Archives for posts with tag: writing

So the group’s homework this month caused us some trouble. We’d been looking at Writing Maps for a source of inspiration and I’d brought along the character map this time. (The previous month’s homework had used the My Writing Life map which had resulted in several stories that could all have been set in the same tropical hotel – weird.) We picked the challenge ‘Sit with your character on a park bench and talk about love’. The idea is to use a character that you’ve found for a piece of work – a novel, short story or whatever – and use the exercises to delve deeper and get to know that person. One of us actually did this and found it hard, partly because of that thing that makes your characters an extension of yourself. How much will you actually discuss with them. Another group member went the other way and told a rather sweet story about two characters, one strangely silent, in the park and a monologue about love. It’s only at the end she revealed the other character was a Labrador. For my story, I wasn’t ready to use my existing character, Valerie. So I invented a scenario based on some work I’d done in the day job about a children’s bereavement charity and turned it into a stand alone story. Here’s my effort:

We usually came to the park, the two of us. It had become a regular trip, while his aunt took her daughter to dance lessons.

“He’ll just be bored,” Jo, his aunt and my friend, had said, “and it gives him a chance to talk to someone new, someone who isn’t family. Are you sure you don’t mind?”

“I’d like to help,” I said. “And give you a hand. He’s a nice kid.”

We’d come to the park the first time, I’d brought a football with me in case Alex had wanted a kickabout. He hadn’t. We watched the ducks and the people, casual, no pressure. I left my own daughter with her dad, wanting Alex to feel like this was his time.

“I want to spend more time with him,” Jo had said to me when I first ventured to take him out. “I talk a bit at bedtime but you know what it’s like the rest of the time here – work, school, Brownies, golf, zumba, football…” she looked a bit despairing. I knew she’d been happy to take her sister’s son in after Jessica died but to go from being an only son to competing with your cousins for affection and time at the same time as dealing with the death of your mum, well, it would be hard on anyone wouldn’t it? And he was only ten. Jo couldn’t put everyone else’s life on hold while she sorted him out. So I stepped in. It was only six weeks since Jessica had died. He’d been quiet and polite. Hardly said anything. It was understandable. There was a lot on his mind.

This was our third trip out. He was getting used to me. Today we had an ice cream from the van and sat on a bench licking. I decided not to say anything. He sat and stared at the pond, thinking hard. Eventually he raised his head and spoke.

“The nurses said she was glad to die,” he said. “One nurse. She said it was a blessing that it was over.” He spoke quietly, but the pain was written all over his face. He must have been living with this ever since.

“Do you think that’s true?” he asked. He turned to me. I couldn’t bullshit him. There was no comforting platitudes that would work here. Only the truth.

“No, I don’t,” I said. I sat for a moment. How best to explain this?

“I think the nurse said that because your mum would have been in pain near the end and that this was the only way the pain would end. I think she meant it to be comforting – you wouldn’t want your mum to be constantly in pain would you?” He shook his head but waited for me to go on.

“I don’t think she wanted to die. If it was me, I know I wouldn’t. She wouldn’t ever have wanted to leave you.” We were sitting, both very still, only our hair moving with the breeze.

“Since I became a mum I’ve been very aware that at some point I will die. You read all these articles and books and they tell you how you can make sure your baby is looked after, that you worry about the baby dying but no one ever tells you that you look at your own death in a different way too. I don’t ever want to die and leave my baby behind. I don’t want to miss anything about her life. I think that’s what your mum felt too. She didn’t want to leave you, to miss seeing you grow up.”

He sat with his head down, staring at the grass. His ice cream cone hung from his hand.

“If it was me, I’d be furious. I bet she lay in her hospital bed raging against the disease, against the doctors, against the drugs, screwing up all her energy in hating the illness that was going to take her away from you. I think she might have been glad to get past the illness, to get past the pain and the inconvenience and the fear but I know she’d never be glad to die and to be away from you. I think she was furious about that. I know I would be. It’s so fucking unfair.”

A passing older couple looked at me sharply for swearing in front of a child. I stared back. This was one occasion where I felt it was appropriate. I looked back at Alex. He was crying.

“Oh sweetheart,” I said and took him in my arms. He sobbed for a long time and all I could do was hold him.

Eventually he pulled away, snot and tears mixing in a gloop that stuck to my coat.

“Sorry,” he said and tried to brush it off before realising that might look odd. He pulled his hand away quickly.

“It’s ok.” He nodded.

I picked up our discarded cone pieces that had fallen to the floor. Once I’d placed them in a bin I looked at him.

“Race you to that tree,” I said. He smiled. A bit of pounding exercise should be just the thing. We went.

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My apologies for there being no September meeting but what with the exciting launch of Nottingham’s Festival of Words and my general exhaustion it seemed easier to call it off. But we’re back and raring to go this month! (Did you notice how positive I sounded there – yep, high on caffeine again.) So here are the meeting dates for the rest of the year!

Wednesday 10 October

Wednesday 14 November

and Wednesday 12 December

No homework planned yet though I think we should do something suitably festive for December. Suggestions on a comment/ tweet etc please.

All meetings are, as usual, at Lee Rosy’s tea rooms and kick off at 7pm. New members always welcome – bring a pen & paper!

See you soon!

Punning has never been my strong point – I can only apologise for the above. Anyway, after a break in May from Rosy’s (all the way across the road to the Broadway’s Mezz bar) we return to our hone for June’s meeting.

20th June at 7pm, Lee Rosy’s tea rooms

Here’s your homework:

Write a reinterpreted version of Oscar Wilde’s The Nightingale and the Rose in around 500 words.

You can find the story here:

www.literaturecollection.com/a/wilde/330

There’s lots of scope for different readings of this so go mad.

July’s homework will be to rewrite your story following feedback from the rest of the group.

Sound ok? See you there!

Happy New Year all! Thanks to all of you who have come along to the writing group so far – it’s been really enjoyable and useful for me so far and great to meet you all. I hope it’s as useful for you too. For any newbies who want to join us, please do! Here are the details of the next couple of groups – all welcome.

Wednesday 11 January at 7pm, at Lee Rosy’s tea rooms, Broad Street, Nottingham.

Your homework for this is to write a 500 word (max) description of your front room. THEN, write a 500 word (max) description of it so that the reader can tell what has just occurred in it. Does that make sense? Think of something that moight have happened and describe the effects that has had on the appearance of the room.

At the group we’ll read them out and compare – this can be scary if you’re not used to it but I promise we’ll be helpful and friendly about anything you want to share.

February’s meeting will be a workshop from local author Megan Taylor. (This is the workshop that was postponed from November’s meeting.) She’s going to help us all look at writing gripping openings, as well as the use of imagery. Bring along anything you’d like to share and use in the workshop.

If you’d like to be added to the mailing list and recieve a monthly update from me please let me know – either by leaving a comment below or by tweeting me at @writingatrosys

I really hope we see you all later this month!

I threatened to put up some examples of the homework people had done for the group – so here’s the first assignment: alphabet stories. 1 story, 26 sentences, each starting with a consecutive letter of the alphabet.

From G to F

‘Good grief,’ he exclaimed – slightly too dramatically, she thought –  ‘is it Tuesday already?’

‘Have you forgotten what day of the week it is?’ she said, not quite managing to disguise the patronising tone in her voice.

‘Is it Tuesday, though?’ he persisted, knee jiggling impatiently.

‘Just for you it is,’ she replied, not looking up from the email she was reading, ‘all day long, right the way through to midnight.’

Knee still trembling, he glared at her.  ‘Lucky I remembered,’ he said, ‘as I have a writing assignment due in on Thursday for that new Writing Group thingy.’

‘Maybe I should point out,’ she said, ‘that that group was on Thursday.  Now it’s on Wednesday.’

‘Oh, God,’ he sighed, ‘there’s no time at all to write a story! Perhaps I could with your help, though?!  Quick, you’ve got to act as my muse!’

Revolving her chair in his direction, she studied him with narrowed eyes.  ‘Sorry,’ she said slowly, ‘but I’m going to need a damned good reason why I should help you with your homework.’

‘To show how much you care about me?’ he ventured before quickly explaining what the assignment was before she could have a chance to retort.  ‘Usually, you see, short stories begin their sentences on any old letters of the alphabet, in a kind of crazy free-for-all with no rhyme, order, or reason, but in this case each sentence must begin with the next letter in alphabetical sequence, starting on G and ending on F, making it damned…oh, what’s that word?  Vexing, yes, damned vexing to write.’

‘What I want to know,’ she asked, after pondering all this for a few seconds, ‘is how you’re going to cope with beginning a sentence with X and Z.’

‘”Xylophone” begins with “x”,’ he retorted, ‘so I can probably just start a sentence with that somehow.’

‘You could give a character an unusual name,’ she continued, ‘and reveal it at the appropriate time?’

‘Zara, you’re a genius!’ he replied, flapping his arms around in the hope it would aid his search for a biro.

‘As long as you realise that to do so would seem ridiculously forced and be neither clever nor satisfying, thus demeaning the whole point of the exercise,’ she said, in slightly too cynical a tone, he thought.

‘But, but, but if I were to point that out,’ he exclaimed, eyes bulging, mad with power, ‘then it could be quite funny!’

‘Could be,’ she replied, not quite managing to disguise the scepticism in her voice.

‘Doubtless nobody else there will be sophisticated enough to appreciate really clever post-modernist humour,’ he said confidently.

‘Evidently true,’ she conceded, ‘so how about you entertain the plebs by ending on a swear?’

‘Fuck, that’s a good idea,’ he squawked, ‘and hopefully it’ll distract from the rather abrupt ending.’

 

Guerrillas in our midst

Hard to convey exactly why we do it. I get asked this a lot.

“Just what is the point? Knitting doesn’t change the world.”

Laughing at the small scale of my ambitions. Missing the point entirely, of course. Never seeing just how fun it can be, the positive difference you can make.

One time I put hats and scarves on the statues that stand at one corner of the square. Purple and red and blue; stripes and cables; pom poms and tassels – brightened it right up. Queues for the post office would have seen them the next day, assuming they’d stayed there all night and hadn’t been taken off. Removed by drunks or a street cleaner. Still, if a homeless person had got them that would’ve been ok.

That park on the corner of Howard Street was the most scared I’d ever been. Under cover of darkness is best because sometimes people think you’re committing a nuisance. Vicky wanted to cover some of the playground equipment, weave colours through climbing frame bars, that kind of thing. We snuck in through a side gate after getting some Dutch courage in the local pub. Xcited. (Yes, I cheated with that last sentence – you think that’s bad, wait for the next one.) Zounds! It was dark. Absolutely pitch black. But the stars looked beautiful; we stood and stared at them for ages. Crept into the play area and the gate clanged so loud behind us, it made me jump. Dogs barked somewhere across the darkness. Entwining the wool as fast as we could round the climbing ropes, slipping the covers onto the swing seats, hands shaking, suddenly scared out of our wits and then we ran out of there.

Friday afternoon I went back, to see if it was still there and it was! Giggling children pointed at it, touched and stroked it, their mums examined the stitches – it was all I could do not to shout – “I did that!”

Once upon a time there was a small writing group. They only existed virtually until someone decided that they should all meet up in Nottingham. They tramped about, looking for a home until rescue came in the shape of Lee Rosy’s tea rooms on Broad Street, Nottingham. Now they meet (or they will) each second Wednesday of the month in said tea rooms and all lived (and wrote) happily ever after.

Or in short, we’re a new writing group, welcoming all and promise to be kind and constructive to all who turn up and join us for tea and cakes. We meet in Nottingham city centre and will feature writing exercises, writing workshops from published authors and general chit chat. Full details of our first meeting are:

When? Wednesday 7th September

Time? 7pm

Where? Lee Rosy’s tea rooms, Broad Street, Nottingham

Should you have any questions, suggestions or just want to say hello then please do drop a comment below!