Thursday, 15 October 2015

La Nouvelle Espionage

One of my jobs for this week is to compile a killer reading list for the course that I'll be facilitating soon at Creative Industries Trafford.

La Nouvelle espionage course seeks to give writers the opportunity to create and develop a story (or stories) that they can then submit for consideration in the latest writer showcase anthology from Comma Press. Comma are seeking stories with all the tension and compelling mystery of the classic spy genre, but with a redefining of what modern spying actually is... 'from the political to the domestic, corporate to state-sponsored, private interest-led to cellular fanaticism... to meet characters we wouldn't normally meet in a spy story, to find ourselves in settings the genre has barely visited before.' No small task, but one I am sure the writers on the course will tackle head on with lots of inspiration, guidance and support from me and each other.

To be a good writer, you really must must read. I like to think of it as good nutrition. Put quality stuff in and you see the benefits. You feel stronger and better as a writer. When I'm reading, I imagine all the tiny synapses in my brain firing and making new connections and gathering the little thoughts and expressions inspired by others' work into a store to reframe and use in my own original way. Reading also makes me aware of what other writers are doing. What is the zeitgeist? What is sounding a bit cliche and old hat now? What am I reading too much about? What have I not read about in a story? Where are the gaps in which I can plant a story idea and nurture its growth?

The reading list for La Nouvelle Espionage course has been challenging to put together. Ra Page, Editor at Comma Press, has been brilliant in his suggestions. But this is very much a new genre (the clue is in the name!) The very gap in the market is perhaps a reason for its genesis. The best modern example we have come across is Joanna Quinn's 'The War of All Against All' (Beta Life, Comma Press, 2014) an imagining of the 2070 world where everything we do, buy and say, and everywhere we go is known, recorded, trackable and processed in streaming metadata. It is a brilliant and terrifying story. Please do get in touch if you have come across other great examples that seem to fit the bill.

The course is now fully booked up. But there is a waiting list in case any participants drop out. Contact CIT for more details.

Friday, 2 October 2015

Creative writing with Creative Industries Trafford

 I'm looking forward to meeting writers on the Creative Industries Trafford writing workshops starting on Tuesday. The CIT course, in partnership with Comma Press, gives new and emerging writers the opportunity to develop their craft with the aim of writing and workshopping a story for submission to the new Comma Press showcase anthology La Nouvelle Espionage.

At this first session, we will discuss the short story and explore what makes the genre unique. We will think about how we craft short stories and how they work. And we will compile a toolkit of ideas and stimuli for writing short fiction.

When I'm leading a session, I always learn so much from meeting and working with other writers. Sometimes, writing can feel like a very solitary job and it can be easy to get stuck in the same ways of thinking about and processing story. Talking to others about how we write is incredibly refreshing. Where do you get your ideas from? What is your starting point - an image, a moment, a character, a place? By unpicking the tricky knot that is story making, we can learn so much about how we tie it well. Allowing ourselves time to explore those processes, the way we form and sculpt can help reframe the way we work, giving new energy or direction.

Yesterday, I went to see my absolute writing idol, Hilary Mantel speak at MMU. She gave two readings and she answered some questions. One of the things she said about the process of writing short fiction that really resonated with me was that because of the nature of short stories, you have to battle the feeling that you are constantly observing the form; the way you are structuring the thing, and that this can be stifling. Her response to how she overcame this was ' to just write it down as if it is true. Then the form will take care of itself.'

This is something I hope to bring to the CIT course and the participants; that we will learn to write it down as if it is true, inviting our readers into the imaginary space we create. I'm really looking forward to getting started.

There are still a couple of spaces available on the course. For more information or to sign up click here. Any questions, please do get in touch!

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Creative Writing at Winstanley College

This week I visited Winstanley College, Wigan, to run creative writing workshops with the students taking the Creative Writing A Level.

It is a privilege to work with these students. Winstanley is a brilliant college and the young people taking this A Level gain so much from it both directly, learning and developing their poetics and craft and also through multiple transferable skills including critical thinking, articulation of ideas, writing with clarity and mature self-reflection. It is a valuable and important addition to A Level options. Unfortunately, it is also nationally under threat.

If you believe creative writing at Further Education level has value and worth please do click here to read and sign this petition asking the Secretary of State for Education Nicky Morgan MP to save the Creative Writing A Level.