Free Friendly Creative Writers Group
Find Your Inner Creative
Today we had an intimate and revealing meeting at City Voices via Zoom, organised and run by Debbi Voisey. Asking someone to bring along a piece of their favourite writing, be it poetry, fiction or non-fiction is asking people to reveal a little about themselves; as an extreme example Karadžić, the Butcher of Bosnia, wrote what was apparently well-crafted poetry (see https://www.vice.com/en_uk/article/ppx7zk/dictator-poetry) but one can imagine what most of it is about i.e. war, vengeance and bloodshed.
Participants today Adam and Christian, brought along their favourite classical poems, ‘The Cloths of Heaven’ by W.B. Yeats and ‘The Tyger’ by William Blake. Neither poets nor poems need any introduction from me. Christian had written his own tribute to the latter entitled ‘Panther’
‘Was it Lady Night that draped you/in a cloak of her anti-light?’ asks Christian.
We then had a discussion about sensitivity to light, and concluded that Adam and Chris were secret vampires. They didn’t look too upset about this, TBH!
Beverley chose ‘I Am!’ a poem by the tragic 19th Century labourer-poet John Clare, who ended his days locked away in a lunatic asylum, where Clare obviously felt like he had been written out of his wife and family’s lives. He suffered from severe depression and alcohol problems. Bev wrote a poem using the analogy of a discarded Teddy Bear to convey the grief of being left behind and forgotten. This provoked a good deal of discussion about parents, family and guilt.
Debbi bucked the poetry trend and entered the world of ‘Breathless Flash Fiction’ Wow! What does that look like? Well a bit like brilliance really. Debbi read the closing paragraph of a novel ‘Watt’ by Irishman Samuel Beckett (1906 -1989) the paragraph being constructed as one long sentence which dashes through the four seasons of the year – visual and quietly humorous. Not as easy as it perhaps sounds; it's much more than writing sentences and then pulling out the punctuation like so many bad teeth, and it's NOT stream of consciousness either. Debbi then read her own Breathless FF (the prologue to her Novella in Flash) called ‘Reversing Sensor’ about a man’s life and his decline into Alzheimer’s disease.
Sandy chose the Polish poet and 1966 Nobel prize-winner Wislawa Szymborska, whose poem ‘Flagrance’ made Sandy realise that ‘Yes, poetry is for me’. Flagrance is about two lovers and the objects around them – the tea cooling in the cup, shadows on chairs, the cooking stove … when she talks of a moth fluttering over her and her lover, "I didn't see, you didn't guess, / our hearts were glowing in the night." Szymborska has been accused of sentimentalism…… https://freebeacon.com/culture/hatred-knows-how-to-make-beauty/Sandy does not agree with this argument and neither do I, because love can feel like that.
I naturally chose poetry – firstly ‘Donal Og’ or ‘Young Donal’ translated from an anonymous 8th Century Irish Poem. All I can say is that the poem is about unrequited love and lies, and what we want to believe rather than the truth. Totally 21st Century in fact. My modern take on this poem is called ‘Girl Undone’. I also looked at the rather beautifully unhinged ‘Snow’ by Louis MacNeice, another Irishman, and a poem which has been analysed many, many times. Ultimately I believe it is about the oddness of life, the exuberance of the ordinary, and maybe getting a little drunk! My own poem in this style is called ‘Banana Tree’ and was part of my portfolio ‘We Are Water’.
Another two hours that went too quickly, and a great way to spend Saturday mornings. Please join us on Zoom on 1st August 11am to 1pm.
L to R - Debbi, Bev, June, Adam, Christian, Paul (and grand-daughter), and Michaela who all came along to the last meeting.
It was great to see Michaela again - as she works in the Care Sector getting to meetings was always tricky! Last Saturday, author Debbi ran a Flash Fiction workshop with a difference. This was micro-fiction, roughly the length of a Twitter post. This is what Debbi has to say
'City Voices has been enjoying a kind of resurgence during lockdown, thanks to Zoom. I have been enjoying hosting our fortnightly Zoom session, at which about half a dozen or so members are showing up. We are hoping more will start to join us before things start getting back to normal, and everyone is welcome, even non-members.
On 4th July I hosted a workshop with CV about writing very short stories. Anyone familiar with Twitter will know that posts (or Tweets) are limited to 280 characters. Every day on Twitter, using the hashtag #vss365, people post short, tweet length stories using a daily prompt word, which has to appear in the story. Being a story, these tweets have to be a “complete” thought, with a purpose. It’s tricky, but a great challenge, and teaches brevity and gives you practise in being able to use only the most necessary words. It’s amazing how much can be conveyed in so few words.
Last year, one of my very short stories was published in the first VSS365 anthology. In response to the prompt word “contact”, I wrote:
She has to close her heart when she sees him. Their contact is electric but fleeting; eyes when his finally wander around to meet hers, hands when she’s helping him off the bed, lips if he remembers her. Soon everything will be just crackling echo-memory of love.
You can easily practise these kinds of stories by selecting random words from books or newspapers, and then challenging yourself to write stories of this length. Don’t get too hung up on counting the characters, unless you do actually post them on Twitter. Just limit yourself to 50 words, and get used to being brutal with your word cutting to only leave in what you need to get your point across. You have to see your story as a “fleeting thought” that needs to be conveyed, and a lot of it has to be done by implication rather than spelling everything out. This will become easier the more you practise. You’ll may initially think it impossible because you may reach 50 words before you even start your story properly… well, that just means you have probably written 50 words you don’t need! You will notice in my example above that we don’t know anyone’s name, what they look like, where they are. We are just interested in this connection they have and how it will soon be gone. Simple.
Have a go and we’d love to see your examples posted here in the comments.'
Thank you Debbi Voisey for setting up our Zoom meetings every two weeks. We use them to deliver workshops on poetry and fiction, and to read and critique each other’s work. The meetings have been very productive, not a minute wasted, but we do have a chat and a laugh too. This week I ran a poetry workshop where we discussed ‘Snow Joke’ by Simon Armitage.
After our discussion I asked everyone to write for twenty minutes to try and emulate the ‘storytelling’ aspect of Armitage’s poem, the changes in tone, and how despite the free verse and jokey introduction this really is a poem as opposed to prose fiction. (Although not all of the group agreed!)
Armitage once said
‘Poems that wave flags, campaign and crusade often fall flat on their arse. But I do think of my poetry as political' – can we see this in Snow Joke?
After writing and a read-around of our fledgling work, we then read and critiqued poetry by David Bayliss, one of the group. It was great to see our founder Paul Williamson join in the Zoom call; of course Zoom is not for everyone, for various reasons, but it has been great for us.
Pattie, a long-standing member of the City Voices community was also with us but had to dash off right at the end so sadly she has not made the photograph.
Until City Central Library in Hanley opens again, we will be on Zoom at 11am – 1pm every other Saturday. Our next meeting (fiction workshop) will be 4th July 2012.
Lockdown and the temporary closure of City Central Library in Hanley due to Covid-19 has been a pain, but an absolutely necessary one. City Voices send love to anyone suffering a loss or extreme stress in lockdown. Paul Williamson (pictured) has been self-isolating but is in amazingly good spirits and has the outlook and beliefs usually associated with some-one much, much younger. He also has the wisdom and compassionate understanding that comes with someone who has seen all the good and bad things this world has to offer. It was a joy to talk to him yesterday. Paul founded City Voices in 2006 and says ‘Good writing can bring people closer together through love, beauty and understanding’ And 'There really is something so wonderfully special about good novels. You can learn so much about people and the world, and this helps to keep you close to what it is to be human and drives you onwards to better things. So, what advice would you give someone starting out in creative writing? Join a Library. Read lots of Good Books - Novels, Poetry, Biography, Plays. Join a Writers Group. Try to find your own True voice. Cultivate your Muse!
Here are some novels that Paul recommends for lock-down reading.
‘War and Peace’ and ‘Anna Karenina’- Leo Tolstoy ‘Crime and Punishment’ Fyodor Dostoevsky. ‘Wuthering Heights’ Emily Brontë. ‘North and South’ Elizabeth Gaskell. ‘The Mill on the Floss’ George Eliot.’ ’Moby Dick’ Herman Melville. ‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles.’Thomas Hardy. ‘The Rainbow’ D.H. Lawrence. ‘The Grapes of Wrath.’John Steinbeck. ‘To Kill a Mocking Bird’. Harper Lee. ‘The God of small things’ Arundhati Roy’. ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. ‘Things Fall Apart’. Chinua Achebe. ‘Brick Lane’ Monica Ali. ‘Beloved’ Toni Morrison. ‘Red Dust Road’ Jackie Kay.
City Voices Meetings are back via Zoom! On 9th May 2020 we had our very first Zoom meeting, following temporary closure of City Central Library in Hanley due to Covid-19. It was so successful (and fun!) it has been decided to continue with the meetings every two weeks. City Voices meetings are open to all (and potential) writers, but to avoid trolling and spamming you need a the link (no password required) to get into the meeting. Zoom is really easy, you don't need to download the app. Genuine writers can email me or send me a message on City Voices Creative Writers Facebook Page to get the link for each meeting. You need to send your email address. Those already on our mailing list will recieve regular updates.
NEXT ZOOM MEETING SATURDAY 20th JUNE 11AM - 1PM