I Spent Most of That Summer…

summer

Being back together as a writing group after the break is a wonderful feeling. We all felt the buzz in the air to share stories; an itch in our fingers to pick up a pen, or tablet, and get our words down.

With the heat of summer drifting away and to commemorate the end of a season (where has this year gone!), it also seemed natural to reflect on summers that have passed and use them as our source of beginnings in our pieces. And needless to say, the exercise cracked open an array of beautiful stories and writing styles that our So:Write Women have to share.

Jo wrote a simple but eye-catching opener, ‘I Spent Most Of That Summer…’ the ellipsis an invitation to take the narrative wherever we wanted it to go. The only proviso, perhaps, being the compelling use of past tense in this one line, which forces our narrator to think back and sift through their memories, to find – and tell us about, or maybe avoid telling us about – the worst thing they ever did.

Which, in turn, brings about a number potential idea for our writers…

How reliable is our narrator if they are relying on memory?

How many unanswered questions will exist?

How in-the-dark will we be, as readers, as we try to navigate a story contained to this perspective?

With this prompt there as our stepping stone, we took some time to see where the story would lead us.

And sure enough, each tale was very different. We had stories dripping in deception, guilt and betrayal. Stories filled with a nostalgic yearning for love lost and treasured. Happy, cherished moments.

We were all enthralled by the stories written and able to appreciate how each person bought their own individuality to the direction the opening would take. And what was most wonderful to see was the fact that this exercise was just the start of what each story could be.

If you missed our writing session and would like to join in, do try this exercise for yourself. You will be surprised with where it takes you. There is something incredibly visual about the timing of summer, how the heat can impact on setting and the emotions of our characters.

In other news…

Don’t forget about the upcoming So:Write Book Launch, just a month away now and a date to save in your diaries. It will be on Sunday 4th November at the John Hansard Gallery. So:write anthologies from our groups and Writers In Residence will be available to purchase at the free event.

More information can be found here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/sowrite-book-launch-tickets-47887025382?aff=ebdssbdestsearch

Would you be interested in joining us? We’d love to see you at our next session! We are next meeting at the Art House on Thursday 4th October and Southampton Central Library on 20th October at Southampton Central Library.

Hope to see you there!

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Summer Writing for the Soul

With our So:write sessions on a break for the summer, making time to put pen-to-paper can be difficult with the busy lives that we all lead, especially if we feel uninspired.

However, when you have a chance to sit down, it can be so worthwhile to give yourself a moment to drift away with your notebook, tablet, rusted typewriter, or whatever it might be that you use to write.

And in trying to listen to my own advice, dear reader, I have set aside some time to create this blog post for you.

I hope to add some colour to the blank page that you might be staring at…

Because I strongly believe that writing is good for the soul. It has the power to express what lives inside all of us.

It brings out the words that are locked away, waiting to be split open like yolky sunlight.

And oh, how they shine when they are finally out there!

 

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1. Stop procrastinating

“Don’t waste time waiting for inspiration. Begin, and inspiration will find you.”

Jackson Brown

Trust me, you are not alone in that feeling of not knowing what you want to write.

How do we express those ideas floating around in our minds?

Where do we even start?

It is a feeling that all writers go through and will continue to experience in their writing lives.

But we all have to start from somewhere.

Waiting for that moment of inspiration to strike can sometimes feel like an unscheduled train: we don’t know when it will turn up, or how long it will take to appear.

So, write! In any possible way that works for you. Write without an aim, or purpose. Write in tangents, bullet points, off the line. Any attempt is better than none at all.

Begin, and see where it might lead. You don’t need to start at the beginning. There are no rules. Follow what is there and see where it takes you. Sometimes, we have to find the puzzle pieces of the story ourselves, instead of expecting them just to be there. Only then can we start to put them all together. And yes, certain pieces will take longer to find than others. That’s okay.

It’s a process.

2. Accept imperfections 

‘If you hear a voice within you say, ‘you cannot paint’ then by all means, paint, and that voice will be silenced.’

Vincent Van Gough

Set aside your inner critic. You CAN write. It does not need to be perfect.

What is perfect writing, anyway? No matter how many redraftings our pieces go through, there will always be something on the page that nags at us. If we go into writing with the expectation that it has to be perfect, then we are already hitting walls. Instead, relish the imperfections in your words.  They have taken you somewhere that you wouldn’t have gone otherwise.

Drafts, after all, are the necessary foundations that we all need for a piece to flourish. Remember this and don’t scrunch up your early ideas.

3. Read

‘If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.’

Stephen King

Composers do not improve their skills by simply writing and playing music alone. They learn about rhythm and tone and melody through the music that they listen to.

It is the same with writing. Reading books makes our writing richer.

Books spur the most powerful of emotions.

Simple phrases can catch in our throats and render us speechless.

When you are struggling to write, find short spaces in your day to read.

Find novels or short stories that are out of your comfort zone. Consider how they make you feel and the journey that they take you on.

Sometimes, the experience of reading a book is enough to get us into the headspace that we need in order to write. If all else fails, at least you have given yourself some much needed ‘me time’ to fall away into a wonderful, fictional world (or non-fiction, if that is more your cup of tea).

4. And finally…

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Writing should be enjoyable.

With all that said, I hope you all are having a wonderful summer, and we at So:write are excited to welcome you all back in near future.

In other news:

The upcoming So:Write Book Launch is a date to save in your diaries.

On Sunday 4th November at the John Hansard Gallery So:write anthologies from our groups and Writers In Residence will be available to purchase at the free event.

More information can be found here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/sowrite-book-launch-tickets-47887025382?aff=ebdssbdestsearch

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Interested in a comfortable writing space to express yourself? Our So:Write Women group will resume in September. We are meeting on Thursday 6th at the Art House and Saturday 15th at Southampton Central Library.

Hope to see you there.

Wish You Were Here?

The sun blazed down on Above Bar Street, but upstairs at The Art House we gave ourselves shivers as we thought about near death experiences; ‘what might have been’ and ‘if I’d been ten minutes earlier’ scenarios that could have changed our lives. In Maggie O’Farrell’s I Am I Am I Am, the author describes seventeen brushes with death. Each chapter is named after a part of the body and details the illness or near miss that could have prematurely ended the author’s life. We shook our heads in disbelief, seventeen near death experiences? Seventeen? Really? But then we began talking, and each of us could count several instances where fate had looked kindly upon us; stepping unscathed from a smashed up car, receiving a diagnosis that was almost missed, changing travel plans… Maybe we can’t count seventeen near death experiences, but we could all count a few.

I Am I Am I Am details events that cover so many different points in the author’s life: childhood, as a student, travelling, working, being a parent – but at all times we are struck by the state of peril and vulnerability in which we live our lives, all of us, every single day. Perhaps the luckiest amongst us are those who never realise how close we came to that brush with death? Indeed, Maggie O’Farrell writes –

A near-death experience changes you for ever: you come back from the brink altered, wiser, sadder

Looking forward, we each wrote a postcard to ourselves. Not quite Wish You Were Here, more Where Will We Be? We wrote down a goal for the summer (what we hope to achieve between now and September) and a slightly longer term goal (what we hope to achieve by the end of the year). Joanna has kindly agreed to post these back to us later in the summer – let’s hope we have all managed to stay on course with our goals!

One of my goals, and one that Joanna is always keen to promote with the group, is to enter more writing competitions and to submit work to publications. With this in mind, I have collated a list of upcoming competitions, things to enter between now and October. Please do get in touch if you know of any others and we’ll update the list in a future blog post.

Winchester Poetry Festival Prize Closing date 31st July 2018

Costa Short Story Award Closing date Friday 3rd August

Aesthetica Magazine Creative Writing Award (Poetry and Prose) Closing date 31st August 2018

Reader Writer Lounge Short Story Contest Closing date 31st August 2018

LinkAge Southwark (Short stories/Poetry on the theme of friendship/generations) Closing date 31st August 2018

SaveAs Writers Poetry and Prose on a Gothic theme, Closing date 31st August 2018

Manchester Writing Competition (Fiction and Poetry) Closing date 14th September 2018

Mslexia Competitions (Short Stories, Flash Fiction, Novels) Closing date 1st October 2018

University of Central Lancashire & CommaPress The Dinesh Allirajah Prize for Short Fiction, Closing date 26th October 2018

Everything With Words (YA Fiction) Closing date 30th November 2018

 

If you are reading this but have never managed to get to one of our sessions, why not make it your summer goal to join us when we meet again in September?

 

 

“I’m gonna sit right down and write myself a letter…”

Imagine you could write a letter to the 17-year-old you – what would you say?

Literature is full of letters… letters never posted, or received but never read. Letters penned by unreliable narrators peddling one side of an argument, or ink smudged with tears, written from the heart and full of truths that could not be said face-to-face. The epistolary text relies on documents to propel a narrative onward; not only letters, but diaries, the reading of a will, postcards, and scrappy notes carelessly left lying around… Thinking about how we could use the form in our own writing gave us pause for thought; what remains unsaid in the letter? How long will the writer wait for a response, and what does this signify? Did the letter even reach the intended recipient? So much can occur between that delicate slip of notepaper leaving your hand and it reaching its destination. And what power lies on that paper? Kept forever, spritzed with a favourite perfume, produced as evidence in a court of law, or torn into tiny pieces and burnt on the fire. Letters contain so much more raw emotion than any email or text message ever could. No wonder we love to receive a letter.

Take more photos!

So what would we write to our younger selves? At 14, 17, 21 years old? We are a diverse group, with very different life experiences, but you may be surprised to learn that some common themes emerged from our letters. We looked back at our younger selves and saw vulnerability, pride and stubbornness – states of being we would not have recognised at the time. We used the letters to give ourselves advice that we knew we wouldn’t take, some of it serious, some less so. Take more photos! Anyone who came of age in the pre-smartphone age would definitely agree with that one.

Miss Dog deep in thought.

We penned letters, posting sage wisdom down the years to our teenage selves, delivering advice and kind words to the girls who would grow up and one day sit down in The Art House where they’d laugh, cry and nod in sympathy with each other. Does this sound a bit wistful? It wasn’t, it was quite life affirming, really. If we realised one thing, it is that the advice we would have given probably wouldn’t have made a difference; we knew at 17 that we were making mistakes, but in the end, the mistakes made marvellous things. Maybe we were wiser than we knew?

Other bits and pieces

The American writer Anne Lamott gets a lot of love in SO:Write Women workshops, this quote, from Bird by Bird: Some instructions on Writing and Life, fitted quite beautifully with the vibe in today’s session:

You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”

Some other books on writing recommended by the group:

Ursula Le Guin, Conversations on Writing

Stephen King, On Writing

Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

Tense, thought-provoking and brave…Dead Girls is the new book by Abigail Tarttelin. She will be signing copies at October Books on 20th June, part of Feminist Books Week. You can book tickets here. 

 

Weird and Wonderful Writing

Perhaps the most natural part of the writing process is knitting all our words together and figuring out the order in which they belong on the page.

As our stories unfold before us, we allow our pen to take us on a journey through the crevices of our imagination. As we edit, we slice our way through clunky grammar, splash in a dash of bright adjectives, tweak and tweak our paragraphs.

And as always, we are told never to judge a book by its cover.

But what if, for once, we disregarded this rule? And perhaps, instead, used our writing to communicate something visual?

Imagine if our words intertwined with a pattern; or became a collage pieced together like a puzzle…

Approaching writing in such a way not only allows for different ways of expressing ourselves but also asks us to consider the effect that writing has on the eye. What are we drawn to? How does this affect the experience of reading?

In our latest So:Write workshop, we embarked on exploring how writing and the arts could join together in these weird and wonderful ways. From a free writing task, to a colourful arts and crafts collaborative piece, to concrete (or shape) poetry…  Our group most certainly had their hands full.

After a quick ‘free write’ task connected to the word ‘wedding’ –  this workshop happened to fall on Meghan and Harry’s special day – we delved into an exciting craft task with an array of coloured papers, sequins, googly eyes and glitter. The aim: to create a writing collage.

 “All writing is in fact cut-ups. A collage of words read, heard, overheard”

When we think of a collage, we often imagine gorgeous pieces of artwork. They have a disjointed, yet equally unified effect on the eye.

Pieces such as Pablo Picasso’s cubist ‘Girl with a Mandolin’, with its different textures and shapes, are used to create a simple, yet striking image.

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But what about writing?

With sunlight streaming in through the window of the library room, a chiming clock outside cheerfully reverberating against the glass, and our imaginations fizzing, we set about creating a collaborative collage, So:Write style.

The result was an exciting burst of adjectives, colour and descriptions. Different stories  from our free-writes webbed together in harmony.

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‘A princess bride dreamt of strawberries. She looked like a lace meringue’

We jeweled the page with sparkle, frilly paper and shapes. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves as we made sense of how we wanted our collage to appear. We bounced our ideas and creativity back and forth, learning from each other in the process.

The result was a deep purple collage that we had a great deal of fun creating. It was also a chance to stray away from our habitual ways of creating stories, to look at writing differently.

Finally, for our last twenty minutes, we turned our attention to concrete poetry. Once again, we used visual presentation as the main device for structuring our writing.

 

shape poem

From a poem written in the form of a cherry blossom tree; to a shell poem; to words blooming inside of a heart, we each noticed that incorporating a drawing into our work changed the writing process. If you are writing a shape poem in the form of a circle, where is the beginning? It is natural for western readers to read from left to right – but with shape poetry, this rule is often forgotten about.

As writing is quite often a solitary task, these experimental exercises offered a chance for everyone to work on a project together, to enjoy themselves, and to hopefully find new forms of inspiration.

If you are interested in trying one of our workshops, please do come along, you are welcome.

We are next meeting at The Art House on Thursday 7th June and at Southampton Central Library on Saturday 9th June.  Hope to see you there.

 

So… experimental!

Our recent So:Write session found us embracing the experimental in pursuit of new ways of writing…

It’s difficult to just *be* experimental, to free yourself from the habits and processes you routinely draw upon when writing. For many of us, the very  idea of trying something different can be daunting, so when Joanna arrived armed with a selection of craft materials we were all, understandably, a little wary. But any reticence on our part was quickly subdued as we dived into exercises designed to ease us into the right head space for trying new creative techniques.

Taking a theme (we chose the beach, inspired by the glorious sunshine outside) we played a quick round of word association, accumulating a rattlebag of words to inspire some five-minute freewrites. Freewriting is a great way to generate ideas and oil the sensitive mechanics of hand-pen-page-brain. Set a timer (5-10 minutes), promise to never take the pen from the page, and GO! If you can’t think of anything to write, just write a word, any word, repeat it if you need to, but just keep going until the writing begins to flow or the time is up. When you finish you may have an idea for a story, a phrase you know will find its way into some dialogue or… um, a few lines of random text that at the very least has helped to banish the awkward stand-off between writer and blank page.

Some of the group shared their freewrites; they had uncovered ideas they wanted to work with and were already shaping the results of the exercise into something more polished. Five minutes had taken them from a blank page to the start of something that we hope they’ll continue to work on and bring back to share with the group next time. Some writers were unsure where the crazy and jumbled words in their notebooks had sprung from; chaotic ideas that may still germinate and lead to stories and poems. Some writers didn’t want to stop, lost in the flow of words…

We selected two or three phrases from our freewrites that we wanted to use in a collaborative piece and wrote them down on slips of paper. Then, working in groups, we began to arrange them on larger sheets, grouping and regrouping, cutting and tearing to create something new. Words spiralled around the paper; where do you begin? Choose a place to start reading, choose another and another – the result is a swirl of stories within stories, all different. The frilled parasol that casts dark shade, the fluffy beach towel that harbours gritty sand, the juxtaposition of ice cream and tattoos – we found layers of meaning in our words and explored ways of capturing this on the page. Combining a variety of narratives is not easy, our own view of the world is uniquely ours, but this exercise gave us an opportunity to look at how we can organise differing perceptions – a useful skill when getting a character ‘on the page’.

Continuing the visual theme, we revisited our freewriting exercise to select words for a piece of concrete poetry. Here, text is organised into shapes or adjusted using typographic effects to create a visually stimulating work. As with our cut up words, we found ourselves arguing for/against the possibility of breaking apart words without losing the integrity of the text or, in this case, the shape of the poem. As with all experimental writing techniques, some will work for you and others will be (at the very least) a giggle. Our experimental writing session was a fantastic mix of creativity, sharing ideas and a lot of giggling; we’ve learned things that will enrich our own writing, and we’ve had a lot of fun doing it.

Our next session at The Art House is on Thursday 7th June and we’ll be working with excerpts of overheard dialogue, so bring along an example or two for next time. As ever, everyone is welcome so please do join us.

Some other good stuff

16th-30th June is Feminist Book Fortnight  25 Independent book shops, including Southampton stalwart October Books will be celebrating feminist writing and showcasing women writers.

Wire Wool Events  have some interesting talks coming up, including Dead Girls author Abigail Tarttelin (limited tickets available, so book early)

Finally, if you feel inspired by our experimental cut ups and concrete poetry, you may want to check out Canva – a fantastic online tool for creative design.

 

 

Haikus

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A haiku is a delicately short poem with long-standing origins in Japan dating back to the Heian period (700-1100). When I think of haikus, I view them as little snapshots of moments in one’s life – holding the unique capacity to teach us a lot about our world in a few simple lines.

 

this world of suffering –

even if the flower opens

even if it opens

(Issa Kobayashi)

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(A photograph of a blooming flower captured in spring 2017)

Their lovely, flowing rhythms make haikus easy to listen to. Despite being small, there is a natural story-telling quality to them which we can liken to flash fiction.

Traditionally, the haiku has a rather specific structure, three lines following a 5-7-5 syllable rule – they were often considered the equivalent of the iambic pentameter in Shakespeare’s England. In modern times, the haiku has evolved and does not necessarily contain itself to this strict syllable requirement. Rather, the haiku lends itself to contemporary ways of writing about our thoughts and feelings.

They have even been used recently in a poetry project created to support our National Health Service –

Crisis is defined by

All that we are losing

Save our NHS

(Eva Reed)

Which shows us the range in which they can be used to expand our writing and forms of expression.

When considering haikus at our most recent So:Write workshops, we first turned to the works of others. We admired the striking, lyrical language used by Soseki to capture evocative moments in nature, especially in relation to its structural compactness –

Over the wintry forest,

winds howl in rage

with no leaves to blow

(Natsume Soseki)

They also helped us to appreciate the bluntness of a few words and how they can be used to jar us; and how atmospheric scenes can form in our minds through small, intricate pieces of detail.  It was clear that being selective with our word choice would be a fun challenge that would force us to prioritise the most important content in our pieces.

As writers, the temptation to elongate description can occasionally cause problems, especially if our language takes up too much space. There is a risk that the reader might lose sight of the message that we are trying to communicate.  Haikus are therefore a great exercise in teaching us to edit – and worth trying if you are struggling with writer’s block!

In fact, the haikus we read as a group during the workshops offered us a chance to grow them into pieces of our own prose. The ‘photographic’ quality of haikus spurred our imagination and led us to write about lovers walking along rivers, hand in hand; tense characters waiting for the phone to ring; exotic musings on the veranda; becoming lost and frightened in a snowy forest.

Try it for yourself: Pick a haiku and evolve it into a piece of writing, you will be amazed where your mind and imagination will take you…

Wanting to try some

Writing? Visit our sessions

To explore your skills

We are next meeting the Art House on Thursday 5th April and Southampton Central Library on Saturday 21st April. 

Women’s Writes

When heavy snow forced us to cancel a workshop, Joanna put a positive spin on events by reminding us all that “a snow day = a writing day!” The seizing of any and every opportunity to write is just something we have to do if we want to put in the hours and ink required to create something good. We all know this, but we also know that it can be a little tricky making the time, a fact demonstrated perfectly on our snow day. Group members with children were already in touch to say that local schools were closed which meant they would have to stay at home providing childcare. And many of us would also be trying to juggle care for elderly relatives whilst keeping on top of our day job because, well, that’s what we have to do; the ‘beast from the east’ can wait his turn, there are meals to prepare, the cat needs a trip to the vets and I have to make a World Book Day costume. But whatever is thrown at us, we have to make the time to write; we juggle priorities, use every spare moment. It’s not just a ‘woman thing’, I mean, we’re all busy, right?

Back when the group began Joanna published a blog post explaining why a writing group just for women is, and remains, a great idea. In the twelve months since posting the blog, the group has grown both in size and confidence, something you can tell immediately when you come to a workshop and see the easy familiarity between regular attendees, the genuine appreciation of each other’s work and the warm, kind welcome extended to new members. I revisited the video interviews carried out by Larisa de Vries shortly after the group began; some lovely familiar faces appeared and they spoke about how the supportive and companionable environment created by a women-only group made for a less inhibited environment for writing. The same faces now attend sessions with bulging notebooks, readily sharing their writing and providing a kind and nurturing welcome to new members. I found myself wondering whether the positivity and creativity I have seen shouldn’t be extended to everyone, not just women?

When I happened to meet Matt West, writer and Artful Scribe guru, I couldn’t resist posing the same questions to him. Did he have any issue justifying the allocation of funding and resources to a writing group just for women? Isn’t it discrimination to deny men the opportunity to experience these fantastic workshops? You will pleased to learn that Matt was not only incredibly positive about the group but could justify with ease (even when asked on the spot) why a writing group for women remains a thing of value. Feedback from a variety of people across all sorts of performance and writing platforms has shown time and again that a space for women to practice and share their craft is not only needed, it is also greatly appreciated. Matt’s enthusiasm was infectious and I felt reassured that our group is regarded as a significant part of the SO:Write scene. But still, the gnawing feeling remained, as women, do we really need this ‘special treatment’?

Fast forward a few weeks and The President’s Club hits the front pages with lurid witness accounts of young women paid to be attentive to businessmen (many of whom would surely have daughters the same age as some of the students paid to attend the event). In recent days Oxfam hit the headlines in a shocking expose involving aid workers paying for the services of prostitutes in Haiti. We are still hearing actors detail horrific incidents at the hands of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, months after the New York Times first published the story back in October. Even on a slow news day, we can still rely on Mary Beard being victimised for having grey hair and opinions, and we can read all about a fabricated rivalry between the Duchess of Cambridge and Meghan Markle. Being a woman, is great, isn’t it?

I no longer feel the need to justify the existence of a writing group for women, it is clear that there is still a valid need for groups, places and platforms where women can share, learn, and perform without feeling the need to defer to a louder voice, or hide their light under a bushel for fear of emasculating any delicate egos.  That I may have found myself questioning this is testament to the caring, nurturing vibe I have come to know and expect from the SO:Write Women – we live in challenging times, but together we are a force to be reckoned with.

Feel the need to challenge the patriarchy in a women-only writing group? Come and join us on the first Thursday of the month at The Art House (11.15am) and the third Saturday of the month at the Central Library (10.15am).

 

 

Lyrics and Love

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Song-lyrics burst with the promise of stories. But these stories do not just belong in melodies, they have the potential to be transformed into prose as well.

 

During our latest February workshops, held both at The Art House and Southampton Central Library, we embarked on the task of turning lyrics from different songs into our own personal narratives. To spark ideas, we set the group on a journey around the room, where a collage of cut out lyric pieces were placed on windowsills, tables and cupboards to pick up and read. I like to think of them as treasure maps offering gateways to new worlds and adventures.

 

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As expected, different lyrics spoke to different people and resulted in a wonderful collection of pieces. Whilst some of our writers chose to use the lyrics as openings to their narratives and expand them, others developed writing from the themes and feelings that the songs engendered.

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What struck me was the different ways that our writers interpreted a few lines and cultivated them into gorgeous works that were suited to their own individual style and voice. From stories exploring grief, to an evocative setting on pebble beach, to the joy of stars, we weren’t short of choice or topics. It was just lovely to see the variety of ideas that emerged through this simple exercise.

It also gave us all an opportunity to talk about each other’s pieces and offer our perspectives. The support and feedback of the group always resonates with me, especially as we had new members who I had the privilege of welcoming. As any writer can appreciate, an inviting space is incredibly important for the writing process. I truly do consider So Write a comforting space that allows for the growing of ideas, discussion and reflection.

With time fleeting by, we also used the appearance and passing of Valentine’s Day, towards the end of our session, as a stepping stone for discussing the different ways that love can be written about. I suggested that we consider love beyond the cliché boundaries that it is often affiliated with on the 14th February. I brought with me a recently published book titled How Much The Heart Can Hold to demonstrate the range of this topic.

how much can the heart hold

 

The text is a striking collection comprised of seven short stories on different forms of love, with each story characterised by a different Greek word and definition.

From ‘Philautia’ – Self-love, the act of loving yourself, to ‘Pragma’ – Love that stands still and endures through everything, including death.

It was an enriching exercise that offered everyone a chance to consider how love can be communicated.

It was also a lovely way to end our session. I certainly came away with new ideas for my pieces and I had a sense that the rest of the group felt this way too.

If a writing group appeals to you, please do join us. We are next meeting at The Art House on Thursday 1st March and Saturday 17th March at Southampton Central Library. We look forward to seeing you.

Straight From the Heart

New Year, new start, this is the year we’re going to get our lives sorted, achieve some goals, detox our livers and commit to a high maintenance skincare routine…

Excuse me if I don’t sound particularly enthusiastic, but these dull and chilly January days just don’t seem conducive to breaking bad habits and adopting good ones. There are still some Christmas chocs left over and these frosty mornings and dark nights aren’t tempting me from the house for a run.  In a couple of weeks the biscuit tin will be emptier and the nights will be lighter, so the health kick can start then (I promise). For now, I’ll seize the opportunity to be reflective, bringing some focus to my emotional wellbeing. This is how the SO:Write women kicked off the first workshop of 2018: writing emotions.

At the end of last year we wrote about the body, a session that generated so many great ideas we couldn’t leave them in The Art House! We carried them home, wrote, developed, edited and when we felt happy, we carried them back again to share at our January workshop. We began with a wonderful piece of writing from Madeleine, Life of the Heart. Brave and honest words that explored life, death and healing as a symmetrical process, a journey that cannot be rushed or influenced. Ultimately, we all hope to be strengthened by our life experiences, to be, like the soil in Madeleine’s piece, in good heart.

The heart, driver of both blood and feeling; we couldn’t have wished for a more perfect segue from writing the body to writing emotions. We found new ways to commit these hidden forces to the page, using writing exercises that encouraged new ways of thinking and writing about feelings that so often defy words.

DO Try This At Home

With friends write a list of emotions. Choose one, don’t tell, just spend 10/15 minutes writing about the emotion as if it were an animal, a colour, a fruit or vegetable. Be random, allow yourself to think differently. Take turns to share your descriptions and guess the emotion. So, if I said this emotion was an albino panther, would you guess FURY? How about the wriggling redness of a peach – would this make you ANXIOUS? The mouth feel of pineapple? DISTRESS. Pulsating Puce – a colour that might cause IRRITATION, perhaps?

As with so many writing exercises, this began with an idea that seemed on the surface incredibly simple, but it sparked a fantastic discussion and generated great ideas that may soon find their way into some very original prose and poetry.

In other news

Regular SO:Writer Rhiannon is finalising a collection of poetry; a quick preview evoked the stillness and tranquillity of beach rambles and included a cameo from honorary SO:Write lady canine, Miss Dog.

Joanna is working through submissions for the forthcoming SO:Write Women’s Anthology – more news on this soon.

So, how do you feel? Have we pulled on your heartstrings? Toyed with your emotions and left you wanting more? Come join us! We meet again on Saturday 20th January at Southampton City Library and Thursday 1st February at The Art House.