Thursday, January 31, 2013


Homework from last week: revise your own and one other person's work from the session. We will be spending the first 15 minutes or so comparing our efforts this week.
I was delighted to start, last week with a tray of items, and ask the class to identify them and their uses, and to find that they did not have a clue what some of them were! We had fun reading out their ideas and even more fun explaining what they were, as if to someone who had no idea and little or no cultural connection for reference, and discussing the results.
Choosing a different, more familiar object as stimulus we wrote a final piece (we will be discussing the revisions briefly this week) and also had a go at revising a piece provided for everyone to work on and compared ideas.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Possible new Writing Group in Puerto del Carmen

Creative writing group

A new group has been proposed in Puerto del Carmen. It will only be initiated if enough people want to try it so please let me know if evenings would suit you and if you would be interested in joining a group in Puerto del Carmen.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Good Start

The first two sessions of the 2013 have been great fun, very satisfying and fruitful.
In the first session we talked about books that we had read over the holidays and then read and discussed a handout, 'Improve your word power,' which includes some of the ways in which reading can do just that.
Members were asked to look at a wine glass which was  placed on the table, in silence, for a couple of minutes, allowing their minds to drift around whatever thoughts it stimulated.. They all then wrote for about 15 minutes before we shared and discussed responses, thinking about the thrust of each piece, fact, information, opinions and observations that were included and focusing on the differences or similarities in content and style.

We followed this in week two with a second page from 'Improve your word power' and a short quiz on the etymology of words. Then we did a similar writing exercise but with a choice of three objects. We looked at a short extract from Douglas Kennedy: 'The Moment'  in which he describes his main character, a travel writer, revising an essay. A discussion followed in which we thought about what we mean by correcting, revising, editing, proof-reading, before we each spent a short time revising what we had written.
It was such a lovely day that we elected to sit outside, which was very pleasant.
I have finally produced a calendar, using old fashioned cut and paste, ie involving scissors and glue, as I have had no success with any computer programmes to which I have had access! It reveals that we will only manage another five sessions before my next enforced break; apologies as I did say that this would be an eight week term. We will go for quality rather than quantity and to that end we have made a great start.

Monday, January 7, 2013

New Year, New Term

Happy New Year everyone. I hope you all enjoyed the festive season.
I am looking forward to seeing members back to start Creative Writing Sessions on Friday 11 January 2013 and hope to fit in eight sessions before my next trip to UK for my routine monitoring in March.
I am planning to get you all doing a bit more actual writing this term.

We are going to start working from visual stimuli and then discuss what I am sure will be our varied responses, the styles we have chosen and the relationship between the stimulus, the style/genre/mood and other factors which influence our writing.
We will be doing some descriptive writing but hopefully describing mood and action rather than just appearance or a visual object/scene and using language other than adjectives effectively to enhance good description.
I plan to try writing about the same topic in different ways and different styles, keeping the original topic headings simple and brief to allow maximum personal choice and free association.
We will also be looking at adverbs. The received wisdom is that we should keep them to a minimum. Like many things, the are more effective and have more impact, when not overused.

If you have read and enjoyed something over the holidays, or have a favourite book that you would like to share please feel free to bring along your  recommendation and if possible bookmark/highlight a passage that exemplifies the style or gives a flavour of the story; half a page to a page in length should be enough. Recommending a book should be about explaining the style and peaking curiosity and interest, not about giving away too much of the plot!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

We finished the year with a summary of the last few weeks, followed by a piece of writing with a Christmas/gifts/shopping theme and an opportunity to identify the type of openings we were being asked to choose between. Bearing in mind that one of our aims is to have fun, we had a round of 'Scattergories' followed by lunch at La Tabla. 
Thanks to all the members of the group who have faithfully turned out so regularly this year. It has been a pleasure to welcome Jim back and to meet new members Liz and May.
Seasons Greetings and A Happy New Year to all.

Creative Writing December 2012

Take a moment to cast your mind back over some of the topics we have covered:
Try to include interesting 'General Knowledge' where appropriate, but get your facts right. People like to think, 'I never knew that!' now and again as long as it isn't too contrived or pompous.
Think about creating atmosphere through the setting, the vocabulary, dialogue, language that is appropriate to the time and place.
Use quotes sparingly but to good effect to make the reader feel 'at home/comfortable' with familiar expressions and, eponyms or well known catch phrases but remember that they cannot be too 'local'. They need to be universally recognised.
It can make a piece interesting if there is the odd unusual word occasionally. Subconsciously readers may be made to feel good if they work it out from context or virtuous if they are sufficiently intrigued to look it up!
Draw the reader in quickly with an interesting opening sentence or paragraph and keep their interest by making your writing lively: using varied and expressive verbs of movement and speech can help. Try to use punctuation effectively and do not be afraid to use either long or short sentences. Both have their place.
Having assimilated all of the above in the last few weeks, and much more over time, you do not need to think consciously about it while you are writing. Hopefully you will recognise some of the techniques and examples of good practice when you read or edit your work.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Development of language

In recent sessions we have looked at some of the ways in which language changes, adopts new words or expressions, develops jargon for new inventions......
Eating our Words
We began with a quiz to identify food words, that have become part of English and their country of origin.
Most people knew that Baguette comes to us from France, Risotto and Salami are from Italy and Curry is from India. Borsch (from the Ukraine), Frangipane (from Belgium via Italy), Moussaka (originally from the Balkans and Garibaldi, the biscuit, (from UK) were a bit more difficult.
Bearing in mind the idea of  'thinking again' and not just going with their first idea the group were asked to choose a type of restaurant, as a setting and write a short story in which the atmosphere of the restaurant was created.

Eponyms Galore
In our next session we started with a short, general knowledge quiz, just to remind ourselves that it helps to have good general knowledge, if you are a writer.
We then looked at lots of eponyms, words that have come in to the language from people, real or fictional. Words such as sandwich, hoover, mackintosh, boycott are commonly known to be named after people but what about 'hooligan' from an old music hall song, from the 1890s, about a rowdy Irish family of that name?
After brainstorming a whole list, making us realise just how many there are, we had a bit of fun making up eponymous characters and setting them in a short story.

Famous Quotes
Sayings, like eponyms, become part of our language. Starting with an article about Mae West, herself an eponym (life vest) and a prolific source of great 'one liners.' .....It's not the men in my life, it's the life in my men...................'we did another little quiz, this time featuring 'who said it?' including:
God doesn't play dice.
It costs me a fortune to look this cheap.
I have a dream.
We then used a well known quote, as a title for a piece of writing.

Playing with Words
We began with a multiple choice quiz, (the last one for a while) in which the members of the group had to choose the correct definition of ten words such as babbit, fabulist, skirl.....
Then they had to work as many of the words as possible into a story

Looking at a list of opening sentences, some famous, some not and some simply made up for the exercise, we worked on identifying what they were supposed to be doing eg, using words to create an atmosphere, using a quotation to introduce an argument, using shock tactics and being provocative.....
Next we took some simple sentences that might be used as openings and tried to develop them stage by stage until we found the best version. Finally we all took the same opening phrase to begin a piece of writing, which was, 'My mother never.....'

Meanings, Changes in meaning and Precision
We started with the ubiquitous 'nice' a word which has changed its meaning several times and for which the Oxford English Dictionary lists 14 different senses. This set us thinking about the need to be clear and precise but also the need to be aware of the changes and evolution of words:
Gay means something very different to most people today from what it meant 50 years ago.
We looked at a few genuine howlers and clangers, just to show how easy it is sometimes to get it wrong:
In 1957 Eugene O'Neill won a Pullet Surprise. Autobiography is the history of motor cars.
Romeo's last wish was to be laid by Juliet.
Lastly we worked on a couple of boring repetitive pieces, featuring verbs of speech and verbs of movement,  to improve them and create atmosphere and interest.

The answers to the quotes and definitions; Einstein, Dolly Parton, Martin Luther King. Babbit is a soft alloy of 3 metals used for bearings: A fabulist is a composer of fables: A skirl is a shrill sound.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Come up and meet Mae West!

We have been looking at the development and evolution of language and our last session featured eponyms which come into the language from real people or sometimes fictional characters; so a 'biro' now tends to be what we call any ball point pen after Lazlo Biro the inventor; any vacuum cleaner is likely to be referred to as a 'hoover' and so on.
Still with eponyms in mind we are going to look at some famous quotes and also continuing to bear in mind the idea that a writer has some responsibility for feeding into the general knowledge of readers, so should have a good general knowledge.
After a week off, during which I have achieved an enormous amount in UK, involving medical appointments, sick visiting, Christmas shopping, wrapping presents, writing cards..... it's amazing what you can do when you only have one week, we meet again on Friday as usual.
Do you have any favourite quotes?
I like ' We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.' Who said it? See you Friday!