Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Life Listing Exercise

Back to school! Start of the new year! Got to plan a wonderful series of creative writing classes. Try starting with an exercise that works wonders for both timid newbies and experienced writers and also can lead to further inspiration and production.

This is a particularly good way to get students into their own private store of writing sparks.  In two stages, the process stirs, then stirs again, allowing the writer to discover more to say than he or she thought possible.

Stage 1.  List six objects you remember from childhood.  (Someone will ask, I usually say under the age of ten).  Give 5 minutes for this; if some get only to three or four that’s fine. 

Stage 2.  Sit back, study the list.  Choose one to write on, the one that speaks to you most at this moment.  Another time it might be another one, but right now, choose one and start writing.  You might want to bubble first, or maybe it’s ready to come flowing out, just write.  A paragraph is fine, more if you want to.  Allow 10, 15 or even 20 minutes for this.

What’s the point?  These can be left as riffs only, or they can be a springboard to evocative short stories, poems or plays.  Students are often amazed at the excellence of their own and their classmates’ pieces.

From the Stimulus section, Life Listing is exercise 7 in paperback and 8 in ebook versions of Creative Writing; the Matirx/the Quick Matrix. Beyond that there are other exercises not in either book here in this blogsite. Just scroll to the Labels list and call up Exercises. Happy teaching -- and writing -- see you later in the year.

ONLY £7.00
Special half-price reduction, on Amazon, click here. Paperback only for UK distribution.
 Quick Matrix ebook is £2.99 available everywhere.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Reviving rant exercise

Summer term -- revving up? Or running out of steam? Or some of each? Here's some fuel and some news.

NEWS first: on my Paxton Publishing website I used to post a termly freebie extract exercise from Creative Writing the Matrix (or Quick Matrix in ebook). But that site has now morphed into a more pukka independent author-publisher website. It features the two Matrix books and the 9th May 2016 publication of The Extraordinary Dr Epstein paperback. click here to have a look. It's pretty, with photos of the Chiswick House and Gardens famous camellias and magical glass house. Gardener par excellence Joseph Paxton is my inspiration.

So... I will now put the termly freebie exercise extracts here on this blogsite. Starting with...

This is a short, energy-filled exercise that requires absolutely no preparation on your part. Have students list five pet peeves, things that really bug them, like people who litter, marketing phone calls etc. Or tell them to list household chores you loathe. Then direct students to choose one, and let rip in a rant, pen on paper (much more freeing than fingers on keyboard). Encourage them to be as wild and exaggerated as they like. If you wish, start them off: I can't stand people who... OR I really hate it when...  

What's the point? This is great fun for letting off steam. And when read out, good for laughter in class. There's a lot of power in the negative. The extremes could also be the basis for a neurotic, eccentric or weird character.

The Rant is exercise 36 in paperback and 38 in ebook; PS you can see lots more on Amazon's Look Inside feature here. The print book, with 116 exercises and lectures, is available only in the UK. The ebook, worldwide. Besides that, there are loads of exercises not in either book here in this blogsite. Just scroll down to the blog archive and call up Exercises on the Labels list. Have a good end-of-year and a happy creative summer. See you in September -- early enough for prepping.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Author enrichment

How to rev up your creative writing students, and yourself, midway through the year? Curriculum enrichment. As a writer who teaches creative writing (yes? that's you?) or a teacher of creative writing who loves writing, surely you go to literature and writing festivals. Locally -- there are so many these days -- or the bigger ones (Hay, Chichester, Brighton etc). And among your friends and former students you know authors, too...? From these sources, invite an author or several to come to your college or wherever it is you teach to talk about their writing and publishing experiences. Many authors will happily do this for no fee (so long as they can sell their books at the mini-event), or possibly for expenses. Many will be thrilled to be asked!

Like me. Along with three other authors, all of us former tutors or students at this local college, we are giving an evening's panel discussion on How to Publish Your Book I no longer teach there, but I still love the place. And hope that we provide 'yes, you can' inspiration for current and future aspiring writers.
Clockwise from top left: Diane Chandler (The Road to Donetsk), Jacqui Lofthouse (The Modigliani Girl), Susan Lee Kerr (The Extraordinary Dr Epstein) and Stephanie Zia (Self-Publishing EBooks and Blackbird Digital Books publisher)