What could possibly go wrong?

End of summer term… I always enjoy the difference I see in my classes from the start of term to the end. At the beginning people who are new to the class are often nervous of sharing their writing. They feel their writing has to be perfect before they can offer it up to scrutiny. As the term wears on … Read More

The magical metaphor machine

Peter Sansom’s Writing Poems (Bloodaxe Books 1994) is one of the best introductions to writing poetry I’ve come across. On page 76 Peter offers a technique called The Furniture Game which, he says, ‘lends itself to working in groups of four’. You think of someone famous and write about them as if they were a piece of furniture, the weather, … Read More

The benefit of hindsight

When we look back on an event, the prism of memory can offer a fresh and surprising perspective on something we thought we understood well. Time’s distance gives insight; we know things now that we did not know then. We understand people and the meaning of events differently. When you set out to write a story, how you do decide … Read More

Ten clues that say you’re a writer

Sometimes, when I address the people who come to classes and writing workshops as ‘writers’, they look a little sheepish. Some will look uncertain; some may say things like ‘I’m not sure I can call myself that’, as if it was a holy thing. I believe that if you write, you are a writer, just as if you paint you … Read More

The theory of displacement activity

Hoovering, cleaning the windows, clearing out a cupboard, cutting the grass, paying bills, tidying the wardrobe, making phone calls, catching up on Facebook…  I term these displacement activities; the things we do instead of what we really want to do, which is sit down to write. How often have you arrived at the end of the day or the week … Read More

In the right place

I’ve been away. I won’t tell you where I went, but it’s somewhere I go whenever I want peace and quiet, space to think, dream and write, with a sense of home and people who are dear to me close by. It’s a long way from where I live and work but I love the journey. I go there as … Read More

The soundtrack of your life

I came across a quote from W H Auden. I can’t tell you where he said it because I found it by accident on one of those ‘thought for the day’ type sites that have a purple background and lists of quotations from many sources. Those sites tend not to give full citations. That is my excuse. The quote said: … Read More

In another part of the forest…

I went to Welwyn Garden City yesterday. I found myself in a warm, bright cafe attached to a community hall beside an enormous church; one of those churches that loom at you from the side of the road. I was visiting a group of carers and people involved in providing bereavement support in Hertfordshire. I had been invited to talk … Read More

An eclectic mix

“You are like the ‘Jools Holland of Writing’; embracing and encouraging such an eclectic mix of styles and genres”. This was the message sent to me a few days ago, by someone in a writing class I have been running for a couple of years; I have just handed it over to a new tutor who I hope will enjoy … Read More

An intriguing development

My house is liberally scattered with books. They sit on shelves and tables, they teeter in piles beside chairs, they lurk under desks and scatter themselves around beds. I have always lived among books. When I find myself in a room without books I feel slightly nervous. Something is missing. I will never stop buying books or enjoying the feel … Read More