Cobnor Activities Centre was yet again a beautiful setting for one of Chichester Copywriter’s writing events. This time it was a Creative Writing Day run by Denise Bennett (Planting the Snow Queen, Oversteps Books, 2011). Read more about Denise here.
The day kicked off with a consideration of “Diamonds of the Dust Heap” and the importance of carrying a notebook to take down ideas and phrases which reveal themselves when we are reading or just going about our daily lives. The places where we find these inspirational gems – changing rooms to trains- are as diverse as those places we choose to write – cafes to gardens. Even looking at the journals of others or noting down titles that would sum up the chapters of our lives can plant those fabulous seeds. This poem by Roger McGough encapsulates the idea of collecting “Diamonds of the Dust Heap” beautifully:
I spend my days
I find them on buses
in department stores
and on busy pavements
At restaurant tables
I pick up the leftovers
of polite conversation
At railway stations
the tearful debris
of parting lovers.
I pocket my eavesdroppings
and store them away.
I make things out of them.
Nice things, sometimes.
Sometimes odd, like this.
The next part of the day involved “Opening Pandora’s Box” and using personal objects to promote writing. There was a fascinating range of objects, from a piece of pottery made by a grandchild and a childhood money box to grandma’s wedding certificate and an eternity ring. These items fuelled discussion and revealed fascinating pathways which could lead to all sorts of writing, including both autobiography and fiction.
After a lunch of homemade butternut squash soup and cheese scones it was time to look at how poems are made and breakdown some of those barriers that the genre holds for some. Denise read the group poetry of different forms, rhythms and ideas which all demonstrated Philip Larkin’s belief that “The emotion should start in the poet and end up in the reader”. The creative writers then used the poems read in the session to inspire their own versions or responses and tried their hands at crafting their own poetry.
Exploring a simple concept, such as a gateway, revealed just how many ideas one word can lead to. How many different types of gateway you can think of? Plain old rickety garden gates, austere gates to grand palaces, gateways to ferries and new lands and sturdy security gates are just a few examples. One word and your associations with that word can lead to a plethora of creative writing ideas.
There was also some free writing time to develop some of the poetry or short stories started in the earlier sessions. Here are a couple of the creative writing pieces crafted in the sessions and some thoughts from the ladies who enjoyed the Creative Writing Day with Denise and Katy:
Writing a poem about writing a poem
Should the lines be long?
Should they rhyme, or just flow?
As long as there’s a rhythm.
Just keep writing.
The wind is rustling in the leaves outside
Fallen leaves flutter and fly
The water is rippling
Lines of currents break the waves
Sending them in all directions
Writing a poem about writing a poem
Read through what has been written
Cricket, poppies. About Grandma.
Writing. Just keep writing until
Outside a little yacht sailing along
White sails billowing.
by Monica Timms
…for the rays that will end the night.
Waiting for the girl who will come to dress her.
Waiting for the clock to speak the hours,
Waiting for the man who will bring her lunch
Waiting for a memory,
a cashmere coated, toasted crumpet sort of memory;
not a sword edged shard of memory that claws at
her mind and screams for some distraction.
Robbed of all distractions bar…
Waiting for the phone to ring – a conversation.
Waiting for the person who will bring her tea – and tablets.
Waiting for the light to fade,
… and the time to sleep once more.
by Sue Uden
“On a classically beautiful blue-sky, autumnally sunny day in idyllic peaceful surroundings at Cobnor Activities Centre which overlooks the waters of Chichester Harbour, I was lucky enough to be one of a small group of aspiring writers seeking to be inspired. And we truly were. With detailed and imaginative planning, Denise Bennett took us through her schedule of fascinating workshops. Entitled ‘Diamonds of the Dust Heap’, ‘Opening Pandora’s Box’, How Are Poems Made?’ and ‘Gateways/Barriers/Doors’.
Thank you Katy and Denise – you clearly did something for me, since I actually finally produce – well maybe not exactly a ‘poem’ – but something more than the blank white page with which I started!” Sue Uden, Chichester. – We love your poem, Sue it’s really moving and “a cashmere coated, toasted crumpet sort of memory” is a true diamond! (KL). You can read more about Sue’s thoughts on the Creative Writing Day on her blog.
“Katy, thank you again for the inspirational day last Saturday, Denise had beautifully constructed her sessions with a lovely mix of poems to get our muses working, and make us dig deep into our own “diamonds in the dust heap”. What a good idea to keep a notebook for the little snippets of everyday life, I will try and put it all into practice!” Helen Burton, Chichester.
“Thank you so much, Katy for organising such a great Creative Writing Day; and thank you, Denise for all the inspiration. I have discovered several ‘Diamonds of the Dust Heap’ to keep me writing. The spider diagram exercise was a revelation to me – it’s not something that usually works when I have a go at it. As for writing poetry, well, again something I don’t usually attempt but I was very pleased with my poem about writing poetry. I managed to find something interesting to write about from all the exercises we completed during the day. I have also been writing in my journal since Saturday, and carry a small notebook with me at all times – even in a very busy X-ray department. Thanks to Denise I have rediscovered that there is always something to write about.” Monica Timms, Swindon.
We thought we’d just finish with the piece that our very own Chichester Copywriter was inspired to write during Denise’s fantastic creative writing workshops, enjoy!
Frozen Fish by Katy Lassetter
Brightest orange, like Jaffa Cakes, I see him shining through an icy haze. “Is he moving, mummy?” I murmur. She doesn’t hear me; she’s clanging pots around in the kitchen. It’s almost time for tea.
I continue watching, my face pressed right up against the tank, steaming up the glass, waiting for the slightest hint of life. I like him, he’s pretty; his scales shine and make rainbows. I want to see his tail flick as he races to the surface when I sprinkle flakes of food.
Wrapping my podgy arms around my body, I shiver. I hug myself close – for comfort, for warmth. It’s getting colder. He doesn’t stand a chance, does he? I feel a tear leave my eye and make its way down my cheek, it feels warm and wet. It touches my lip and I nip my tongue out to meet it; it’s salty.
Should I try and prod him with something? Where’s the stall? Mummy said I shouldn’t climb on the stall – or was that just because I used it to reach granny’s violet creams? If I could just look over, reach in and use my dolly’s leg to break the ice…
I’m sure it’s getting colder. How long until tea? My tummy’s growling. Huffff – I can see my breath making clouds. Huffff. Huffff – the clouds keep coming. Maybe he can float on one when he goes to visit the angels. That’s what happens next, isn’t it? It’s warmer there, I’m sure.
Chichester Copywriter is in the early stages of planning the 2012 Writers’ Retreat, if you’re interested to be kept informed of all the plans surrounding this event please contact Katy at Chichester Copywriter and she’ll add you to the contact list.