Last night we had the first meeting for 2010 of our writers’ groups at Tabor Adelaide, the university where I am doing my Master of Arts in Creative Writing.
This was a combined meeting of the various writers’ groups. With about 30 in attendance interest is high which is very encouraging. The shared pizza was nice too.
As part of the proceedings one of the lecturers had a long list of recent writing successes from various students, past and present. This must be encouraging to the staff as people are having success with their writing.
The main purpose for this meeting was to launch the annual anthology of writing from students and staff. Tales from the Upper Room has now seen its fifth edition and is going from strength to strength. The standard of writing is very high and competition to be included is intensifying as each new raft of students progresses through the various courses available.
Personal publishing success
I was pleased to see that four of my poems and two of my stories were chosen for the anthology this year. I also contributed parts of a baton poem, an exercise where we all took it in turns to contribute to a major poem.
Lectures in the creative writing courses start in a few weeks time, but I’m sure you can still enroll. Most courses are available externally. Click here to go to the website – just follow the links to the Humanities department. I can thoroughly recommend the courses as being very useful. Staff support is also great.
On Thursday of this week I attended my monthly writers’ group in Adelaide. It’s one of two I regularly attend; the other is devoted to poetry only.
We usually gather for pizza at 6pm and then start into reading and critiquing each other’s work. The readings are based on a challenge set the month before. We limit the activity to 1000 words so that everyone gets a go at reading and having their work critiqued. A good attendance is about 6-8 people, but this week we had 12 eager participants, 7 of whom had risen to the challenge of writing a short story.
This was the fun part. The challenge we had appeared to be very hard, but we all found it very interesting. We were asked to take a poem written by a fellow student which was published in last year’s anthology. This poem had some interesting Nordic references and names, which made the task even more challenging.
The writing task was as follows:
- Take the first word of the poem and use that as the first word of the first sentence of the story.
- Take the second word of the poem and use that as the first word of the second sentence.
- Take the third word of the poem and use this as the first word of the third sentence.
- Follow this pattern until you get to the end of the story – or the poem – whichever comes first.
The variations were wonderful. Using the same words we came up with seven quite different stories. These included:
- A recount of a classroom teacher grappling with unusual student names in the class.
- A stream of consciousness account of someone justifying why she should murder her mother.
- An account of the arrival home of a Viking raiding party.
- An snippet from a Shakespearean like scene written almost completely in iambic rhythm (this was my effort).
Try it for yourself as a writing challenge. Take a poem – any poem – and try it. Last year we used a Robert Frost poem. Use one of your own poems. Whatever. You could be pleasantly surprised at the result.
Have fun with your writing.
Writing can be a very discouraging occupation at times. Much of the time actually. I went through a period of many months a few years ago when I had a string of rejections – 30 of them in a row. It almost brought me to the point of quitting.
But like my need to breathe, I need to write.
So I kept on writing and submitting stories, poems and articles. I kept posting on my blogs. Soon the income from my blogs increased and soon I started getting my writing accepted again. I’m pleased I didn’t give up. The most recent 30 submissions have seen 18 acceptances. Now that’s a better acceptance/rejection ratio.
My most recent publication success came this week with the arrival of a complementary copy of a magazine which included a suite of five sonnets I had written. That’s more encouragement, and I really needed that because I’m going through a few tough health issues at present.
Keep on writing.
Over the years I have written about 500 poems – I haven’t done an accurate count. Most of these were written when the inspiration came to me, usually when I was particularly moved by a scene, an event or a special set of circumstances.
Over the last year I have written about 40 new poems, some of them quite long, the longest being about 140 lines. Almost all of these were written ‘on demand.’ I wrote them because they were expected of me as a part of my Master of Arts course. Most weeks I had to produce a poem in a set format as a part of the assessment process. It was tough going, but I managed it. I found the discipline of enforced writing actually worked in my favour: I had to produce something and that meant honing my skills as a poet.
With this in mind I endorse the idea behind April being the Poem a Day month (click here for details and rules). Each day a writing prompt by Robert Lee Brewer of Poetic Asides on the Writers’ Digest site will be given and poets are encouraged to write a poem a day for the entire month – or you may choose to only write one every few days. All poems submitted will appear on the blog site.
It’s a good challenge. Are you up to it?
Not sure where I’ll find the time. [sigh]
“You’ve got to love libraries. You’ve got to love books. You’ve got to love poetry. You’ve got to love everything about literature. Then, you can pick the one thing you love most and write about it.” Ray Bradbury
I love libraries – all those books on all those different topics, all those wonderful adventures to be enjoyed and pictures to be enjoyed. In fact, I love libraries so much that in another life I was a librarian for about eight years. I loved buying new books for the library – especially seeing it wasn’t my money buying the books!
I love books too. I have a huge collection of books. I can’t bear to get rid of any books. Throwing out a book is akin to loosing a child. Talking of children, I love visiting my adult children, especially my daughter, so that I can become reacquainted with a part of my library. To be fair, some of her books grace my library shelves – only on a temporary basis of course – until I’ve read them.
I always loved poetry too and I’ve written my fair share of poems, from the slightly ridiculous, to the positively banal and some that are absolutely brilliant (IMHO). This year my skills at writing poetry have had a great boost while doing my Master of Arts in Creative Writing course.
But back to the quote from Bradbury.
Writers must be readers. Read widely and voraciously. Love and cherish books. Get your hands on as many as you can; read, read, read, devouring books in numbers.
Then you can pick the one genre or form or discipline you love most, and then write what you love.
Good reading and writing.