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I was telling a writing friend of mine about my PTLLS (Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector) course, she made various encouraging noises and supportive comments but then she asked that awkward question, “But do you think creative writing can be taught or is it a natural talent?”
That made me think. There’s no doubt that some people have a natural flair for grabbing ideas out of nowhere and turning them into wonderful finished pieces. Others put in hours at the PC but have very little success. But that’s true of many creative skills, such as playing a musical instrument, painting or drama.
Lots of us do believe that at least certain aspects of creative writing can be taught – just think of all the courses advertised in the writing magazines and the many, many more advertised only in their own locality.
Personally, I believe that it is possible to teach someone how to structure a story, how to edit their work and write ‘tighter’, how to pitch an article to an editor, how to give that article an arresting opening, the mechanics of writing a haiku or a limerick and much more. I believe this because these are all skills that I’ve learned over the years.
Maybe it’s not possible to teach someone to see the poetic value of a sunset or imagine themselves into a character’s head. Or maybe it is, if you give them enough practice and constructive feedback.
Perhaps I’m biased because one day in the future I hope to teach Creative Writing. What do the rest of you think?
I wanted to share this timely review of ‘Museum’ by Charlie Britten. It’s wonderful how bloggers, writers & readers all support each other. Thanks Charlie! The Museum e-book is only 99p until Sunday 8th Feb.
Available from Sally Jenkins’ blog.
The inspiration for ‘The Museum of Fractured Lives’ came from the author alighting – purely by chance – on the website of The Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb. (There is a similar museum in Brussels too, by the way.) In 2011 the Zagreb museum was the winner of the EMF Kenneth Hudson Award for demonstrating the most ‘unusual, daring and, perhaps, controversial achievement that challenges common perceptions of the role of museums in society’. Now, I want to go myself!
Back to Sally Jenkins’ book, this very short work consists of a prologue, which takes the reader through how the Museum came to be set up, followed by what are, in reality, three short stories told in dialogue to the main character, and then a final chapter entitled ‘Last Word’. The three short stories (Maxine’s Story, Karen’s Story and Pete’s Story) were…
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The Museum of Fractured Lives has been reviewed by book blogger, Rosie Amber.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Museum Of Fractured Lives is a quick read, a collection of four inter-connecting stories. Vanessa’s husband drops the idea of divorce in her lap after thirty tears of marriage and on the day she agreed to take early retirement from her job. A new start frightens her. Steven is also on the brink of a new dream and they find themselves both bidding for the same property.
The idea behind the museum comes from a Museum for broken relationships in Zagreb. People will donate objects from their past misery so that they can move on with their lives. Steven will run the museum and Vanessa will run a tea shop. The tea shop becomes a place where people will go for a little comfort while finally deciding to release their object to the museum…
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All the names went into a cereal bowl (not with the Weetabix!) and the winner was drawn.
It is … (pause for effect with camera close-ups of all the contestants to see how they’re bearing up to the tension) …
Thank you to everybody that entered – it’s reassuring to know that I’m not blogging into a big black hole where nobody’s listening!
On Saturday I went to Morley in Yorkshire to collect my certificate for the Friends of Morley Literature Festival Short Story Competition. It was a lovely evening which featured Andrew McMillan (not sure if he’s any relation to Ian) reading poetry that had been written for a special project undertaken in conjunction with the Literature Festival.
Four families in the area chose paintings from Leeds Art Gallery to hang in their homes for 3 months. Andrew went out to visit these families and talk to them about how they felt about the art works. He then used these conversations as triggers for poems. Three local schools also chose pictures to hang in their classrooms for a similar project but this time the children wrote the poems with Andrew acting as their mentor.
Andrew has a wonderful way of performing poetry and he brought the children’s colourful language & unusual ideas to life with his gestures, timing and strong regional accent. Similarly, hearing him read his own poems made them so much more vivid (for a non-poet like me) than simply reading words on a page.
So, to be a successful poet do you have to be able to perform with panache and carry the audience with your words? Or can you succeed as a shrinking violet? I imagine that few people buy books of poetry these days and therefore a confident performance is essential to build a following.
The evening continued with a gig by the comedian Arthur Smith (of Grumpy Old Men). He was brilliant but surprised me by including poems (which he knew off by heart) in his act. My favourite was The Mower by Philip Larkin, which is a rather sad tale about a hedgehog.
Also – until midnight on Friday (14th October 2011) I am donating £1 to the RNIB for each new subscriber to this blog. Simply enter your email address in the box on the right – it’s free and you can unsubscribe at any time. More information is here.
How much are you prepared to pay to enter a writing competition?
Entry fees can range from nothing to £10+ and if you enter a lot of competitions (which many of us do due to the dearth of short story markets) it can get very expensive.
Personally, I prefer a smaller percentage ratio given the large amount of entrants that most competitions attract – if I’m paying £5 then I’d like the first prize to be £100. However, if the money is going to charity or a critique of each entry is included in the fee then I am happy to make an exception and pay more.
Paying a fee to enter a competition does sharpen the mind. If I’m paying for entry then I won’t send an existing story that ‘almost’ fits the requirements – I will write a new one that fully embraces the theme of the competition and, as far as I can tell, fits the style required.
But there’s nothing to beat the gay abandon induced by free competitions with email entry. There is literally nothing to lose with these comps (not even the price of a large letter stamp and A4 envelope). It is a terrible shame not to enter them – so if there’s no time to write something new then I dig an old story out of the archives and give it a quick polish.
Yesterday I did just that and sent an entry in to this competition:
Write a story for bedtime – this is sponsored by A. Vogel Herbal Remedies and it is an Adult bedtime story they are after (no, not that sort of adult). The story must be between 1500 and 3000 words and four prizes will be awarded – 1st: £500, 2nd: £300, 2 x 3rd: £100 each. Additionally, there is an extra £50 to be had if your entry is chosen as ‘Story of the Month’.
Womag writer Della Galton is one of the judges and ‘due consideration will be given by the judges on the appropriateness of the short story for bedtime’. The current ‘Story of the Month’ is written by one of the judges and fits neatly into the Womag mould with a nice, happy ending.
Closing date is 28th October 2011.