Thursday, 12 April 2012

Jaffa Cakes & Mini Eggs (AKA My First Ever Creative Writing Workshop)

On Tuesday night, I ran my first ever proper workshop session at Chesterfield Library. It was for a group of young writers called the Write Here Group, which is run by River Woltona recent Derbyshire Poet Laureate and workshop wizard extraordinaire, who I’ve worked with before and who will be chairing the panel discussion I’m taking part in for the Derbyshire Literature Festival next month. I'd been asked to talk about getting published and how to write believable fiction that's set in the future.

Was I nervous? Definitely. I’ve been running a small writing group at the library where I work for several years now, so I wasn’t quite as terrified as I might have been if I was going into this cold, but it was still a slightly scary prospect. What if no-one turned up? What if they thought I was boring? What if they thought the exercises I was going to do with them were crap? I even had an anxiety dream the night before, where I had to meet the group at a party in the hallway of a large, posh house. Everyone was talking so loudly I couldn’t make myself heard, even when I shouted. Then I realised I’d forgotten all the worksheets I’d so painstakingly put together and printed out. NIGHTMARE.

Thankfully, the reality was completely different. When I arrived at the library, I was met by River, and when we got down to the meeting room, two of the group were already there. I chatted to them about the novels they’re currently working on, which sound amazing. There were chocolate mini eggs, and grapes to snack on, and when the rest of the group arrived someone had even brought a box of Jaffa cakes with them.

So far, so good.

We kicked off by talking about how I got my agent, and how to look for an agent that represents your genre (look at the Writers and Artist’s Yearbook, and find out who represents the authors you like to read in your genre – which is how I found mine). Then we did an exercise about how to make up believable future names, which resulted in creating a character biography, then writing a scene featuring that character on the theme of ‘most frightening/exciting day in their life’.

After that we did a more general exercise about worldbuilding, and then I had the opportunity to answer more questions about writing and getting published. Before I knew it, the two hours were up. And I’d loved every minute of it! The group were awesome – friendly and talented, and the quality of their writing just blew me away. It was an honour to be asked to speak to them. 

A huge thank you to the Write Here group and River for making me feel so welcome!


23 comments:

  1. I'm glad it all went well. :D
    I would like to read your "how I got my agent" story. :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Akoss! As for the agent story… keep reading… *taps side of nose mysteriously* ;o)

      Delete
  2. Ooh that sounds nerve wracking! Glad it went well :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. So how *do* you make up believable future names?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Short answer: Baby name and surname dictionaries are your friend. Long answer: Err, I may have to blog about this at some point! :)

      Delete
    2. I have several baby names books...and a huge copy of 'The Oxford Names Companion', but it's the baby books that keep me in names!

      Delete
    3. They are SO useful! Phone books are great for surnames, too.

      Delete
  4. That sounds fab Em! Glad it went so well and you enjoyed it - sounds like they did too. Hopefully, it'll be the first of many for you - I'm sure it will be.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Abi! I hope so too. :)

      Delete
  5. : O I will never be brave enough to do this. Good for you!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Ruth! At one time, I wouldn't have thought I could do it either, but it isn't nearly as scary as it sounds. But then… I do like waffling on about writing to anyone who'll listen, ha ha!

      Delete
  6. So glad you had a great time, Emma! As if you could be anything less than fabulous. And Jaffa cakes (my sis is obsessed with them)?? Win win.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Elsie! The jaffa cakes were the key, I think. I may have to take some with me every time I do a workshop, for luck. ;o)

      Delete
  7. That sounds like so much fun! I am glad it went well!

    ReplyDelete
  8. WOW! I'm so jealous of the group. I for one am terrified of published authors...I would have been shaking! (Not that YOU are scary...just...oh, I don't know.)

    It sounds like you all had an amazing time.

    And, um, Jaffa cakes? No clue what those are but I assume they're amazing. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Leigh Ann, I used to be exactly the same. I've only been to a few workshops and when I was there, hardly ever managed to summon the courage to speak up or ask questions. And when I did it would take me about 2 days to recover! I'm not sure why either… but maybe because writing was (and still is!) something so personal, so *me*, that to share it was (and is) like sharing a little piece of my soul.

      Jaffa cakes: a circle of sponge cake, with a layer orange jelly and dark chocolate on the top. *Happy sigh*

      Delete
    2. Jaffa cakes are kind of a British thing, I don't know if I've ever seen them elsewhere. Leigh Ann, are you American?

      I too am a bit terrified of published authors, but a little bit less so since I know a few that have encouraged me. I get a little unnerved too by the authors who seem to have it all figured out on their blogs. I feel like I'm still figuring out the direction I want to take mine in. How do you two get ideas for what to blog about? Besides anything you have obviously going on and consuming your thoughts and/or time.

      Delete
  9. So glad it went so well for you, it sounds like you all had a great time!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Jaffa Cakes! Well, that's perfection then, isn't it? Seriously, I'm really glad it went well for you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Talli! I am VERY jealous of the home-made Jaffa Cakes you mentioned in your blog yesterday. ;o)

      Delete