CWISL was at the Read, Write, Perform Omnibus event on Friday and Saturday this weekend.
CWISL setup the stall on Friday and even had one of our team-meetings at the wonderful café.
Then on Saturday, we came bright and early while the skies rumbled and rained. And then it was time for the drama classes to begin – and the hall was filled with young boys and girls running around, talking, preparing for their young-theatre class.
CWISL members got to meet with parents, children and the drama teacher who was trying to convince his students that he wrote Jack and the Beanstalk. We also told everyone about the creative writing workshop for kids that was at noon.
Learning #1 – How to unlock a story
I learnt from Margaret and the beautiful treasure box she shared with Beverley, how to unlock a story. As a writer, storyteller and as a creative writing mentor – it was fun to watch her unlock the story with our workshop attendees.
Learning #2 – Making connections
I lead a double-life. I have a corporate persona when I am at my day-job and then my creative side when I am writing, telling stories and selling my books. Here time is of value, but not as valuable as it is at the day-job. Here it is always about finding creative connections, meeting interesting people and connecting with one reader – if that’s all we get throughout the day.
We spent the whole day, explaining our mission at CWISL to visitors to the Omnibus. We chatted about the workshops and the new postcards. And we met librarians, bookshop people, festival organisers and that’s valuable. You don’t get that by selling books just on the internet.
I met the librarian from Clapham Library who not only bought Farmer Falgu Goes on a Trip, much to my joy, he invited me to tell the story at his library. We shook hands on a date and time. Check out the Events Page for more details.
I met the festival organisers of Omnibus along with other CWISL members and we talked about how we could collaborate.
I even walked into Clapham Books on my way back to the station, to look at their shop and ask if I could do an event there. That was brave of me. I am usually very very anxious to do things like that. I almost walked out without making contact. But I realized the worst that could happen was they would say No. Well they didn’t. I would be writing to them for sure.
Learning #3 – Be Specific
This one is a writing tip. Courtesy of Sam Osman and Paul Bryers. I attended their adult creative writing workshop – I had time on my hands, remember. This is what I don’t get to do when I am in meetings and conference calls at work.
We learnt how to bring a scene to life, how to make the reader feel the same thing as the narrator.
When Sam said, “Don’t be general. If you say I went on a roller-coaster ride, each reader is going to imagine their own roller-coaster ride experience. It might be scary or fun for them. But you need to make the reader feel what your narrator is feeling, not what their own experience was.”
Aha! Now I have an anchor for my descriptions. I always knew descriptions have to be specific. I always knew “show not tell.” I was taught to write descriptions with all five senses. But Sam gave me a reason for it. A damn good one.
Learning #4 – Start with a small object that has big impact
And when I thought that was the most important tip I’ve ever got from an award-winning writer, Sam gave me another gift.
In each of the scenes we all described in the workshop, we were asked to find a single object that can anchor the scene. That object could also be the starting point of the story.
While one person brilliantly chose a pencil shaving, another chose an abandoned shoe, there was a sharp knife and of course mine was a screw.
Sam told us to start our stories with an object – focus , zero-in, pan-in the shot, don’t do a wide angle. Both Paul and Sam have backgrounds in film-making and I could see how that has enriched their writing as well.
Paul then showed us how “show not tell” can be brought to your writing by highlighting some of the descriptions we had used in this exercise.
Signing books, unlocking imaginary worlds, zooming in the camera, having wonderful soup and corn bread at the cafe, all in all, it was a fantastic day in when the skies rumbled and rain tumbled outside.
I was tired at the end of the day. I needed chilled white wine and a couch. But it was all worth it. Time needs to be measured in terms of what you got out of it, not how much money you made out of it. At least for me, that’s the motto I hope to live by.