Category Archives: WRITE IDEAS!

reading and writing poetry

Starts: 10.30-11.30am Mon 19th Oct

Ends: 10.30-11.30am Mon 21st Dec

Cost: £50

Rediscover your love of poetry!

…Or maybe you’re looking to find it.

This ten-week course is aimed at people who want to read, write and discuss poetry with a group of friendly, like-minded individuals.

The sessions are delivered via Zoom, which allows everyone to easily share their work on the screen as well as take turns to ask questions and share thoughts about the chosen poems. Feedback is available for those who would like it.

Beginners and experienced writers are equally welcome. I have deliberately chosen poems which are accessible to all as well as being linguistically rich and open to a number of different interpretations.

Each week, read the poem in advance and print out a copy. Try to think of a comment to make or question to ask. It’s particularly lovely when people do a little research into the poem or poet and helps enrich our discussions. After twenty minutes discussion, everyone will write a short piece which can either be shared straight-away or worked on before the next session.

On weeks five and ten all participants can choose to read a short published poem as well as one of their own pieces. The poem can be selected from any time period and can take any form you wish. (Aim for sixteen lines or fewer so that everyone gets a turn).

The course costs £50 for ten one-hour sessions and is payable by direct debit. If you email me your mobile phone number, I can text you my bank details.

For more information, email suffolkwritersgroup@gmail.com.

Or phone me on 07943 068033 (I’m Mai – pronounced May)

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image.png
Suffolk Writers Group at work and play. (I’m in the middle at the top).

Here is some of the lovely feedback I received about the last course.

‘This course has been great fun giving me the experience to return to poetry and fully appreciate it.  When I was at school the teacher hated poetry so I never went back to it. I have learnt so much in a relaxed and informative way.  We were all at different levels but it did not matter everyone was so friendly.   Thank you Mai for a great experience.  I look forward to the next one.’ – Jacqui Martin

‘All I can say is thank goodness for lockdown. Without it I’d never have found this lovely group. Mai is great – I’ve learnt so much in such a short length of time.’ – Sue Dale

‘Brilliant insightful course, rediscovering the beauty of language.’ – Ian Speed

‘It’s such a supportive group and Mai does such a great job in keeping us motivated.’ – Ian Hartley

Poems for discussion and inspiration

Week One – Leisure by William Henry Davies

Week Two – He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven by W B Yeats

Week Three – Warning by Jenny Joseph

Week Four – The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

Week Five – Members’ Choice

Week Six – Anthem for Doomed Youth by Wilfred Owen

Week Seven – The Donkey by G K Chesterton

Week Eight – Snow by Louis McNeice

Week Nine – Not Waving but Drowning by Stevie Smith

Week Ten – Members’ Choice

(All these poems can be accessed at poetryfoundation.org.)

To visit our main website and find out about other writing courses and creative writing resources, click here.

Mai Black, Course Co-ordinator

Exploring nineteenth century poetry

During this ten-week course, we’ll be reading and discussing some of the most iconic British poems of the nineteenth century.

Beginning with Daffodils by William Wordsworth, each week will consist of a reading, a chance for everyone to share their ideas and a ten-minute slot for everyone to write a response to the poem. You can then choose whether or not to share your written work with the group.

You’ll learn (or revise) a variety of rhythms, rhyme schemes and poetic forms as well as getting a sense of what it meant to be a nineteenth century poet.

In the future, I will also be running similar courses based on seventeenth, eighteenth and twentieth century poetry.

Currently, all courses are taking place on Zoom. I will be holding regular practice sessions so that you can get used to the system before signing up for a course.

The course costs £50 for ten one-hour sessions and is payable by direct debit or cheque.

I am intending to run this course from 10.30-11.30am on Thursdays, starting in early July but let me know if you can’t make that day/time as I currently have a degree of flexibility.

For more information, please email me at suffolkwritersgroup@gmail.com.

John Keats

Here is some of the lovely feedback I received about the last course.

‘This course has been great fun giving me the experience to return to poetry and fully appreciate it.  When I was at school the teacher hated poetry so I never went back to it. I have learnt so much in a relaxed and informative way.  We were all at different levels but it did not matter everyone was so friendly.   Thank you Mai for a great experience.  I look forward to the next one.’ – Jacqui Martin

‘All I can say is thank goodness for lockdown. Without it I’d never have found this lovely group. Mai is great – I’ve learnt so much in such a short length of time.’ – Sue Dale

‘Brilliant insightful course, rediscovering the beauty of language.’ – Ian Speed

‘It’s such a supportive group and Mai does such a great job in keeping us motivated.’ – Ian Hartley

Poems for Discussion and Inspiration

1807 – ‘Daffodils’ by William Wordsworth 

1820 – Ode To Autumn by John Keats (27th April)

1842 – The Lady of Shalott by Alfred Lord Tennyson

1850 – How Do I Love Thee?  – Elizabeth Barrett Browning

(Own choice of poems)

1862 – Remember by Christina Rossetti

1871 – The Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll

1885 – From a Railway Carriage by Robert Louis Stevenson

1890 – The Lake Isle of Innisfree – WB Yeats

Own choice of poem and Poetry Quiz

Suffolk Writers Group at work and play

To visit our main website, click here.

What we want from a first chapter

I asked the Ipswich creative writing groups what they want from the first chapter in a novel.

Here is a selection of the answers:-

Jen

I need to feel pulled into the story, dropped into the middle of the action and convinced that I don’t want to climb back out again! I like an immediate sense of action and character. I want to be intrigued, surprised even, but not confused. l like prose that is effortless to read but has emotional resonance and rhythm. I want the writer to make me feel – to make me connect – from the very first page.

Tony

Intrigue and engagement. If it is a writer I know I am likely to settle in confidently. If it is a new one he or she will need to engage with me by the thoughts and ideas which I am reading. These provide the intrigue for the story development however slow or fast that may be.

Mike

The reader’s attention must be arrested by the first sentence. The lead need not necessarily appear, but should certainly in the chapter that follows. There must be movement. Not necessarily physical, for example someone running or swimming, but a sense of movement towards danger, or the unknown. The reader must immediately care about the character in play, enough to wish to know what happens next. Lack of movement, in other words stasis, is death to the opening chapter, and therefore the book.

Me

I like a first chapter that falls into one of two categories.

The first is fully dimensional scene involving action or dialogue which intrigues me. In most cases I prefer this without exposition or flashbacks.

The second category has a strong authorial voice, maybe in first person. The style is similar to a fairy tale whether traditional or modern.

Here’s a list of other things people are looking for in a first chapter:-

  • An original, intriguing hook
  • Clever/beautiful language (eg. alliteration, metaphor)
  • Shock tactics
  • An original voice
  • Contrast/conflict
  • An engaging, welcoming voice
  • An endearing character
  • A feeling of forward momentum
  • The desire to continue reading
  • Empathy
  • Believability
  • Questions that need answering

Here are some of the things that would put us off a novel

  • Bad grammar or spelling
  • A setting we can’t identify with
  • A character we can’t identify with
  • Cliché

What about you?

Send me your thoughts about what you like or don’t like in a first chapter and I’ll add it to the page.

Mai x

suffolkwritersgroup@gmail.com

https://suffolkwritersgroup.com/

Good Openers for Novels

Head lamp
Head lamp

I just had to publish these story openers from Dan, Gem and Kelly. Fantastic work, you three!

A Little Known Story of Graeme Le Saux

Graeme Le Saux liked to pretend he was a lampshade. After all, he had to find something to fill the time after he couldn’t make football punditry work. He felt much more suited to this. And every Sunday in the quiet of his Surrey home, he’d put a lampshade on his head and sit perfectly still for a few hours or so.

He’d really come along since he’d first started. Having fashioned a proper shade out of one of his wife’s old dresses, and running electrical wires to his head to actually make light. “I’m going to be the best lampshade ever,” he thought to himself.

He remembered back when he’d first started and his old Southampton teammate James Beattie had called him a homo and a complete tit when he told him of his new hobby but he didn’t care, he was beautiful. And that’s all he really wanted to be. He’d tried to show it in his marauding runs and kicking David Batty whenever he played him in his football career. Only now did he really feel he had brought light into the world in a way he never had before.

He was running from room to room one day. Trying different places and generally giggling like a crushing schoolgirl, when there were his friends. Gathered round with sombre looks on their faces. Graeme would never forget this day as the day that he ran and never looked back. Some say that if you look in the mirror and say his name three times he appears, and that he still lights the darkest places. The truth is, no one really knows.

By Dan

 

Busy Hands

Truly Furlow’s hook wove the wool deftly. She’d first learned to crochet as a young child at her grandmother’s insistence – “The Devil finds work for idle hands” she always said. Trudy, being only small at the time, thought that as her grandmother always found work for her hands, the old woman must be the Devil. Her wide blue eyes would squint away in fear as the hook and wool were handed to her. Being only small, she dare not disobey.
Twenty years of daily crochet had turned her into a pro; she could whip up a wooden extravaganza wherever she was. But her favourite place was here – the graveyard of St Mary’s on the Quay. It was a graveyard love had long since left. The only flowers were thistles and the stones were crumbling like hobnobs dunked in tea for too long. A soupy mist would often sneak in from the nearby river and tug at her ankles as she sat on the bench. It was an atmosphere most would find creepy but Trudy felt safe here. Safe from the Devil.
Purple strands stirred through the black as the hooded cloak she was crocheting grew. Soon she would start on an edging of silver thread – but not yet. She needed to do it under the light of the full moon so it would soak up the moons protection and cast it over her when she wore it. But the moon had not yet risen and she needed that protection. Today was her 27th birthday. Her grandmother would be coming for her.”

By Gem

 

Claire Morris liked watching black and white movies. At 42 she was past caring about having company. She preferred to go on her own, submersing herself in worlds of handsome heroes. She would imagine herself to be the beauty they fought over, instead of the short, mousy haired woman she really was.

It was Sunday afternoon and she was at the Playhouse Cinema, row ‘h’, centre seat. It was her place of worship. As the glow of the screen shrouded her, she felt truly happy. Far removed from the realities of life, from the disappointment it contained. Occasionally the outside world would try and worm it’s way into her consciousness. Why couldn’t her husband be as chivalrous as Cary Grant? She would feel the familiar knot of anxiety stir in her chest, but she pushed it back down. She refused to think about him. Not here.

By Kelly

Alphabet of Writing Practice

alphabetclothingfoodspica[1]

Things for writers to consider:-

  1. Adverbs/adjectives
  2. Boringness
  3. Clichés
  4. Dodgy similes and metaphors
  5. Emotion
  6. Figurative language
  7. Genres
  8. Heroes
  9. Imagery
  10. Justification
  11. Knockout ending
  12. Length of words and sentences
  13. Metre
  14. Nouns
  15. Opposites
  16. Punctuation!!!??!
  17. Quests and Questions
  18. Rhyme
  19. Structure
  20. Time
  21. Understanding
  22. Viewpoint
  23. What’s the point?
  24. Xtremes
  25. Your sanity
  26. Zzzzz (the sound of a reader snoring)

 

 

 

Inspired by Shakespeare

Last week’s task was to write a piece ending with a line from Macbeth.

Cathy created this moving piece in only ten minutes and was kind enough to let me use it here.

She uses simple language to give a powerful effect. I connected immediately with the character and her surroundings:-

 *********************************************************************

I have nothing better to do this afternoon than walk. Walk and watch. The sun has lightened the grey walls of the high street. The rain, heavy but swift, has gone leaving darkened patches on the paving stones and a smell of metal. It is undeniably summer and the shoppers are out, chatting to each other about the weather’s turn. No need to rush inside. Those kids – I recognise them from down my road. Only yesterday, it seems, they were speechless and chubby in pushchairs, now raucous and skinny, dressed in the latest gear. I see myself in the shop window. Grey. This is what happens as the seeds of time are scattered.

******************************

Perhaps you’d like to have a go yourself. Choose a line from Macbeth to have as your finishing line and write a paragraph to precede it.

Send me your results. I’d love to see them.

Writing Screenplays

arlingtons group

We did our first session on screenplays at Arlingtons Writing Group last night.

Wow.

We’ve done travel writing, poetry, novels, short stories, flash fiction and writing for magazines.  This is by far the hardest thing we’ve tackled so far.

And that’s just the first session.

Google ‘screenplay structure’ and you’ll see what I mean.  There are hundreds and hundreds of different approaches.  There is some overlap but this makes it harder, not easier, to make sense of it all.

The same is true with structuring novels and plays but when I’ve researched how to structure those, you don’t read things like: ‘If you don’t write it exactly as I’ve told you – with plot points planned to the second, you will utterly fail.’

Overall, my favourite website is:-  http://thescriptlab.com/screenwriting-101/screenplay/five-plot-point-breakdown

Do check out the website.

My version is almost the same except for the definition of the ‘midpoint’ and ‘cimax’.

I would say the five main plot points are:-

1.  The Inciting Incident (sets everything in motion – someone dies, falls in love…)

2.  The Lock In (the point of no return)

3.  Midpoint (reversal of fortune, where the victim starts fighting back)

4.  Climax (the high point of emotional intensity – the chase scene, the battle, self-sacrifice, death, the reveal)

5. Twist (a surprise – such as where Darth Vader is Luke’s father, often gives the film a deeper resonance.

In group, we used that to analyse our favourite films and then plotted out storylines of our own.

Homework is to bring a new storyline in one of the following forms:-

a) A summary

b) A ‘once upon a time’ type

c) A storyboard

d) A graph/table showing how you’ve used the plot points to structure the story.

In group everyone got a good, solid structure but we didn’t hear as many ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ as we usually get in reading time.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens when we’ve all got a bit more time to be creative.