uncategorized, Workshop

Festival Stoke Writing Workshop

caroline_workshop1Yesterday evening I ran a creative writing workshop as part of Festival Stoke’s Art Street line up. There was a really good turnout, around fifteen of us in the Art Stop workshop space.

The workshop focused on characterisation and using our day to day experience, such as the journey to the session, as a springboard for creative writing ideas. As is typical in creative writing workshops, I set a few writing exercises to complete during the session and then everyone took it in turns to read back their writing to the rest of the group. I always find it really interesting how much variety one exercise creates in the work that’s fed back.

I’m running another creative writing workshop as part of Festival Stoke, focusing on the show, not tell technique. It’s next Wednesday 5th July, 7pm at the Art Stop Stoke, 108 Church Street, Stoke-on-Trent, ST4 1BU. It’d be great to see you there.

Uncategorized, Workshop

Creative Writing Workshops

I’m running two creative writing workshops over the next few weeks as part of Festival Stoke, celebrating the arts in Stoke-on-Trent.

On Wednesday 28th June, 7-9pm, Workshop One will explore characterisation, with ideas for choosing and developing a character, using every day experience for inspiration.

On Wednesday 5th July, 7-9pm, Workshop Two will focus on the famous show, not tell technique, looking at how we can make our writing more interesting and engaging.

Both workshops are free to attend and are open to all, whether you’re an experienced writer or just want to give it a go.

As mentioned in my last blog, I’m also running a free zine making workshop as part of the festival, on Saturday 5th August, 11am-3pm.

I’ve got lots of preparations to do for the workshops, and I’m really looking forward to meeting other writers and helping them develop their work. I love running workshops – I love talking about writing, so it’s a joy to get the opportunity to do this.

 

MA, My Writing, Uncategorized, Workshop

Zine Module and Zine Workshop

I’m doing an MA in the Teaching and Practice of Creative Writing at Staffordshire University and last week I handed in my latest assignment in the form of a zine.

zineIn his book Notes From Underground:: Zines and the politics of alternative culture, Stephen Duncombe explains that zines are “non-commercial, nonprofessional, small-circulation magazines which their creators produce, publish and distribute by themselves” (Duncombe, 2008, p10-11). They can be on literally any topic, from a favourite hobby to a political cause to writing about your life. I made my zine Interruptions for my module about my experiences of mental ill health, drawing on a variety of techniques. The main feature of the zine is a piece of life writing, and for this I used the Surrealist technique of automatic writing, where you write freely on a topic, as this helped me to get to the root of what I wanted to say without censoring myself. I also used the Dada cut out technique, taking reports that have been written about me, cutting the words out and rearranging them, so that I reclaim what’s been said about me.

I am drawn to using zines as a medium for my life writing as I love the physicality of zines. The researcher and author Alison Piepmeier talks about a gift culture around zines, where zinesters benefit from making and receiving zines. My friend Anahita and I have exchanged handmade art before – I made her a zine as a graduation present, filled with in jokes, a recipe for vegan tiffin, collages of Simpsons quotes, and photos. I like to – because I am vain like this – imagine her rummaging through her room and stumbling on the zine which she flicks through and smiles at the memories.

Anahita and I are running a free zine making workshop together in Stoke-on-Trent on Saturday 5th August, 11am-3pm. You can find out more and book on Eventbrite, and there’s also a Facebook event page. It’ll be a fun creative session and it’d be great to see you there.