Thursday, 29 January 2009

Share the goodies

Tis the season... to turn your students on to the joys of the residential writing experience.

Arvon and Ty Newydd are the two main organisations (that I know of -- please tell me of others!) that run weekend or 5-day courses, deep in the countryside. They've recently released their 2009 programmes: inspiring reading.

Of course YOU've probably been on and/or know of these. I'm always surprised when an aspiring writer has never heard of them. But then... once it was new to me too. My first go was Arvon in Lumb Bank, near Heptonstall -- ah yes, the pilgrimage to Sylvia Plath's grave, the chill and the rain, and most of all -- the company of poets! And leadership of real published poets -- Anne Stevenson and Fred D'Aguiar it was.

What a confirmation of being 'a real writer' the residential is. I also tell students that it is an excellent way to get to know the real world of getting published, and to make contacts in that world. And I do caution them -- though you'll have an inspiring time, don't expect to get a lot of writing done. It's more for stimulation than retreat.

Friday, 23 January 2009

The Glastig and what she did

I substituted for my over-committted (a film script meeting!) teaching buddy again. Decided to KISS (keep it simple, stupid) after my last ad hoc was too complex for me to get across quickly. (see blog of 11/05/08)

Monsters and Fabulous Creatures was the subject. Using definitions from the Wordsworth Word Finder, a reference book I've had for years, a treasure trove of unusual and technically precise words arranged under categories.

Within an hour we had tall tales, a bizarre news report, strange experiences and -- transposing the stimulus -- a character sketch. The 'sharing the journey' issue came up (see blog of 11/12/08), so, yes, when asked, I read out what I'd done, and here it is. Just in time for Burns' Night.

The Glastig
How did I get here?
Winding roads, wrong turns,
my arthritis playing up and then
– the right way! She was so kind
and Celtic. That porcelain skin,
the dusting of freckles,
the lilt in her soft voice, och ay!

How did I get here?
Bloody hell, ten miles wrong,
my rucksack strap broken, blister
on my heel. She was so kind,
dressed in green, a local for sure.
When I looked back I saw her leap
up to a rock. Her laughter bleated.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Teaching aids

Happy New Term. Some started last week, some this, some next... and this time of year we all need new juice. So stock up on art postcards for class materials! There's time to catch exhibitions that close mid-January... and to recce the new openings due late Jan/early Feb. Some I've just seen in London:

The National Gallery's Renaissance Faces -- so many character beginnings you can make from a good face.

The Royal Academy's Byzantium -- it has numerous fantastical animals; I have one exercise where I get people to make up a beast's name and invent its habits, history and lore. This can turn into a poem or a tale.

I have just discovered the Pangolin Gallery at the new King's Place, near King's Cross -- its current small sterling silver sculptures are rife with story if you set an exercise with that end in mind.

So build up your collection of inspiring postcards and treat yourself and your students to some new stimulus. If you are a truly free freelance tutor, some of the purchase expenses may be tax deductable (check this with your accountant or tax inspector). As well as buying art postcards you can cut out pics from brochures and paste them on index cards. (Or from websites, but it is more soul-and-creative feeding to go out to galleries). Happy new writing!