"A word after a word after a word is power" - Margaret Atwood


A blog for readers and writers

A blog about the stories we tell each other and how we tell them...

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Why you hate twitter. In 140 characters or less.

Free to enter. Fun to enter.
Other people do crosswords, writers work on sonnets or competitions like this.
Words with Jam are giving away three mugs (who said you were going to get rich as a writer). All you have to do is tell in exactly 140 characters (including spaces and punctuation) why you hate TWITTER. Simple as that.
Entries should be sent in the body of an email  tdanny@wordswithjam.co.uk. (I'm told attachments will be mortared all to hell.) Closing date 5th of September
Why not...if you complete a crossword, you just complete a crossword....

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Writing like Mo Farah runs - Making sense of the Olympics

The Olympics  are over and it's all right to go back to watching ordinary TV. The news returns to workaday-economic-disaster and ice caps melting faster than we thought.

My husband's almost glad: he feared that taekwondo was going to be too steep a learning curve. In 17 days he had mastered the nicities of dressage and dive scoring and came to understand the concentration required in clay shooting. For one brief glorious moment he knew what it meant to be a coxless pair with the taste of victory in your mouth and experienced the thrill of escaping elimination in cycling contests, but he wasn't sure he was going be a good enough spectator for the taekwondo contestants. 

As a novice watcher I wasn't so worried, most sport is a mystery to me, but I was transfixed by the stories acted out in front of us in real time each day. I was learning a lot too about crises and climaxes, character development and story arcs.

If you are a writer who wants to write a page-turning unputdownable epic, I recommend watching Mo Farah's 5000 metres race. It was suspense distilled into 13:41.66 minutes.

Here's part of Carol Ann Duffy's take on what we have just lived through. It's got a punch big enough for a boxing gold.

A summer of rain, then a gap in the clouds
and The Queen jumped from the sky
to the cheering crowds.
               We speak Shakespeare here,
a hundred tongues, one-voiced; the moon bronze or silver,
sun gold, from Cardiff to Edinburgh
               by way of London Town,
on the Giant's Causeway;
we say we want to be who we truly are,
now, we roar it. Welcome to us.
We've had our pockets picked,
               the soft, white hands of bankers,
bold as brass, filching our gold, our silver;
we want it back.
We are Mo Farah lifting the 10,000 metres gold.
We want new running-tracks in his name.
For Jessica Ennis, the same; for the Brownlee brothers,
Rutherford, Ohuruogu, Whitlock, Tweddle,
for every medal earned,
we want school playing-fields returned.

Read the rest of it in The Guardian

And it starts again on August 29 with more heroes and heroines telling more stories...

Monday, 6 August 2012

The worst thing a student could do in a creative writing class?

Cathy Dreyer - a student on Oxford University’s Undergraduate Diploma in Creative Writing - posted her suggestion here in a LOL short story that won a £50 prize. Students do not copy! (the story or the way the protagonist handed in homework).

Meave Binchy quote about ducks and women and how it should be

 In my stories, the ugly ducklings don't grow up to be beautiful swans, they grow up to be confident ducks!

CREATIVE WRITING in Brighton and London

Since my last post was about the arguments regarding whether creative writing can be taught, I suppose it's not surprising that I should be thinking about the courses that I will be running in Brighton and Central London in the autumn - although I haven't actually been away this summer yet.
Courses take a lot of planing and ideas for new exercises and new approaches to familiar subjects come from a diverse range of sources - a chance remark, a photograph, an article in Sunday supplement.
Last night after a dinner party I suddenly saw how I could use titles from Philip K. Dick's books to spark new and original writing and went straight to my laptop to plan a lesson instead of heading for the kitchen sink and the washing up...can't think why. What's else on offer next term?
Halloween and all things ghoulish, creating believable baddies, discovering how being in the moment can aid description and two entirely new courses - nature writing on the edge of the Sussex Downs and a lunch hour course in central London for busy writers who just want/need to go home after work.

I am also very glad to be running a course on writing the biography of your family again. There's nothing as interesting as people and I meet some fascinating characters in the classroom - the fact that some of them have been dead a couple of hundred years doesn't make any difference.
While the course is aimed at anyone who wants to put flesh on the bare bones of family history - a list of dates of births, deaths and marriages reveals very little by itself - it is also suitable for students who want to write the life story of a parent or grandparent.

Get in touch if you'd like to find out more. 


Creative Writing – an introduction MONDAY MORNINGS
It doesn’t matter if you haven’t written since school - come along and discover the writer within on this confidence-building 10 week course starting on October 1st 2012
South Portslade Community Centre
www.portslade.org 01273 422632 or email comed@paca.uk.com

Creative Writing – advanced THURSDAY MORNING or AFTERNOON
An imaginative 10 week course designed to offer support and inspiration to the emerging writer. Morning and afternoon sessions available  starting on  October 4th 2012
South Portslade Community Centre
www.portslade.org 01273 422632 or email comed@paca.uk.com

Writing from Nature at Foredown Tower SIX WEEK COURSE
Take inspiration from the natural world, and look at the familiar in new ways at this unique site on the edge of the South Downs. This is a short Wednesday morning course starting on November 7th 2012
www.portslade.org 01273 422632 or email comed@paca.uk.com

Help! I Want To Be Published!  FIVE WEEK COURSE
A short course for aspiring fiction and non fiction writers that combines practical guidance on the nitty gritty of getting published with advice on how to make your writing stand out for all the right reasons.
Starting on November 6th at the Friends Centre, near Brighton Station.
www.friendscentre.org 01273 810210


Fit creative writing into your busy day in central London. A relaxed, informal rolling programme for writers of all levels of experience who enjoy being thrown new ideas and experimenting with poetry and prose. This Friday lunchtime class starts on September 28th 2012 at City Lit in Holborn.

Writing Your Family Biography
A non-fiction course for students who want to learn how to use writing techniques to transform the bare bones of family history into a gripping read.
This Friday afternoon course starts on September 14th  2012 at City Lit in Holborn.

Ways into Creative Writing
An imaginative and supportive course covering prose writing and poetry -suitable for the beginner
This Friday evening course starts on September 14 2012 at City Lit in Holborn.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Can creative writing be taught?

No one wonders why an aspiring artist should want to go to art school or thinks there is anything strange about a musician taking lessons, but 80+ years after the first university creative writing programme was launched the debate about whether creative writing can be taught still rages on.
Author and editor Louis Menand writing in the New Yorker in 2009 questioned the way creative writing is taught

Creative-writing programs are designed on the theory that students who have never published a poem can teach other students who have never published a poem how to write a publishable poem.


British screenwriter and author Hanif Kureishi - of My Beautiful Laundrette and The Buddha of Suburbia fame - seems to find very little of value in any creative writing course. His observations are much ruder and considerably less funny. I can't help wondering how the post grad creative writing students he supervises  at Kingston University feel about his assertion that such courses only attract the mad.
I've put the other side of the argument (surprise, surprise) in the latest issue of What the Dickens creative writing magazine. You can download it for free at
Or buy it for your kindle at £1.53 or $2.99
There's lots more to read in the summer sunflower issue - from author interviews to reviews and craft articles. Plus a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes at a new writing website that offers intriguing against-the-clock writing exercises.


Have a peek at my article and then come back here. I'd love to know what you think, especially if you've ever been on a creative writing course (including one of mine!)
Did it boost your writing self confidence or undermine it? Did you pick up new skills and have you written more since going on the course?
(Gulp!) Could Hanif be right?