This is where you can find out what we plan during the next session … sometimes our ideas are quite specific and sometimes …. not!
We are continuing to meet via ZOOM every Wednesday. Please get in touch if you would like to join us!
MEMBERS’ NEWS update JULY 2020:
Jo Cundy’s story ‘the Waiting Room’ was shortlisted for the Fish Publishing lockdown prize (Flash Fiction) and is published on the Fish website.
‘The Happiness Equation’* by Chris Powell achieved an ‘Honourable Mention’ (final 10 stories) in the Momaya Press short story competition and will be published in the Momaya Review 2020. Momaya Press is based in the USA.
Jenny Spooner’s book for children ‘Cat and the Dragon’ (written with her sister, Sue Beasley) is selling well on Amazon.
Mike Kane has published 3 novels on Amazon kindle and is working on his 4th as we speak!
NorthPens news, APRIL
I went back to an old story yesterday, one I’d written years ago, re-read it, thought, that’s not bad but it needs work, so I edited it (quite brutally!) and found the experience really quite inspiring and confidence boosting. Then I discovered these writing tips (likewise from a few years back) languishing in a file on my computer; can’t remember where they originated, but likewise found them worth re-visiting …. Apart from no. 7, which seems a bit tactless at the moment, but thought I’d include it anyway!
This process of re-acquainting ourselves with our work is key to starting afresh after a break. But what if there is no novel waiting? Here are 7 ways to help you get writing after a break: but firstly take your diary and pencil in a writing day, evening, or a few hours, whatever time you have when you know you will not be interrupted
- Read something you’ve written, maybe the best thing – remind yourself you are a writer.
- Find a past notebook, open it and read – discover something fresh, something you’d forgotten, the beginning of a poem, a note, an idea and develop it into a poem/ short piece/ story etc
- On a fresh page in your notebook finish this sentence: If I could write anything it would be…………..(eg. If I could write anything it would be a novella about imprisonment, a story set in on a Greek island, an historical novel set in the American civil war…) There may be more than one thing you want to write – write them all down and mull them over. In downtime listen to the radio, go for a walk, daydream, while thinking about these.
- Read something inspiring by someone else – your favourite novel/short story, the one you wish you’d written. Be inspired. Write a paragraph or two in the same style about one of your ideas from number 3.
- Find a competition you think worth entering or a magazine to submit to and as well as deciding to edit something you already have, write something new.
- Don’t get hung up on perfection, start small, use the freedom of the notebook in which you can just scribble away – sometimes getting away from the machine is key.
7. Find a café or a favourite spot and write there, this way writing is a treat not a task.
I hope you are all surviving the white stuff.
A couple of updates:
Many thanks to everyone who was able to spend some time penning comments for the award certificates last week – I’m sure the recipients will appreciate it. We looked at our list of suggested topics for sessions, and decided to leap in at the deep end and begin by looking at magical realism. So, we probably need to spend some time on Wednesday looking at some examples, definitions (possibly) and getting our heads around it as a genre before we experiment with it ourselves.
Just a reminder that we have another of our masterclasses on Wednesday.
Short Story writing with Susie Dufort; It sounds as if she has something quite special prepared, so looking forward to seeing you all there at 10 a.m.!
Great follow-up session with Ellen last week – and some fantastic poems.
Just a reminder that Ellen is coming back to run a session with us this week; She will spend part of the morning giving feedback and talking about the work that we sent her in advance and part on some more general poetry exercises.
So … nothing else to prepare!
There is no task to prepare for the next session as on Wednesday 10th we have a poetry writing workshop with Ellen Pthethean, 10 – 12 as usual.
Conversations prompted by objects/characters
Weardale Tub workshop. Don’t forget that we start at 9.30 a.m.
We had a very enjoyable – and productive – session with David Napthine yesterday.
So, a reminder of how we decided to carry things forward:
Weds March 13 – come to the session with some ideas about how you want to develop the work on Living in a Landscape we started with David.
Weds March 27 – David is going to re-visit us (glutton for punishment – either that or Geri’s pork pie did the trick …) to talk about work in progress. NB there is no pressure to have completed a piece by then – it will literally be a progress report & an opportunity to get some valuable feedback.
LIVING WITH A LANDSCAPE
Writer David Napthine will be running a Creative Writing workshop on the theme LIVING WITH A LANDSCAPE on Wednesday, 27th February 10 – 12 a.m. at Stanhope Community Centre, hosted by NorthPens Writers. Everyone is welcome, regardless of experience. There is no charge for the workshop, although participants are asked to contribute £3 towards the running costs of the community centre. Contact Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to come along.
Some fantastic characters and stories again last week … all valuable material in the writing notebooks!
This week’s task is on a similar theme; choose a character (or invent a new one); describe a fairly typical day or activity in their life and then lob in a random event – (a car crash outside the house; alien invasion; the kitchen sink falls off the wall …) it can be as mundane or as bizarre as you fancy. Chuck it into their life, see what happens. Have fun with it.
Don’t forget our upcoming events:
Wednesday 27 Feb – workshop with David Napthine
Wednesday 6 March – Weardale Tub, writing and glass making
We had some great unsuitable candidates for a wide variety of occupations last week – plenty of material to develop and expand on!
Most of our characters from the previous exercise were blissfully unaware that they were in the wrong job, so for this week’s writing challenge we are sticking with the same broad theme but moving our ideas on a bit and thinking about cognitive dissonance (oh yes!). Briefly, cognitive dissonance occurs when ‘the way you are living your life is no longer fully in line with the way that you feel’; this feeling can build up until an individual is no longer able to sustain the consequent unease/dissatisfaction and has to make a change. Sometimes it seems like a snap decision, but it is usually the result of a much longer process. Our example was the farmer who while taking his lambs to the abattoir had a change of heart and drove them to an animal sanctuary instead. He now grows vegetables on his farm.
Could be a mid-llfe crisis, could be something else! Have a go at writing a piece that involves a sudden change of life direction, see what happens …
We’re still working on characters, following on from the ‘Hearing the Voice’ session. The challenge for next session is to come up with a character who is totally unsuited to the job they are doing. We started on that in the session by each thinking of an occupation and listing the positive attributes needed by somebody doing that job successfully. The next step is to create someone who possesses none of those attributes – whose character is the complete opposite to the ideal. Then … write about a day in the life, or an incident in the working life of your character. That character may or may not be aware of their own unsuitability for the job. (For any radio 4 addicts, the inspiration for this came from listening to ‘Clare in the Community’ – Clare is a complete nightmare of a social worker, but she thinks she brilliant at it; it’s v. funny!) Do your worst!
ALSO – Prize giving at Frosterley School has been confirmed as 3 p.m. on Friday 15 February for anyone who can come along. Still working on a date for Wearhead!
Well, another thought-provoking session on the Hearing the Voice project with David and John last week! SUGGESTION for next session either carry on and develop any of the ideas you came up with during the session OR you could start another piece based on either of the exercises we did.
If you weren’t able to make it last week, one of the exercises we did was a kind of random story generator task … some very interesting, and (inevitably?) some rather macabre results from that. I won’t try setting out the exercise because it’ll just end up being terminally confusing, we’ll explain on Wednesday!HOWEVER, in the meantime here are a couple of lists: pick one to have a go at. The idea is to create a brief story which incorporates all of them.
1) STACEY, FRIENDLY, ARROGANT, BEDROOM, HANDBAG, BORED (so, for eg., Stacey is a friendly person, she is also arrogant, she’s in a bedroom with a handbag and she’s bored; it’s a bit like cluedo!)
2) REG, OPTIMISTIC, SELFISH, CAFE, VASE, ELATED.
The other exercise we did was based on memory, take somebody from your past (a school teacher was a favourite) and transpose them into a contemporary context – how do they cope, react, respond to life in the 21st century? that was an interesting one to try out as well.Have a go at either, or both, exercises.
On Monday, some of us went to Frosterley School to run a couple of workshops for the OUT OF THIS WORLD writing award. The Children were absolutely amazing and wrote a couple of cracking group cinquaine poems, and the older ones will be working on stories using our structured worksheets.
Wednesday was our gig at Sedgefield; our morning reading didn’t go exactly to plan, but that really didn’t matter … We met the ‘Sedgefield Scribes’ and they seemed very keen to discuss what we were doing, nonetheless, we got most of our readings in and sold a few copies of ‘Talking Threads’. They are also giving us some good publicity for the Weardale WordFest. The afternoon session was on flash fiction. It was great to meet up with another Writers’ group and exchange ideas and experiences, mutually beneficial. I’m sure we can collaborate in the future.
A couple of things re. next week: on TUESDAY we have another workshop at St. John’s Chapel School (Rookhope school will be there as well), 10.30 – 12.00 a.m. Re. WEDNESDAY’s session, we thought, as we bounced back from Sedgefield in the Community mini-bus, that it might be fun to have a go at writing something on the theme OUT OF THIS WORLD ourselves. Please don’t try to pass yourselves off as 8yr olds and enter the competition…. Also – Julie Wilson from the Home Group – I was on holiday when she visited, but she has emailed re. us visiting her group in Newton Aycliffe. Logistically difficult perhaps, but have a think about it.
Well, Wednesday was a bit hilarious! We discovered not only that there are some very talented comic writers in our midst, but we are well on the way to completing our programme for 10th October at Sedgefield. If you couldn’t make it on Wednesday, then please do bring your work in next week. So far we have two distinct themes to play with: committees and sex.
So …NEXT SESSION: have another bash at the Weardale Song Cycle piece; stir any additional ideas, images, lines into the mix. Share any more pieces for our Sedgefield gig. (NB: those of us who were there on Weds. were keen to stop on for the afternoon session on 10th, 1.30 – 3.30, workshop on Flash Fiction.)
WRITING AWARD: we now have two workshops confirmed:
Frosterley School, Monday 8th October 1.15 – 3.30 (including playtime!)
St. John’s Chapel School Tuesday 16th October 10.30 – 12.00 a.m. Donna is going to also invite Rookhope School. Apologies Katy & anyone else who said they couldn’t make that date, but it was literally the only time we could find (harvest festivals, tag rugby, swimming … for goodness sake!)
Wearhead School also wants us to run a workshop and I hope to speak to Liz tomorrow afternoon to arrange a time, so I’ll let you know ASAP.
I have also been in touch with Sarah & Shane at the AONB about getting hold of some Stargazing stimulus material from them.
Absolutely fascinating session with David and John on the writer’s ‘Inner Voice’ last week – I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did! It was really good to take time to discuss the process of writing as well as get some actual writing done, and interesting to hear about the different ways in which everyone heard and used that inner voice when creating a character/poem/story etc.
Workshop with David Napthine on the WRITER’S INNER VOICE
20th & 27th June
There were only a few of us at the last session, but we had great fun with fairy stories! We also set a challenge for next week, using a state of the art random story generator consisting of writing some stock fairy tale characters, plots and themes on bits of paper, adding in a few unlikely locations and mixing them up. So we all left with a set of 3 characters, 3 themes or objects, a plot and a location. Using the same principle and story generator I’ve devised another for anyone who wasn’t there last week and wants to have a go, so, your mission, should you choose to accept it … is to create the outline of a fairy story that incorporate the following elements:
Really enjoyed listening to tweets based on the Weardale Museum photos last week, that seems to be a project that will keep us going for a while; an absorbing thing to do just as and when inspiration strikes, so I’ll bring some more of the photographs along on Wednesday.
Well, the snow got the better of us again last week so for this week’s session, see below!
Big thank you to Sarah for last Wednesday, no easy task dragging us lot into the world of tweets and twitters! I found it really interesting and, hopefully, the photographs will have given some good starting points for composing our own tweets for the museum.
Some fabulous pieces last week in response to the ‘headlines’ challenge – wonderfully inventive, and hilarious! Thanks to all who contributed to the enjoyment.
10th January 2018
HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL!
Over the summer, I have been editing and uploading to the website work from schools and an adult writers’ group as part of the We are Weardale project. This week I am bringing you an audio recording with the pupils of Wearhead Primary School and North Pens writers’ group who share their work and talk about their writing process. To listen CLICK HERE
9th August 2017
So, last session we looked at an extract from ‘Mrs. Mansey’s View’ by Edith Wharton and the task for this week is …. to try to create something similar. Begin by just writing a paragraph. Your character is looking through a window, either inside looking out or could be outside looking in. Describe what s/he sees, let that description say something, as much as possible, about that person and their life. It’s quite a challenge, more difficult than it seems as first … but you can all rise to it, no question!
3rd May 2017
Really inspirational workshop last week and some great pieces of work emerging from the Weardale Museum and other photographs.
We are going to carry on with exploring some of the work we did with Rachel, so if you have one of the Weardale Museum photos and you want to carry on with some ideas, please bring it along with you – maybe we could swap some of them around? Similarly, if you have any photos or objects of your own that you would like to bring, then please do.
19th April 2017
Another great morning last week, everyone really got stuck into the editing process … cutting Dan Brown’s prose down to size!
And thank you, Jenny, for letting us loose on your pieces.
A theme for the next session arose from our discussions and reading Jenny’s stories: childhood images. Ours all seemed to be quite chilling, images that evoked fear … but they don’t have to be …
Anyway, have a go at composing a piece of flash fiction based on a childhood memory/image. Keep it short, but don’t worry too much about the word limit for your first draft as part of the point of what we’re doing at the moment is to critique and EDIT our work.
REMINDER: RACHAEL is coming to do a flash fiction workshop with us, connected to the We are Weardale project, on Wednesday 26th April.
See below for what she is asking us to bring to the session:
Bring a photo or image, either developed or on an i-pad / tablet/ phone which shows something that is part of everyday life in Weardale. If people are unable to bring along a photo – please bring an object or make a note and brief description of your choice.
Possible ideas: a location, a building, an object, a person (taken with permission)
There is no wrong or right answer and it does not need to be grand – it is up to your own interpretation. It could be a building, a door, a field, a roof, a shop, a neighbour.
5th April 2017
We’ve spent a few really profitable weeks looking at poetry and poetic form following on from Jo Colley’s workshop in February – some great pieces of work came out of those sessions. We also went on a NorthPens outing to The Word in South Shields last month. Fantastic to get a tour around such a beautiful building, and to find such inspiring contents, activities, exhibitions etc.
Time to move on. We re getting involved with the WE ARE WEARDALE Creative Writing project with local schools and also looking forward to a workshop at St. John’s Chapel Primary School in May.
In the meantime, we have a workshop planned with Rachel Cochrane on 26th April. The topic is flash fiction & it will be linked into the WeareWeardale project. So …We are going to spend a few weeks working on FLASH FICTION as preparation for Rachel ’s workshop.
Judi suggested that it would be useful to look at some examples of the genre to start with to try and identify what it is all about and what WE think makes a good piece.
I have attached some examples to my circular emails, so have a look at those – I’m not proposing them as models of excellence necessarily, but as pieces for discussion on Wednesday.
25th January 2017
Interesting glimpse into parallel universes last week when we looked at some of the specialist magazines!
The task set was to pick one of the magazines (the more esoteric the better!) and write a letter to the editor; it can be quite short (have a look at the letters published and assess what you think is the best length), but try to find an appropriate angle – something that’ll appeal to the editors. Look forward to hearing those!
Otherwise, we’ll carry on with the idea of writing for a very specific audience & see what insights we can come up with – so if you have any good ideas or tips bring them along to the session.
18 January 2017
Firstly, best wishes and sympathetic vibes to everyone who’s been feeling under the weather recently – I hope you all feel better soon.
JO COLLEY has agreed to run a poetry workshop for us on Wednesday 8th February – so put that date in your diary! We can open it up to anyone else who would like to participate, so if you know anyone who you think would like to come along please let them know about it.
We thought it would be good to try a different tack for a few weeks, so we are going to take a look at writing for magazines – i.e. targeting specific audiences. We can expand that to encompass both fiction and non-fiction, let’s just see how we get on! SO … if everyone could bring a magazine along on Wednesday, preferably one with a narrow appeal/audience, we’ll make a start by doing a bit of analysis and (with a bit of luck and a fair wind…) experimenting with writing.
21st December 2016
NorthPens Christmas fuddle! Everybody welcome, Bring a contribution to the feast – but just one thing, you know we never eat it all! I’ll have a think about a fiendish quiz (oh yes I will!) see you on Wednesday.
14th December 2016
A really interesting session last week, and some great pieces of ‘factual’ information to play around with.
Our challenge for this week is to re-visit those passages (or pick a different one if you like!) and to try making a ‘list’ poem.
One way of approaching this is to simply go through your piece and highlight any words or phrases that appeal to you, take them out of their context and try fitting them together so that they make a different kind of sense.
Or, you could simply take a sentence or a snippet of information from your factual piece, use it as a starting point and let your imagination take you … wherever …!
Really looking forward to seeing how everyone gets on with this one,
see you on Wednesday,
7th December 2016
Some great pieces to finish off the Rosa Napoli cruise adventure – thanks to everyone, and I hope your characters will be very happy together!
We decided it was time to have another go at doing some writing during the session, So for this Wednesday could everyone please bring in with them a short, but purely FACTUAL piece (not your own work, copied from a journal, research document, book about fossils etc. etc.). We did something similar earlier in the year when we were looking at ways of using research, but we’ll try something a bit different this time!
Sarah has undertaken to knock into shape the group poem we compiled at the end of the session, it would be really good if we could put something that a number of people have contributed to into our anthology … speaking of which, we had a good session on Friday looking at all the submissions again, including the short pieces people have written recently and have now got the ‘running order’ finalised. Some pieces still need a bit of editing, they’ll be emailed to you to check over as and when.
Debbie Connell from DCC is coming to talk to us about We Are Weardale – the big schools creative writing project that is just getting under way, and to discuss ways in which we could be involved.
23rd November, and beyond!
Our characters’ adventures on board the SS Rosa Napoli are drawing to a close. For next week, write your final ‘scene’ – back on the ship, back around the dinner table where we started. A lot has happened, people have jumped ship, got involved in criminal activities and other dubious enterprises. They have forged alliances, formed prejudices, judgements preferences. Don’t worry about not being up to speed with absolutely everything that has been going on, focus instead on your own character and their observations, thoughts and actions and see if you can bring their chapter to some kind of close.
the editorial team had a good session this morning, looking at how all of the pieces submitted for the anthology could hang together and how we could order them. We’ve got a strong selection and an idea of how it is all going to work. We would like to fit in some more short pieces between the longer items.
So …. we are looking for haikus, short poems (max 8 lines), flash fiction or monologues (up to 200 words max) to complement the existing contributions. Have a look in your back catalogue, is there anything there you could polish up? Have a go at something completely new … remember the theme is TALKING THREADS – so we are looking for pieces with links to clothing, fabrics, quiliting, embroidery, sewing etc. etc. (they don’t have to be specifically about those things, but we need to be able to make the connecitons.)
Get creative, and either email new submissions to Chris or bring them along to a session between now and 30th November.
16th November 2016
At last week’s session, we decided that it was time to (literally!) move things along on the Rosa Napoli.
So … the next chapter or scene is a trip ashore; the ship is going to dock in Gibraltar (where, apparently, you have a long walk though customs).
What is your character going to get up to on dry land? As ever, look forward to hearing about it
9th November 2016
Carry on writing … the next scene in your character’s journey
2nd November 2016
Great Session as always last week – lots of great ideas re. our characters on the SS Rosa Napoli. We are enjoying them so much, we are going to carry on inventing new situations and encounters – so let let your imagination and creativity flow and bring the results along
19th October 2016
TALES FROM THE MUSEUM – Writing award presentations at High House Chapel (next door to the museum in Ireshopeburn) 1.30 p.m.
7th October 2016 – workshare
28th September 2016 – no session
21st September 2016
Some fantastic pieces re. what your characters did just before the first dinner on board the ‘SS Rosa Napoli’ … imaginations were well and truly fired!
So, we are continuing with this engaging soap opera. Next task is to take your character to that first meeting with the other guests and to write a paragraph (or two) about your encounter with the people sitting either side of you around the table. We did a rough diagram of the seating plan – my computer skills aren’t up to duplicating it, so hope you can all remember who you were sitting next to!
If everyone could email their first brief character study (i.e. not last week’s exercise, but the one before) to the group it would be really helpful – I’ll include Judy’s with mine.
Hope that all makes sense,
see you next Wednesday for the next instalment!
14th September 2016
Some great character studies came of last week’s session – what a fascinating collection of people, and we have already begun to forge some fictional links between them!
So, we have put them all together around a dinner table on a cruise ship (so they can’t escape!). This will be the first time they have all met. The task for this week is to write a paragraph or two describing what your character(s) are doing in the hour immediately PRECEDING this first meeting – so they are on the boat, getting ready or doing … whatever …!
Just a reminder of the characters: (this is just for info, you don’t actually need to remember anything about them, because YOUR character hasn’t encountered them yet.)
Jimmy and Babs (Susan – we decided Jimmy couldn’t possibly go on this cruise without BABs, and that they probably won it as a competition prize!)
+ Fay the waitress
If you weren’t at the session last week, doesn’t matter – feel free to fling a character into the mix.
7th September 2016
We’re still working on the theme of how a person, and what they have to say, comes across in different ways to different people and in varying contexts.
With that in mind, a reminder that the task for tomorrow is to create a character, and to describe that character as briefly and as accurately as you can (we had a great example from Geri last week).
Word of the week: SUCCINCT! Say as much as you can about your character in a short paragraph.
We also thought it would be useful to have a brief look at what competitions are around at the moment, and which ones might be good to enter.
24th August 2016
For the next session we are setting ourselves a dialogue/playwriting challenge! A character uses the same chat or small talk with different groups of people, each group reacts quite differently to what s/he has to say … So, quite a lot to get our writing heads around … First step and the ‘task’ in advance of Wednesday is to think about/invent the central character. Who is s/he? what does s/he talk about? etc. subsequently, we can think about refining the topic and about the groups encountered. This stems from a chance remark made by Avril last week (thanks Avril!). Looking forward to hearing your ideas.
Also, the editorial group had a very productive meeting after the session last week. A very clear ‘Talking Threads’ theme emerged from the submissions, which enabled us to make some important editorial decisions about content. Thank you to everyone.
See you on Wednesday, armed with characters,
17th August 2016
We had a great time reading the children’s writing award submissions last week, and two clear winners plus two more special commendations in each age group – which is good!
I haven’t been in touch with winners as the ones that were submitted via the schools don’t have contact details on them!
This week … shall we do some general writing exercises, plus work on table if anyone has been productive in the meantime? I think there is still a lot of mileage in invisible women!
REMINDER for those involved – we are holding our first editorial meeting after the session. Exciting stuff!
10th August 2016
Very much enjoyed the pieces about invisible women on Wednesday!
Next week, we need to spend most of the time looking at our writing award entries and making decisions about a shortlist.
ALSO … another reminder re. your anthology submissions: don’t forget to send them to the editors if you haven’t already done so.
3rd August 2016
Because had such a good time discussing the concept last week, the writing theme for this week is INVISIBLE WOMEN! Take that in whatever way you please!
Also, please don’t forget … We need to have your final submissions for the anthology BY THE END OF THIS WEEK (5th August) so that the editorial group can read them.
Please email your work to all of the editors: Sarah, Geri, Jenny, Susan, Chris … it will make our lives so much easier! Any problems, let Chris know.
27th July 2016
Some thought provoking discussion arising from the dialogue extracts we looked at last week, so this week we aim to do some practical writing exercises based on dialogue.
However, again this week, if you have any good/interesting/unusual examples that you think we would get something from, please bring with you on Wednesday.
20th July 2016
We didn’t get around to talking about what we want to do tomorrow, so shall we have a workshare session? Bring anything you’ve written and would like feedback on, or, indeed anything you’ve read that you think it would be good to look at.
13th July 2016
Some thought provoking discussion arising from the dialogue extracts we looked at last week, so this week we aim to do some practical writing exercises based on dialogue.
However, again this week, if you have any good/interesting/unusual examples that you think we would get something from, please bring with you on Wednesday.
6th July 2016
A good feedback session re. the workshop at Frosterley last week, looking forward to hearing how the sessions at St. John’s Chapel and Wearhead went this morning.
We made some decisions about the anthology/editorial process.
We are aiming to have the editorial work complete by the beginning of September; so there will be a series of editorial meetings, beginning on 27th July, and the editorial team will feed back any decisions etc. to the whole group in the session the following week.
TOMORROW …. we are going to take another look at writing dialogue, so if you have any good examples up your sleeve please bring them with you!
22nd June 2016
Another fruitful session on Wednesday – some REALLY interesting and poignant pieces based on memories.
In the next session we need to focus on the schools’ workshops – planning, tactics etc.
The first one is on Monday 27th at Frosterley School with Sarah, Katy and me and then Jenny and Avril will be at ST. John’s Chapel at the beginning of July.
It would be good to fit a couple more in if we can …
We also need to think about arranging some dates for editorial sessions for the anthology, so perhaps we can have a chat about that as well on Wednesday.
15th June 2016
Well! What can I say about last week’s session…
I’d just like to point out that it was Susan’s idea to do some exercises on erotic writing! Never has so much smudged mascara been seen in Stanhope Community Centre.
We’re going to carry on with some more random exercises this week, if you have the strength …
This is where you can see what we plan to do during the next session …. sometimes our ideas are quite specific and detailed, and sometimes …. not!
11th May 2016
Another entertaining session yesterday!
In case you haven’t picked up on it – the last instalment of our podcasts is now on Rachel’s website, so do have a listen.
I’ve emailed Frosterley School to suggest we do a couple of workshops there on Monday 20th June. Jenny has been contacted by St. John’s Chapel School and Frances is liaising with Wearhead – so that is all really encouraging, as is the great news that all of our primary schools are going to survive!
I don’t think we got around to discussing what we want to do next week, so shall we continue with the theme of taking an object and creating a story or poem from it?
OR if anything else comes to mind from what we have been doing or talking about lately (I can’t get Judy’s American observations out of my head!) then go for it, and we’ll have a work share next week.
A great session at the Weardale Museum last week; David and Jean Heatherington were wonderfully hospitable and we really enjoyed ourselves poking around and guessing the function of various weird and wonderful objects. There is also a tin trunk full of curiosities in my attic … ready to enthral unsuspecting children (any resemblance to the witch from Hansel and Gretel entirely coincidental …)
Word seems to be getting out about the Writing award, so let’s keep up the information drizzle!
Next week … general feedback session from the museum trip; start to make some plans re. workshops; If anyone has written something inspired by the objects or stories in the museum, please bring it along.
REMINDER REMINDER REMINDER ….
The session next week – 27th April – will be at THE WEARDALE MUSEUM, Ireshopeburn.
See you there!
At the last session, we decided that next week we would all bring a photograph in and do some writing in response to the images. Similarly, if you have a an anthology or album you would like to share, please bring it with you.
NB – change of date: we are now going to the Weardale Museum on WEDNESDAY 27TH APRIL (not 20th, as previously arranged).
Good news this week! The Weardale Area Action Partnership has awarded us a grant of £1,500 towards the publication of our anthology. We still have around £750 to find, but that is a substantial amount to put in the pot and get us going.
Please don’t forget about approaching local businesses, even if we can get a handful to sponsor us for £50 each it will really help.
CREATIVE WRITING AWARD (see Young Writers’ Award page)
We are steaming ahead with that as well. Information has been circulated to schools, along with a reminder about the creative writing workshops so if anyone is able to use their contacts to publicise the award that would be good.
SESSION AT WEARDALE MUSEUM
Is scheduled for Wednesday 20th April, in our normal session time. It will be a great opportunity to work somewhere different as well as get a feel for what is in the museum, which will help with the workshops. We can also have some input into what goes into the travelling tin trunk we are going to take to schools.
It was good to be able to spend some time discussing/feeding back on work in the last session, but we forgot to talk about what we want to do NEXT WEEK, so unless anyone has a brainwave in the meantime, can we say that we’ll have another general WORK SHARE session next time?
Hope that’s ok, see you then,
6th April 2016
Just a reminder of this week’s ‘themes’ …. LOST AND FOUND; MISALIGNED PERFORATIONS or, basically, anything inspired by any of the great pieces read last week …!
Do with that what you will, and look forward, as always, to seeing you on Wednesday.
p.s. our grant application will go to the appraisal panel tomorrow … fingers crossed …
30th March 2016
Some amazing pieces came out of our research – really varied and interesting.
This week is a general workshare – so bring along anything you have written, recently or from the back of the knicker drawer, to share with the group.
Otherwise, things are moving on. We can fix a date to go up to the Weardale Museum and start thinking about the schools’ workshops. Grant applications for the anthology … young Writers’ Award … busy, busy, busy!
16th March 2016
Well … we go so involved in our discussion about the value and ways of using research that we didn’t actually get round to any practical analysis/writing. I think it was worth it however, as it was a really interesting topic and a lot of incredibly worthwhile ideas and debate came out of it.
It was also good to talk to David about this year’s writing competition and put together some thoughts about that – feels as things are moving forward constructively. Definitely think we should decamp to the museum for inspiration ourselves one Wednesday morning!
SO … next session, let’s carry on with what we planned for the last one. If people could bring their pieces of factual material to the session again we’ll start by looking at and working with them.
9th March 2016
Lots of interesting results from our ‘Writing out of the Blue’ experiments last session!
Next week, we are going to focus on research: how much do you need to do? What part does/should factual accuracy play in our writing? How do we judge when something needs to be correct (historically, technically, environmentally etc.) and when can we allow ourselves more creative leeway? All really tricky stuff – the more I think about it, the more frequently questions pop up!
So … plan is that everyone should bring in a piece of factual information or research – something that you are interested in or that you might incorporate into a poem/story. We will then share them out, look at each others research, highlight what we think is important and compare notes. This could then lead on to some writing for the following week.
re. this year’s creative writing competition for children, David Heatherington of the Weardale Museum is going to call in for the last half hour of the session to have a chat about the competition.
2nd March 2016
Another constructive, enjoyable session this week, it felt as if we got a lot done, decisions made etc. (not to mention a bit of writing!)
Please do keep thinking about sponsorship possibilities – it’ll help with the grant applications.
The plan for next week, 2nd March is to do some more ‘writing out of the blue,’ so come with pencils ready sharpened!
REMINDER REMINDER REMINDER
next Wednesday (2nd) is our deadline for hard copies of work for the anthology so that the editorial group can make a start ASAP.
24th February 2016
Another really good session on Wednesday, I’ve really enjoyed listening to everyone’s work.
So … we’re on track, we have an editorial group, all systems go!
We will eventually need electronic copies of everything that is going to go in the anthology.
However, If you could submit a hard copy of your contributions for a couple of weeks’ time (march 2nd) that would be ideal as it would save me from an avalanche of printing at home.
See you next week, when we will get back to writing … some random exercises, I think!
REMINDER FROM JEREMY re. DRAMA IN THE DALE’S OPEN DAY
Drama in the Dale’s annual open day event is sunday 21st at St Thomas’
11-3 if anyone’s interested to come along/see what we’re doing. We’re performing
an extract of our upcoming Murder Mystery play which is an intriguing show!
17th February 2016
Brilliant session on Wednesday, it was great to hear all those poems and stories, some new some re-visited – we have got some fantastic material for the anthology.
We didn’t finish listening to everything, and not everybody could be there, so we are going to carry on next week. If you have any more pieces to be considered, please bring them in next week.
Really looking forward to round 2!
10th February 2016
So … 10th Feb. is our date for bringing work in for the anthology.
Really looking forward to seeing the range of pieces – and I know there is a lot of very high quality work out there, we need to get it published!
Don’t worry if you still have some polishing to do, there is time, it is more important at this stage to have a look at what we have got.
If you can’t make it on Wednesday let me know; you can email work or bring it in for the following week (it may well take us two sessions to get an idea of what’s what …)
27th January 2016
So …. this week a radio script! Let’s see if we can harness our fertile imagination constructively, put all those ideas into practice and come up with something amazing!
See you then
20th January 2016
REMINDER REMINDER REMINDER …
WORKSHOP with Caroline Beck on Writing for radio this Wednesday, 20th January.
Really looking forward to it … see you there.
13th January 2016
So …. for this session we are going to try an experiment!
Plan is to have a go at co-operative writing – creating a script between us, everyone to have an input. The scenario is ‘an emergency’ … to be penned with our usual peculiar brand of humour. Casualty’s got nothing on us!
ALSO we are forging ahead with plans for our anthology.
Plenty of thoughts re. funding and other ideas last week and we have an initial DEADLINE – February 10th – for everyone to bring in pieces of work that they want to be considered.
I will email reminders, but we are looking for submissions from everyone who comes along to the group, whether or not you have managed it regularly lately. If you can’t make the session on 10th, you can send or email work.
6th January 2016
HAPPY NEW YEAR to everyone!
Hope you have all had a splendid holiday.
For our next session we said we’d try and get our heads around various projects for 2016 (childrens writing comp., on-line magazine, anthology etc.) and do some general goal and deadline setting – as befits the first meeting of the new year!
Looking forward to seeing you on Wednesday,
So … next session is the last one for 2015
things to discuss:
– our anthology, let’s get it sorted next year!
– on-line magazine
– children’s writing competition 2016
BUT …MORE IMPORTANTLY
time to celebrate, bring nibbly bits as discussed this morning (I have napkins and plastic glasses!)
any good questions for an end of year literary quiz and your SECRET WRITER piece*
see you next week,
write up to four lines, prose or poetry, must be completely anonymous (so typing is better …)
bring along to meeting; we will all then try to idenitfy who has written each piece. Person who guesses most correctly wins a prize (maybe)
It’s a work share week this week!
Following on from Jeremy’s excellent workshop ….
1) the opening page of your novel: it needs to establish character and viewpoint and also be a page turner ….. no pressure then!
2) bring in an effective opening page from a published novel, one that really grabbed your attention …
3) and/or come along with any other work you want to share.
REMINDER … we’re going to meet next week (16th) and then take a break until Jan 6th.
Jeremy’s workshop on novel writing mark 2. We will be looking at:
* characterisation and development
* longer length, steadier pace
* personal style
* planning and plotting
a reminder of the tasks Jeremy set us :
write a list of all the main possessions of your central character (personal and other)
identify 3 KEY points in overall plot when things change, or surprise a character
write an opening paragraph that begins your novel with INTRIGUE and INTEREST.
We were going to have a go at writing poetry – specifically organising ideas into STANZAS of 2, 3 or 4 lines (couplet, tercet, quatrain), possibly, although not necessarily, with a rhyme scheme built in.
ALSO, Jeremy is going to give us some work to do in preparation for his follow-up session next week (2nd December) on novel writing.
General plan for next couple of sessions is to re-visit poetry, especially poetic forms.
As a starting point, it was suggested that we should all bring a copy of a poem that we particularly like for the group to look at/listen to on Wednesday.
After that, we may have a play around with composing a group poem as a warm up and then think about stanzas and given forms – so if there is anything specific you would like to have a go at come armed with some ideas!
COMING UP …
December 2nd, Jeremy is going to run a follow-up workshop on novel writing, thinking about voice etc. and will give us some tasks to go away with the week before that.
January 20th, Caroline Beck is going to give a workshop on writing for radio.
Another interesting session last week … great diversity of opinions on Alan Bennett’s ‘Talking Heads’ monologues … all good stuff!
The ‘task’ emerging from that was to try to not emulate his writing, but to learn from the techniques and devices he uses in creating our own radio monologues.
This is one of my favourite Alan Bennett quotes, from ‘The History Boys’:
‘History is a commentary on the various and continuing incapabilities of men.
What is history? History is women following behind with the bucket’.
Last week we listened to Julia Darling’s short radio play ‘Sealife’ which provoked some interesting thoughts and discussion. Next session we plan to extend our ideas re. radio drama and developing a distinctive ‘voice’ by listening to some extracts from Alan Bennet’s ‘Talking Heads’ (as in listening to the audio versions, not watching the TV versions!).
It might be interesting to start developing our own radio monologues
An interesting discussion last week re. writing for radio, looking at pros, cons, the potential for using the imagination in terms of setting, timing and characters plus pros, cons, scripts, tips, formatting etc.
It seems to be an area that has ‘grabbed’ people, so we are going to pursue it this week. The task we set ourselves was to write a short piece in a distinctive voice: a person (real or mythical), object, place … be as inventive as you like, see what you can get away with! So, this will be an introductory narrative or voice over that conveys as much info. as possible about the protagonist and their situation as economically as possible.
Or, if you prefer, carry on with the dialogue/subtext piece you began (or not!) last time.
Subtext + looking at writing for radio
We didn’t, in the end, get around to sharing our pieces of dialogue, so carry on with these for next week -experiment! Nothing actually needs to happen in your scene, so just focus on what the characters are actually saying.
At the end of last week’s session we decided to continue with dialogue/script writing.
the plan is to work on the dialogue we wrote last week building in a sense of anticipation/dramatic tension.
2 characters, A & B.
A has a secret
B knows something is going on and is trying to find out what it is
A is doing her best to prevent B from finding out.
Try writing the dialogue. The audience may or may not know what the secret is, interesting to think about how any prior knowledge affects an audience’s response to character ….
ALSO we will be critiquing Geri’s story in the session
At the end of last session we discussed various aspects of writing that people would like to pursue and concluded that there are two main strands: script writing/dialogue and poetry.
So … the plan is to work on each in ‘blocks’ (4 or 5 weeks, depending on how things go), beginning this week with script writing.
If you have any useful exercises/ideas tucked away, please bring them along to the session – if we don’t get around to using them on Wednesday I’m sure we will do so in future sessions.
Likewise, it might be helpful to look at examples of script or dialogue, so if there is a play or perhaps a piece of dialogue in a short story* that you admire please do bring an extract along.
- e.g. we did look at some prose dialogue by Raymond Carver, Hilary Mantel etc. (quite a while ago!) that read almost like a play script.
A Good day at St. John’s Chapel show – plenty of people read the letters, and commented on how good they were. Quite a few took flyers and expressed an interest in the group, so it was a v. useful profile-raising exercise.
Huge thanks to Katy and Denis for coming up early and sorting me out! Also to Geri, for manning the fort in the afternoon. And thanks to all readers/judges – it was a really hard job – I was worn out by the end of it, so next year when we get hundreds of entries ….. anyway, the young writers have now got their own page on this site.
This weeks’ session: I THINK we said we were going to carry on with the flash fiction (as we didn’t get any writing done last week), so bring in anything you have written plus any useful stimulus material – photos etc. and we’ll try going back on some of the exercises Amanda gave us.
Still flashing this week – we are enjoying it so much! Hope to post some examples on OUR WORK page soon. We also have important business to discuss re. the Writing Award and, of course, we need to read the entries and make our decisions; really looking forward to that!
The first podcast is now on Rachel’s website (www.rachelcochrane.com) – so do log on and listen! It looks and sounds really good. She will put our work on in about 4 different podcasts, this is only the first one – so if your work isn’t included it will be in the next ‘batch’.
NEXT SESSION… After a really good session with Amanda on flash fiction we decided to carry on in a similar vein. So, for next session please bring something in with you – an object, a photo etc. and the intention is that we will swap them around and experiment with varying different word counts.
We also need to discuss the Creative Writing award
Writing FLASH FICTION with Amanda Quinn.
29th July and 5th August
Really enjoyable session last week, working with Rachel Cochrane, recording our podcasts for her website and our own website. Looking forward to recording the rest this week (12th).
Thanks to Jeremy for a great workshop on 22nd.
Jeremy Warr will lead a workshop on beginning your novel – don’t miss it!
This is our deadline for bringing in work that you would like to read for the podcasts. It can still be a work in progress – there will be a couple of weeks grace for honing and polishing!
NEXT WEEK: On Wednesday Katy and Judy both distributed copies of their work for us to read so that we can give them some detailed feedback in the session on 1st July. Please don’t feel excluded if you haven’t got copies, we can organise extra ones on Wednesday. Feedback may not take the whole session, so if you have work of your own to bring in and share, please do.
DATES: we have some dates confirmed …
22nd July – Novel writing with Jeremy /warr
29th July and 5th August – podcast recording sessions with Rachel Cochrane
12th August – Flash fiction with Amanda Quinn
So … that is all excellent news!
Based on where we all are with our writing, it seems like a good time to start holding occasional ‘in depth’ critique sessions: if you have some writing that you would like to offer up for intensive critical surgery, mention it to the group then next session bring in copies of your work for people to take away with them, read, make notes on etc. for feedback the following week. We should probably undertake to read maximum of two in any one week, and obviously need to be a bit sensitive about the amount of material we expect people to read. That feels like a really positive step forward in terms of developing our work as a group as reading/seeing words on the page will enable us to deliver a qualitatively different level of criticism to listening to work read out in sessions.
Katy and Judy are going to bring copies of work in next week (24th June); the rest of the group can then read it at their leisure and offer considered feedback the following week (1st July).
Otherwise: NEXT WEEK will be a general workshare – bring work in progress, finished pieces etc.
We decided that next session would be devoted to a bit of consolidation … a round the table discussion of where we are, individually, with our writing plus some goal and deadline setting where it is needed.
We should also think about the writing award – publicity, going into schools etc.
The other thing we need to do is talk about our contributions to the podcast; I saw Rachel on Friday, she is quite flexible about timing so it will be down to us to set a schedule.
Do also bring in any work that you want to share.
Some great pieces came out of the ‘real stories’ as stimuli last week, so we decided to carry on working with STARTING POINTS.
The idea is that for the next session everyone should bring in a prompt (or three!) and we can take a look at them, discuss ideas and see if any will be a good basis for a story poem, etc.
GOOD NEWS …. we succeeded in our recent bid for funding, so that means we can go ahead with plans to work with Rachel on the podcasts and also on commissioning our table top ‘banner’ (I’m sure a better description exists … just haven’t quite found it yet!).
Some interesting, and thought-provoking, starting points to get us going last week … so the task for 3rd June session is to put some ideas together, start writing a piece that is based on an actual incident/character/report etc. and see where that takes you.
We were feeling a bit lacking in momentum on Wednesday (I blame the weather, it’s going backwards to winter … is there a song about that?) so thought it would be a good idea to re-visit some basics.
So – for the next couple of weeks we’re going to look at starting points.
For Wednesday’s session the focus will be using real incidents/characters, so bring in something that takes your eye from a newspaper, magazine, website, twitter etc. and we’ll see where we can go from there.
Update on other ‘stuff’:
* the organisers of St. John’s Chapel show are v. keen on our creative writing award for under elevens, so that is steaming ahead; Jenny has produced some fliers & is liaising with the school;
* Geri has come up with a gorgeous logo which works well when copied; just needs a tweak here and there and we’re sorted;
* Constitution also sorted and am in the process of organising a bank account so we can apply for funds re. Talking Threads and the podcasts asap;
* Have go some quotes from Lintons Printers in Crook so we know what to apply for!
And the theme for this week is ….. preconceptions!
have you been a ‘victim’ of somebody else’s preconceived idea of you? Have you had your own preconceptions overturned when you got to know a person or situation better?
Or you could invent a story based on a preconception …
The theme for this week: THE LETTER I ALWAYS WANTED TO SEND
see link to the feature in The Guardian on Saturdays for inspiration http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/series/aletterto
Last week a few issues came up concerning the direction of the group and future plans/projects, so we thought that it would be a good idea to allocate some time to ‘business’ this week when more people are able to attend. That shouldn’t take up the whole session, so please bring any work you want to share with you as well.
Another work share session this week.
Following a really interesting and productive session with Rachel, our brief for next week is to each bring in two pieces of work (or more, if you have more … we can see how the time goes and play that one by ear) that you think you would like to read for a podcast. We’ll share around the table and see if a theme emerges rather than try to force one. In the meantime, have a look at and listen to Rachel’s website – Get Your Words Out/Listen Up North – http://www.rachelcochrane.com
p.s. – It’s also Carol’s birthday!
Rachel Cochrane is coming to talk to the group about her writing website and to explore the possibliities for us to produce a series of podcasts based on our own writing, specifically TALKING THREADS; the podcasts would be available as a link from this website as well as from Rachel’s own. There is no need to have anything prepared, it will be very much a development of ideas type session, but have a think about what you would like to contribute.
Carry on with the memoir writing and we’ll find time to listen to any work in that you want to share with the group, either this week or next. We also plan to look at ways of working from photographs or pictures, so bring in a photograph you would like to use … or bring a few so that we can share them around.
a bit late posting this week …. but continuing from the wonderful pieces people contributed in the last session, some consolidation. We’ll look at extracts from some published memoirs and discuss their effectiveness as pieces of writing. Please bring in anything from your bookshelves to share with the rest of the group!
feedback session; bring in any work you want to share with the rest of the group
Continuing work on memoir writing – using personal prompts. Something that is important to you, as a memory, aide memoir for a story from your life, piece of family history etc. etc. Think about the ‘W’ questions first – Who, What, When, Where, Why; move on to sense memory, and then emotional recall and lasting consequences (helps to give your memoir some structure)
Work on memoir writing – in a fairly broad, general sense. Ways of using personal experience to inform our writing, whether in a fictionalised context or as straightforward memoir.