Creative Writing Workshops

Get inspired by creative writing ideas for everyone, writers and non-writers!

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If I Could Write Like ******

Our exercise this week is titled: 
If I Could Write Like ******
Based on the poem by Laura Scott titled ‘If I could write like Tolstoy’.
  Link - If I could write like Tolstoy

It’s got lots of Tolstoy novel details in it, which I don’t understand but I enjoyed the poem.
All you need to do is replace ’Tolstoy’ with any other word you fancy – could be another writer, or anything else you wish.
‘If I could write like the Krankies’ ‘If I could write like a Frog’ ‘If I could write like a Tesco Superstore’. Get the idea?
Your response should contain some detail about your choice but doesn’t have to. Unrestrained imaginative interpretations are welcome.

Anne Carson. ‘Burners Go Raw'

Here’s a piece by that old favourite of the writing group, Anne Carson. ‘Burners Go Raw’. What the story is, I don’t have a clue. But the play of words and phrases fascinated me. 

All I want you to do is write a piece with the catchy title:
‘Story/Poem Beginning with a Phrase from Anne Carson’ 
and guess what? It has to start with a phrase or sentence or line from the poem. So the first line of my piece might be ‘I can almost taste it’, or ‘medieval dark’ or ‘one day you climbed in the kitchen window’. So, lots of scope there for imaginative excursions!
Link - Anne Carson

Finnegan’s Wake

Write a piece responding to an excerpt from Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce.
Not the Not the Exercise Again!

Last week was biography. This week, in a way, is biography of another kind. We’re all defined by the things that are around us – our possessions, our interests, our fellow humans, our world. They show us in part who we are, but they aren’t us. 

I’m not the poems I write, for example.
I want you to define your worlds (real or imaginary, or a mixture of both) by listing the things around you (again, real or imagined). And I’ll give you examples of these
Every sentence/line must start ‘Not the’, but can be as short or long as you like. And to help further, the categories you can include (add your own!) are:
`Not the [things around the house]
Not the [noises]
Not the [description of the weather]
Not the [touch]
Not the [personal features]
Not the [taste]
Not the [things in the town where you live]
Not the [smells]

A Biography

Here’s a very short poem called ‘Biography’ by Sophie Collins:

BIOGRAPHY
She is a 23-year-old poet of indeterminate origin. Her poems have appeared in swimming light reflections, the face of the incredulous Meister, Christ’s translucent orb, and elsewhere.
 Sophie Collins

And here are a couple of Wikipedia biographies:
 Link - D. B Cooper
Link -  Hugo Ball

Your task is simply to write a short biography. It might be you, or a fictionalised you, as Sophie has done, or of a famous person, or a fictional person, but the key thing is to make it as strange and wacky as you can. How do we define ourselves? By where we live? By the things in our life we love? The people? So my biography might be a list of objects I love (and hate). Or a shopping list. Or a sequence of twelve questions about myself I don’t bother to provide answers for. Or, as Hugo Ball does, a sequence of pseudo-nonsense words that somehow make sense of me.

A Voyage around my Room

In 1790 a young French soldier called Xavier Le Maistre was imprisoned for 42 days in Turin for fighting an illegal duel. To stop himself getting bored, he wrote a book about a journey round that room, as if it was a travel journal. You can read the entire book online here:
A Voyage around my Room

And here’s the beginning of one chapter from this wee book:



All you need to do is write your own piece, either documentary, fictions, poem or story, which bear the same title, or roughly the same title: ‘A Voyage round my Room’ 
Notice how he writes as if he is on a journey, a voyage into the unknown known places of his life? Enjoy!

This is not a

This week’s task was to write something with the title ‘This is not a [Poem][Story] about…’ in the style of Victoria Adukwei Bulley’s poem ‘This is not a Poem about Parakeets’.

This Poem is not about Parakeets

On the bus back, two men make noise and all else
falls silent, or leans away. One woman gets off
altogether. I pull my headphones out. The air
thickens. The men are angry. Words leave their
mouths and hit the windows like flies. They’re
everywhere, everywhere you look. I’ve got seven
stops left. What we want is our country back.
My armpits tingle with sweat. I want to throw
something and then leave. Is that so much to ask?
I’m nowhere near home, so instead I think about the
parakeets that live on my road. They take up all the
housing. I want to tell the men how the parakeets
got here. All they do is take our jobs. How they
were brought here in the ’60s for a film, and then
escaped. They’re scroungers. I want to tell them
how despite the bad weather they never lost their
songs. Why are they so noisy? How none of April’s
showers ever washed their colours off. They don’t
even try to blend in. Or how these birds are so smart
they can talk human. They don’t even speak proper
English. The men keep moaning. It’s my freedom of
speech. I want to ask if they’ve seen these creatures
fly, these emerald green parakeets that live near my
home, I want to tell them about the brightest, most
beautiful birds I’ve ever known.
 Victoria Adukwei Bulley

A Three storey House with a Basement

The Task was to write something about Inhabitants, in response to a Yannos Ritsos poem titled ‘Three Storey House with Basement’:
Storm Warning

This week’s theme was ‘Storm Warning’ – writing based on the poem by Roisin Kelly.
People could tackle this any way they wished – use ‘Storm Warning’ as a title, or write some other form of warning, or a piece about portents and omens.

Science Museum Group search

This week’s exercise was a bit different. Here’s a weblink for the Science Museum Group search page: 
Link

If you follow it then type in a word to search for (try ‘space’ – you’ll find images for everything from a child’s game to a space toilet). You can choose any word you like, in fact, you might choose two or more search words and link these through the images they produce. If you need a hand thinking of things to search for, here are a few:
Time
Dundee
Mountain
Bird
Art
Sculpture
Music
Sea

time

This week’s topic was ’Time’. And to help you find your words, I’ve attached a YouTube link, again. It’s a clip from a film by the artist/composer Christian Marclay, who put the film together by taking pieces from hundreds of feature films, every one of which had a clock, watch or reference to time in it. 

Amazingly, the film he made is in real time, in other words, it lasts 24 hours, so if you began watching it say at midnight, all the timepieces in the film would be correct. This clip starts at about 5.40, as you’ll see, and the only link between the clips is the time of day:

Portrait

I’d like you to write with the title ‘Portrait’ – though you may change that title once your piece is finished.  Perhaps include the words ‘dust’ ’twin’ ‘glass’ and ’ink’.
To help you, I’ve attached three images:

‘Portrait of a Young Woman’ by Gregory Masurovsky (the misty one)
Link
`‘Self Portrait after Going Blind’ by Jorge Luis Borges (the scribbly one)
Link
`‘Self Portrait’ by Louise Bourgeois (the red and blue one)
Link
`[Only links given as the three portraits are each in copyright]

Silence

This week the subject was silence. Silence in the outdoors is rare and magical. Between people, silence is often charged with words that have not been spoken. In ‘Wolf Hall’ Hilary Mantel writes:

“You can have a silence full of words. A lute retains, in its bowl, the notes it has played. The viol, in its strings, holds a concord. A shrivelled petal can hold its scent, a prayer can rattle with curses; an empty house, when the owners have gone out, can still be loud with ghosts.”
The task was to write a piece about silence, but without using the world ‘silence’ in the writing itself. Though, as usual, writers could bend the rules any way they liked.

lease Can I Have a…

In the Selima Hill poem ‘Please Can I Have a Man…’ she deliberately overdoes the language to make the poem funny and striking, using over-the-top similes – ‘like a duvet stuffed with library books and shopping bags’ and rather unusual images.`I’d like you to write something with the title ‘Please Can I Have a…’ (add anything you like!). 

You too can be playful and over the top in your language or do the opposite and keep it as simple as you can. It could be funny, or it might be serious. It’s your choice. It doesn’t even need to be a poem, it could be a story, or a dialogue.

opposites

This week’s exercise was all about opposites. Here’s the opening paragraph of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of
times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the
age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief,
it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the
season of Light, it was the season of
Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was
the winter of despair, we had everything
before us, we had nothing before us, we
were all going direct to Heaven, we were all
going direct the other way

The exercise was to write something on the topic of opposites, but not necessarily sticking to Dickens’ examples.

Veer

This exercise was based on a link to a short film on YouTube:
The task was to turn it into a story or poem. If the writers felt stuck, they could try describing closely what they saw in the film, as if they were there.

 If they needed a title, they might find it in what he’s saying, or the title of the film ‘Veer’.

colour

This exercise was based on a poem titled ‘Black’ by Paul Celan. 
I asked folk to write something (prose, poem, whatever) with a colour as its title. 
They could also use the name of that colour once again, but only once. I encouraged responses to be as strange as the original!

Titles

This week’s exercise was titled ‘Titles’, all taken from photographs or paintings, (mostly Frida Kahlo). Suggested prompt: adopt a title for your writing or use some of these words within your writing.  

The titles are:
‘I Belong to my Owner’.
‘Portrait of a Girl’.
‘Self Portrait with Necklace of Thorns’.
‘They Asked for Planes but were Given Straw Wings’.
‘What the Water Gave Me’.
‘The Bright Cloud’.
‘My Dress Hangs There’.
‘The False Mirror’.

There is Light Somewhere

The suggestion from John Glenday for this week was to write something – either prose or poem – with the draft title ‘There is Light Somewhere’.

You can read the Charles Bukowski poem ‘The Laughing Heart’ to help you get started, and, if you can, listen to him reading it at ... Youtube Link
This poem is about coping when the going is tough, and about how there is always something positive up ahead, if only we can find it.
Your writing must include the words ‘heart’ ‘light’ ‘marvellous’ and one other, picked from the poem. Once you’ve finished, you could change the title.

Creative Writing

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