On 25th April, I boldly went where I’d never been before, but had very much wanted to for a long time. Lack of confidence and time had always held me back. So when my best friend, Julia, told me she was thinking of attending a Creative Writing course, I asked if I could tag along.
The course took us from novices (I include myself in this as despite having published two books they are picture books which do not require lots of words!) to writing five short stories over ten weeks.
Our tutor, Pat, gave us our first assignment in that first lesson: write a memory from childhood. We all set to thinking back (some in the class having to think further back than others, and I include myself in this category) and scribbling a memory, which we then had the opportunity to read out if we wanted. My long ago memory was of the day my Mum brought home pet rabbits for me and my brother. We were given homework too (quote from my astounded son: “You even get homework! And you go to this voluntarily?”). The first week was to describe an inanimate object that I own and say what it means to me. It had to be something fairly mundane that had sentimental value. I chose my Kenwood Chef, which fitted the bill as it had been my Mum’s and after I’d borrowed it for the umpteenth time she gave it to me.
Over the following weeks we learnt about using the senses to put readers into the action; using tenses; personification; precision of language; analogies; 1st and 3rd person; defamiliarisation; onomatopoeia; alliteration (my favourite); foreshadowing; faction; unreliable and omniscient narrators; free indirect speech and tropes.
It didn’t feel a lot at the time but in hindsight (if we were concentrating) we would have learnt many splendid things in the art of writing. Every term, I get a leaflet from my daughter’s school detailing the planned learning which always says “reading and spelling will be taught discretely” – now I know what that means). Pat did not sit us down and say “Today we will learn about foreshadowing”. Instead the class was a discussion forum. We would each read our homework and the understanding of literary devices would come from the subsequent discussions.
Over the following weeks the homework was split across two or three weeks, so putting it all together we’d each have three whole stories. We wrote the lifespan of a pair of shoes; a story which began with describing a house; and a story inspired by this photo.
The great thing was that each person on the course brought along a different perspective and style and the resulting stories were wildly different despite all having the same starting point.
It wasn’t just once that I thought of quitting. Most weeks the homework was “too hard” for me and I was “not going back” but a pep talk from either myself or Julia and I’d knuckle down to write my homework and go back. I’m glad I did.