January 2020 Courses: I’m teaching six creative writing courses for the Workers’ Educational Association in the New Year. Each course will cover a range of topics with plenty of prompts and exercises to get you writing and improve your skills. If you’d like to know more please contact me or click on the links below:
Creative Writing at Boldon and Cleadon Community Library (Mondays 10.00am-12.00pm starting 13 January).
Enjoy Creative Writing at South Shields Museum (Tuesdays 10.30am-12.30pm starting 14 January).
Creative Writing at Women’s Health in South Tyneside (Tuesdays 1.00pm-3.00pm starting 14 January – for women and WHiST members only).
Creative Writing at Brunswick Methodist Church (Wednesdays 10.30am-12.30pm starting 8 January).
Improvers Creative Writing at Brunswick Methodist Church (Wednesdays 1.00pm-3.00pm starting 8 January).
Creative Writing at Morpeth Methodist Church (Fridays 10.00am-12.00pm starting 24 January).
All courses run for 10 weeks and cost £70 (or free to those on income related benefits – find out if you’re eligible here).
MaGPiE: Since September, I’ve been working with Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums on the Museums and Galleries Partners in Education (MaGPiE) project. It’s funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation Teacher Development Fund which aims to embed learning through the arts in schools. I’m one of three artist practitioners working with teachers to explore ways to develop children’s creativity and communication skills. To do this, we’re using some amazing resources from local museums and archives – just look at these ready-made writing prompts from the Shipley Art Gallery:
It’s been fascinating to collaborate with artists from other disciplines and see how they approach being creative as well as with some inspirational teachers. In December, I visited some of the schools involved to see how trying new approaches works in practice. I enjoyed watching children find magic objects in Hawthorn Primary School’s forest school (‘What’s your object?’ ‘A leaf.’ ‘Does it have any magic powers?’ ‘No, it’s a leaf.’) and choosing how to represent an animal without drawing or making a model of it at Canning Street Primary School where a plan to make a trunk to represent an elephant grew into… a model of an elephant. Examples which demonstrate something I return to frequently in my work – that there’s no wrong way to be creative.
Writing: The above (and, let’s be honest, Twitter and FreeCell) means I haven’t spent much time writing in the last year, but I have revised and submitted some women’s magazine stories and a couple of pieces of flash fiction. In October, I had a story published in Ireland’s Own magazine and I’ve sent a 500 word story to a new market – Yours Fiction (you can find submission and other information about them on the ever-useful Womagwriter Blog). Also, in November, a poem I’d submitted to a National Book Tokens competition received a special mention from Pam Ayres! You can read it (and what Pam said about it) here. It’s worth subscribing for emails from National Book Tokens website for their competitions as well as the maddening but addictive Hidden Books Game.
My story on www.paragraphplanet.com in November.
Other Stuff: I’ve appreciated Nikesh Shukla’s writing tip emails which are packed with useful information and inspiring prompts. Sign up (and read previous copies) here.
I’ve also been reading a lot of memoirs and biographies – my favourites this year have been The Salt Path by Raynor Winn, The Language of Kindness by Christie Watson, I’m Not With the Band by Sylvia Patterson, A Life in the Day by Hunter Davies, Going on the Turn by Danny Baker, and Lifting the Latch by Sheila Stewart. Online, I’ve enjoyed the micro-poetry published by Black Bough Poetry (‘Only the most compressed, the most pristine, the most vivid, make the cut.’). Their latest submission call is for a ‘Deep Time’ edition inspired by Robert Macfarlane’s work Underland. Poems need to be submitted between the submission window of Sun 1st March-Sun 8th March and must not exceed fourteen lines.
That’s it from me for now. Best wishes for the festive season and the new year.