Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Setting goals for writers

After tackling the Inner Critic in last week's class -- we each even interviewed our own, Jeremy Paxman style -- we ended with that Waterstone's story-on-a-(large)-postcard competition. Some felt pleased enough to read out; I hope they entered them!

Of course these in-class quickies do not suit all writing students, and can't be counted on to produce anything useable. But sometimes the rush is just the trick for a nearly-finished little piece. Or the results are worth further development.

Speaking of competitions, don't forget the Bridport Prize, deadline 30th June. Not for the slap-dash entry, encourage all writers to polish, polish, polish their up-to 5000 words (or 42 lines of poetry). This has major prizes (1st = £5000), major judges (Helen Simpson, David Harsent) and gets serious publishing attention.

You can make a whole lesson, or series, out of competitions, analyzing their anthologies, determining the differences between 2000 word limits and 5000 word limits etc.

I usually issue a handout each term listing top competitions, heading it 'Set Your Goals'. Time to update it... watch this space.

Meanwhile, by the end of our Critic interviews most of us managed to get a grudging compliment from the monster.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Grrrrr: the critic within

Teaching tomorrow, the great gang of writers who have kept their own workshop going for two years. I'm doing 'Dealing with the Critic Within' this time; most of these writers have had that session, but hey, it was years ago. Besides, aren't we all, all the time, parrying our foe, the Inner Critic -- and he/she/it keeps cropping up in sneaky disguises. As a private class of long-time writers we have the luxury of time and experience, so I plan to take us right into the dialogue with the Critic, once identified. (Plug: it's in my book.)

H.A. Klauser's book, Writing on Both Sides of the Brain, (listed in last week's blog) is where I turned on to this amazingly helpful approach.

We'll also do a short bit of freewheeling writing from a prompt. And yesterday I spotted Waterstone's Tell Us Your Story competition, so I plucked a bunch of their postcard forms and with the help of two stimuli (character & setting) we'll have a go. Nothing like a deadline for spurring us on: it's the next day! For those who don't fancy flash fiction it'll just be a character-exploring exercise.

I'm having a whale of a time with Write a Novel in a Month -- complete and utter rubbish is spewing from my 3 x 15 minutes slabs per day. But at least it is spewing: oh, the joy of permission to write rubbish. Take THAT you 'ol Critic, you.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

How-to-write books as sources

Here are some of my favourite books for writers which I recommend to students. I've been inspired by them for myself, and adapted from them for class exercises -- and gained permissions and given thanks for this in my book of exercises for tutors. So if you want to grow your shelf, and yourself, have you seen:

Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, Shambhala, Boston, 1986.
Writing on Both Sides of the Brain by Henriette Anne Klauser, HarperCollins, New York 1986.
Writing for Your Life by Deena Metzger, HarperSanFrancisco, New York, 1992.
Fiction Writer's Workshop by Josip Novakovich, F+W Publications, Cincinnati, 1998.
The Weekend Novelist by Robert J Ray and Bret Norris, A&C Black, London 2005.

There are lots of other sources, including books, authors, poets and more in the bibliography at the back of Creative Writing: the Matrix.

I would like to add a links page to this blogspot, full of useful sites to creative teachers. If YOU have favourite creativity & creativity-teaching books or websites to share, do let me know by post-comment.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Writing a novel, writing poetry

What to do when you're not teaching? Write, of course. Or get some juice by becoming a writing student -- that's what I'm doing this week.

Write-a-novel-in-a-month course -- well, not really, but we can dream, and generate lots of rubbish writing to then edit into something. This is a jump in and swim class a colleague has been teaching for a while. I don't have a laptop though, and prefer creating in longhand anyway, so I expect writer's cramp will be a main result of the five session course.

The other is a Sunday afternoon poetry workshop taught by an established poet. I love mucking about with words and shaping them.

Don't forget the Bridport competition deadline 30 June

Helpless without pc... my email decided not to send anymore, so off we go to my little computer shop. I hope it won't take long, it is such a big part of everyday life.