The Magic of Writing Courses

Once a year Lancashire Writing Hub and Lancashire Libraries team up to offer a collection of three writing courses to the general public. So I signed up!

The course took place at Accrington, a part of Lancashire I don't tend to travel into, and what a surprise! First of all (and before I forget), I must tell you to visit Accrington Library. If you love old buildings and their history, you will love this one. It was built in Renaissance style back in the early 1900s and with its Art Nouveau stained glass window and suspended staircase, it's quite an imposing piece of architecture.

Going back to the course... while I have always appreciated the benefits of being a part of a writing group, I have never been taken by the idea. I couldn't quite tell you why, but it just didn't really appeal to me. I went into this course thinking it would be similar to my lectures at uni, so you can imagine my horror when I discovered it was more like being part of a writers' circle!

The other attendees came from all walks of life and were interested in all sorts of writing: there were historians who liked writing about their past and eras gone by; poets who could make the most mundane things sound romantic; novelists who in their minds committed murder, won wars, felt in and out of love; short story tellers who could deliver a serious punch and make you cry in a few paragraphs. A true mixture of weird and wonderful things.

Oh, but it got better! We had to read our work out loud! I have been writing for years, but apart from my lecturers at uni, I have never had anyone else that wasn't a family member or a friend read my work. So this was the hour of truth.

My hands were literally shaking. I had to remember to read in a slower pace not to muddle my words and to keep my voice projected so everyone could hear me. When I was done, I braced myself for the criticism... This is when I realized what part of the writers’ circle idea I never liked - literature snobs criticizing the work of a new writer taking baby steps.

I never thought I would be bothered about reading my work out loud, but your writing can become something very personal to you. A lot of people are prolific writers, but their work never sees the light of day exactly because of that - the fear of someone picking up your baby and shredding it to pieces. Worse! Someone judging you based on your writing.

Except, this time was different. I don't know if it was the more relaxed dynamic lead by Mick - the course instructor - or the mixture of people in the course, but even though we had people of different ages and backgrounds, people that had been writing for longer than others, and even people with work published somewhere else, when the criticism came, it was really constructive and uplifting.

As a matter of fact, it wasn't even criticism; just suggestions on how to improve my story. And I could see it as clear as day - sometimes when you are working on something, it becomes that close to you that you fail to see the very obvious details a fresh pair of eyes will pick up in an instant. They're not failures, but things that need tweaking, changing, to give the reader a more powerful experience.

Nobody was lecturing me in Literature, not even Mick! They were just telling me what they would see if they were readers of my story and that was incredibly helpful. In return, I could do the same for them and give feedback on how their piece affected me.

Needless to say, by the end of the course I had a great time and was quite sad it was over. But hey! I'm most definitely signing up for the next one!!!

Paula Hardman

28th June 2012

Click here for photos from this course

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