Writing Groups: Giving Feedback

by Ekaterina Fawl

I’ve already talked about the joys and challenges of receiving feedback graciously (even if it’s not the glowing praise you expected!) and using it to improve your piece (even if the comments aren’t as helpful as you might have hoped). Now it’s time to turn the tables… Let’s delve into the art of giving feedback! How can we do that without crushing our fellow writers’ spirits, while giving them our honest opinion? How do we organise our thoughts? How do we provide the most useful and thoughtful feedback the writer can get?

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The Spur: writing motivations.

by Cathryn Burge

I started writing to win an argument. Or rather, I started sharing my writing because I wanted to win an argument. I’d been writing in secret since I was ten. I’d got into this argument on an online forum about Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a TV show about which I was (and am) fiercely passionate. I forget the precise topic of the debate; all I remember is jaw-clenching, hair-tearing-out frustration at my inability to get my opponent to see reason. Viz: agree with me. To my mind, I was being rational and clear, quoting closely from the show. To my opponent, I was simply wrong. Continue reading

The Art of Letter Writing

by Bon Nightingale

[This week’s blog post is by guest blogger Bon Nightingale who, at 96, still corresponds regularly with friends and family and members of her church. She writes for us about the (nearly) lost art of letter-writing, and the part it’s played in her life.]

I remember when I was seven, my father gave me a pencil box. Oak, with a slide-top. It had compartments inside for pencils and rubber. It smelled of wood, like my dad’s workshop.

I started writing letters to my Grandma – my father’s mother. I went to her for music lessons, and we’d write little notes to each other. At school I enjoyed dictation, the pleasure of forming letters and sentences. I remember writing ‘A Day in the Life of a Cat’ for a composition exercise, and got in trouble because my imagination ran away with me. My cat lived a day as a human. He went on an adventure on a boat. My work was marked with the dreaded ‘see me’ from the teacher, who told me off for using too much imagination. After that I stuck to more factual writing. Continue reading

Festival season is here!

by Helen Kenwright

This Friday, 16th March, the Writing Tree are delighted to be providing a ‘Writing for Fun’ workshop at York Literature Festival.

I’m feeling a great sense of excitement –  and not just our event, but because the Festival is one of the highlights of my year.  There are over 350 literary festivals held in the UK each year, and I always look forward to York’s Festival, which takes place from 15th to 26th March at various venues across the City.  This year there’s an added sense of excitement for us, as the Writing Tree not only makes its debut at the Festival with the workshop, but also with a spot at the HUB Bookstall on 19th,  where we will be officially launching the paperback of ‘Forest‘.

As writers it’s easy to become isolated and invisible, and a festival is a great opportunity to see that we’re not alone, but part of a thriving creative community. For a couple of weeks each spring, I do my utmost to tap into the opportunity to be inspired, to learn and to find new friends in the world of local writers.

The Hay Festival (referred to by The Guardian as “the Glastonbury of literary festivals“) is now regularly televised for its interviews with famous authors.  I’m looking forward to York’s headliners, including TV historian Lucy Worsley talking about Jane Austen, local MAN Booker nominated writer Fiona Mozley and Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, author of ‘The Enemy Within: A Tale of Muslim Britain’. But what inspires me even more are the ‘fringe’ events: the workshops, the stand-up poets, the open mic events, the opportunity to hear from the small indie publishers and self-published authors who one might not discover otherwise. I always come away with new ideas, new skills and a refreshed appreciation of how many talented writers there are out there. We may not all have that top spot at Hay in our sights, but we share a love for our craft, for books and writing, and the opportunity to celebrate that each year is precious.

If you can’t join us in York, I hope you have a similar event you can get to in your own locality. Or if not, we will do our best to inspire you here at the Writing Tree all year long!

The Joy of Restraints: deadlines, themes and wordcounts.

BY CATHRYN BURGE

In theory, writing a story which might be included in an anthology seemed like a wonderful idea. In practice, it seemed like a very stupid one. Once I’d decided to go for it, every single story seed I’d ever had promptly withered and died. I wandered around for days trying to shake something promising out of my brain, but to no avail. Cue self-doubt and panic: I’d blithely committed myself to producing something and I couldn’t even think of anything suitable, let alone write it. Worse still, there was a deadline, an absolute date by which I’d agreed to submit a story for publication. It seemed like the only answer might be gin.

Forest. I rolled the word around my brain as I walked the dog. What sprang to mind when I heard the word ‘forest’? What pictures formed in my head?

Teddy bears. Yep, teddy bears. ‘If you go down to the woods’ and all that, swiftly followed by Goldilocks and axe-men intent on lopping the heads of princesses at the behest of jealous step-mothers. Ridiculous, I told myself; you’ll have to think again. Continue reading

Writing Groups: Taking Feedback

by Ekaterina Fawl

Being in a writing group is tons of fun. Socialising with like-minded people, getting to read their first drafts and workshop their stories as they take shape, getting a glimpse of others’ creative processes – all amazing experiences. But sooner or later comes the time do that what you have ostensibly joined the group for: receive feedback on your own writing.

You might dread it, or can’t wait to hear what the others think, or some healthy combination thereof. But the fact is, taking feedback and effectively using it to improve the story and your writing as a whole is a skill in itself. If you’re new to it, there’s quite a lot to learn there.

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Crafting a poem: an insight

by Susi Liarte

In this post I’m going to cover how I usually approach writing poems. It’ll be reflective of the type of poetry I like to read and write, which is short, rhythmic poems that try to capture some imagery or poignancy. There is no ‘knowledge’ required of types of poetry and it is not my aim to cover that in this post, so I’ll be using very little terminology. I’ll work on doing that in another post. With that out of the way, let’s start!

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