It’s been a while since I last updated my blog and everything is now, of course, very different. So, first of all, I hope this finds you safe and well. With schools shut, I’ve been busy looking after my 9 year old. It’s meant I haven’t had much time to write, although I’ve learnt all sorts of other stuff like how to calculate perimeters and the days of the week in Spanish. It’s also meant I’ve really appreciated those times when I’ve been able to shut myself away with my notebook. I hope you’ve been able to find some moments of peace and enjoyment over the last few months as well.
My much missed notebook and empty diary. That it says ‘March 2020’ on the front is a sign of how little it contains.
Writing Courses: My Workers’ Educational Association creative writing courses were cut short by lockdown and I was sorry not to able to say goodbye to most of my students or let them know what was likely to happen with future courses. So, I’m pleased to have some new WEA creative writing courses starting in August and September. They’ll be online (via Zoom) and will mostly run at the same times as my previous courses which means, if you’ve studied with me before, you should be able to sign up with your usual group. I’ll also have new timeslots on Thursday mornings and Wednesday evenings. Once they’re open for enrolment, I’ll share the details here and on Twitter (@amandaqwriter). You can also sign up to my (very occasional) newsletter to get information about courses emailed directly to you.
Writing: Most of the work I’ve had published recently has been inspired in some way by family stories or photographs. For the last few years, I’ve been intermittently working on writing up my grandma’s life story. There’s not much information to go on – a few typed pages and handwritten notes – but I’ve enjoyed filling in the gaps and researching the places and people she mentions. I wrote about this for Mslexia’s For the Love of It slot which looks at the writing people do without the expectation of being published. The article is in the most recent Mslexia (Issue 86) if you’d like to read it.
The box of papers my grandma left me. She’s second from left in the front row of the photograph.
Writing the Mslexia piece made me reflect on how much of my fiction is inspired by family stories and how I always end up with something that bears little relation to the original facts. For example, it was a story of my grandma’s (about a man who asked her to emigrate with him to Canada) that inspired my story 14 May 1952 (published in Severine). The man disappeared at some point, though, and it turned into another story altogether. I wrote Every Other Sunday (published in Splonk Issue 3) after my mum told me about visiting her shell shocked grandfather. Family Album (in the National Flash Fiction Day Anthology 2020) was based on a family photo of a rainy childhood trip to Blackpool, with the lives and motivations of the characters being transformed as I wrote and re-wrote the piece.
Keeping a record: Are you keeping a diary at the moment? I’m not, although I’ve written some pandemic inspired pieces including a haiku which was published on Across the Social Distances (incidentally, if you’re interested in writing haiku then have a look at the fantastic winning entries from the recent Lit and Phil competition as well as this useful brief guide to the form which was included with the competition guidelines). I also enjoyed an inspirational lockdown poetry workshop with Kate Clanchy where she shared some brilliant poems written by the young people she’s been working with as well as some great prompts and exercises. You can watch a recording of this excellent workshop here.
Finally – although I’ve not yet had chance to do my own sheet – I love artist and writer Helen Shaddock’s Locked in-Lockdown diaries project which invites you to write and draw pictures about the your day on a single page. You can find out more about it and download your own diary template at New Writing North’s website.