Saturday, August 20, 2011

Writers' Workshops and Linda Spur

Writer’s Workshops and Linda Spur

As well as belonging to three online critique groups, where I can post a chapter of my historical novels in progress and receive constructive critiques in return for critiquing other members’ chapters, I also belong to Watford Writers. Every Monday the society meets in Cassiobury Park, Watford, Hertfordshire, England at Cafe Cha Cha at 7.30 p.m.

From time to time Watford Writers arranges for guest speakers and workshops. Linda Spur’s workshops are very popular and well-attended.

Linda Spur is rarely seen without a pen and notepad in hand – although in recent months, this is more likely to be an iPad. Linda is well-qualified to advise writers. She started working on local and regional newspapers before moving to the BBC World Service for a broadcasting career of over twenty years. Since then, she has worked as a freelance journalist and as a teacher of Creative Writing and computer skills. She is currently studying for a Masters in Creative Writing at Brunel University.

Writing takes up a lot of her “leisure” time, trying to finish what she hopes will be the next block-busting novel. Her work with the BBC meant she frequently travelled overseas; today, she loves exploring Britain – on foot and by car. But always with the iPad at hand for when inspiration strikes!

In addition to her regular classes, Linda runs occasional Creative Writing workshops for local writing groups. She finds these can serve several purposes: “I’m a great believer in trying different genres of writing. Even if you never intend to write a play, an evening of playwriting exercises will help with your dialogue while poetry makes you think carefully about every word you put down on paper! Moreover, experimenting with, for example, historical fiction or fantasy writing might well open up a whole new area that you had never considered writing before.

“I also find that workshops are ideal for reminders – such as remembering to use all the senses. Writers come up with some lovely images when they use the senses but, over time, authors might forget to involve them until they are reminded. Similarly, the occasional reminder to use a setting more creatively can pay dividends.

“Workshops provide a very supportive environment for writers – beginners and experienced ones alike. Trying something out in a small group first is far less daunting than on your own. Also, learning to give and receive constructive feedback is probably one of the most useful ways of improving your own writing.”

At one of Linda’s workshops, I read a non-fiction article I had written called The Scarlet Pimpernel and His muse. Linda pointed out that the article should be split into two. The first titled Baroness Orczy, and the second titled The Scarlet Pimpernel fact and fiction.

I took Linda’s advice and subsequently placed both articles with Vintage Script a small press magazine. Next year I might re-submit both articles, offering second British serial rights or first American serial rights.

After another workshop, Linda was kind enough to read the first three chapters of my novel Sunday’s Child set in the Regency period. She returned it with the comment that I had introduced too many characters too fast. I took this ‘on board’, revised the chapters and submitted the novel to MuseItUp Publishing with the happy result that it will be published in June, 2012.

Recently, Linda gave a workshop on playwriting. I do not intend to write a play so I shilly shallied about whether or not to attend. To my surprise I enjoyed the workshop during one part of which we were asked to form small groups and write snippets from proposed plays on various themes. Each person assumed the role of one character and wrote that character’s lines. Later we read our snippets to the group. One of my parts was that of a mother-in-law who doesn’t like her son-in-law. A line when she speaks to her son-in-law was: “I believe in live and let live, but not where you’re concerned.” That raised a roar of laughter. All in all, the workshop was fun. It has had the happy result of making me more adventurous about attending other workshops focussed on various forms of writing that I have not attempted.

Wherever you live, whether you are a new writer or an experienced, multi-published writer Linda and I are confident that participating in workshops will pay dividends,

All the best,
Rosemary Morris
Historical Novelist

Forthcoming releases from MuseItUpPublishing
Tangled Love 27.01.2012
Sunday’s Child 06.2012


Wendy said...

How lucky you are, Rosemary, to have face to face workshops. I agree the poetry and screenwriting workshops would be great for focusing the novelist on specific aspects of writing. Just like short story writing workshops. They teach you to make every word count, too.
Being among writers talking about writing and sharing their exercises is something special. I miss it.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Great article. I don't know where I'd be today if not for my online writer's groups. I can't imagine face to face though. My early drafts were pretty bad and having to see someone's face while they tried to nicely explain just how horrible my scene was... ooh, that would be tough.

Kudos to you, Rosemary.