Creative Writing

I’ve been teaching adults for over twenty years now.  Originally I taught women’s studies and women’s literature classes for the WEA and Thamesside AEI, but after becoming a Mum and publishing my parenting books, I started teaching for NCT: doing everything from evening antenatal classes through to peer support training http://www.nct.org.uk/professional/breastfeeding-peer-support-training for NHS Highland http://www.facebook.com/pages/Highland-Breastfeeding-Support/167416039960842 and teaching the university diploma in Breastfeeding counselling throughout Scotland. I also gave many talks and lectures to health professionals http://www.nct.org.uk/professional/training-health-professionals-and-childrens-centre-staff in places as far afield as Brussels and Paris, Cardiff, Manchester and London, as well as nearer to home in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Inverness.

I spent many years working as a distance tutor in creative writing for the Writers’ Bureau http://www.writersbureau.com  and for the past eight years I’ve taught creative writing for WEA Inverness, the Community Domestic Abuse Programme, Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey, Inverness Women’s Aid and Ross-shire Women’s Aid, as well as running occasional training days for WEA W@W. More recently I’ve also been teaching creative writing at Inverness College and Moray Firth Tutorial College. http://www.mftcollege.co.uk/creativewriting.html

Links:

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Click here to read articles about Creative Writing.

Published in the local WEA newsletter:“I have always been a closet scribbler and while I have always enjoyed it, I find it a solitary activity and sometimes struggle to find the motivation to keep going.

The Creative Writing course has given me the inspiration and encouragement to write and to make time for my writing. It has helped me work on specific aspects of writing technique, giving me lots of ideas to get me over the “where do I start?” hurdle. It has also given me a supportive environment in which to read my writing, and the constructive feedback from my tutor and the group has been extremely valuable.

I have met a group of interesting people and have learned a lot from listening to them reading and discussing their work. I recently had a short story published in a local magazine and felt a tremendous sense of achievement on seeing it in print.”

 

Creative writing exercises:

Warm ups for finding a voice:

Think of someone famous from history (e.g. Mary Queen of Scots, Florence Nightingale, Amy Johnson, Marie Antoinette, Martin Luther King, Samuel Pepys – anyone you like)

In their voice, either write a letter to a friend or write a page of his/her diary.

Think of two favourite fictional and/or historical characters. For example: Alice and the White Rabbit, Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett, Aslan and one of the Pevensy children, Robin Hood and Maid Marian.

Write some dialogue between these two characters using texts, emails, post its, or in some form of dialect.

 

Warm up for characterisation.

The idea is to try to avoid making your characters one dimensional characters. Remember that no one is all bad or all good. Your characters will be memoriable, not through being “good” or “evil” but by being larger than life.

So.. think about the importance of choosing a good name for your characters. For instance:

Bertie Wooster, Aunt Dahlia and Aunt Agatha

Dickens created 989 characters, all of whom had very memorable names.

Exercise – Choose someone in the public eye and imagine what sort of character Dickens would have created for someone with that name ( Ed Balls, Boris Johnson, Paris Hilton). Write a two sentence biography.

 

Warm up for writer’s block

Flick through dictionary/ thesaurus until you find a word which you don’t know but which you like the sound of. Now have a go at writing a few lines of verse or some prose with that word in it.

 

Getting going with plot

Get hold of a newspaper or magazine which you hate. For instance tabloids, celebrity mags, the National Enquirer – anything where the writing and/or content is really bad in your opinion! Have a look through it and see which stories jump out at you. (a highlighter pen or some post its might be useful)

Is there a particular theme that jumps out – Sex? Murder? Terrible families?

Take that item and use it as the basis for a fictional story.

 

Here is another exercise – writing as fast as you can, create a make-believe story for that publication. Make up characters, incidents, quotes. Be outrageous.

 

Exercise to discover show not tell

Choose a landscape to describe. It can be any kind of landscape, but try something non-traditional – a junkyard or an empty parking lot. An uninviting place. Then write a description of this place that uses the following elements:  something huge in the picture ­if you are outdoors (eg the sky, or a mountain). If you are indoors, the largest thing within that room. Also include something tiny or minute and something odd or uncanny or strange. Write no more than a couple of paragraphs.

Now put your favourite character in that place; this could be a fictional character you are working with right now, or a character that you like: Jane Eyre, Mr Darcy – whoever you choose. Write some inner monologue in their voice about the place in which they unexpectedly find themselves.

On reading the two pieces, you will hopefully find that in the second piece you are showing us the place more effectively than you were first time round.

Warm up – for those who can’t write poetry

Write a standard poem for a greeting card: Valentine’s day; mother’s day; father’s day; birthday, but for someone you hate

 

For news about upcoming classes, contact me via the form at the bottom of the screen.

 

Comments on Women@Work sessions:“Well run session with plenty of time to do individual exercises.

Good handouts- some theory and practical.

Came away having used 2 specific exercises to reflect on individual issues which really helped.

Have some extra tools in the kit bag now which can be used for self and work. Excellent session – really liked the exercises we were given.

Thank you I will definitely be able to put into practice on a daily basis what I learned today.

I thoroughly enjoyed it. Thought provoking and very useful.

Thank you – very helpful workshop”

Dear Caroline

I’m currently doing the Writers Bureau comprehensive course which I find extremely beneficial. I found your website very impressive and was interested to learn of the many publications to which you have contributed.

My daughter, Amy, is seven years old and autistic.  I have had a few articles and letters printed in various publications including local media and the official magazine (Communication) for the National Autistic Society of whom I am a member, regarding Amy and living with autism.  Even though I am no expert, I am an experienced parent always on the look out for new magazines/publications who might be interested in my work.  The reason I write is to ask for your advice on whether the magazines you have written for would be suitable to submit my work to.

I am quite new to article writing and have found it a little more difficult than writing stories which I enjoy most.  However, I would be sincerely grateful for any advice you may be able to offer.

Thank you in anticipation.

With best regards,

Kathryn Brown

 

 

Caroline Deacon wrote:

Hello Kathryn – thank you for the feedback on my website.

Writing about any area which involves “expertise” like health or child development is quite difficult unless you have particular experience. You do have this of course, and you need to mention this when approaching mainstream magazines. You should also say you have written about the topic before. These two things will ensure you are taken seriously.

There are two ways of approaching health/ medical/ development features. One is write a factual article meant to enlighten readers about the illness, the second is the case history, where the slant is “how it was for me” – which does enlighten readers as to the illness, but in a different way. This might have a box out at the end with facts about the illness. The former approach would have perhaps two or three box outs which are case histories – normally no more than 100 words each and would normally be written by someone with medical qualification.

The second type is easier to sell if you don’t have a medical background, so this approach needs to be clear in the outline –  make it clear that it is your story and that the information about the condition will be provided in a box out at the end. Once you have written a couple of these, it becomes easier to call yourself an ‘expert’ too.

As to magazines – you will see that there are lots of parenting magazines; however each one will have a very particular age group (for the children) and most of these are quite young. So any about pregnancy and birth would only cover childcare issues for brand new babies, and would only have one or two such articles. Mother and baby, practical parenting and these types, which usually have photos of babies on the cover – tend to cover only the first year or two years after the birth with perhaps one feature going beyond that (but not into school age)
The only two magazines I know which go beyond this are Right Start and Junior, which concentrate on up to 5, and sometimes up to 8. These are the best two to try – they both have very different readership and angle so check them out before you pitch.

You might actually be better off pitching to women’s magazines aimed at families – these may not have covered this topic before. There are several weekly and monthly mags which are aimed at older women with children. There are also family sections in newspapers – tons of these – look through regional papers and see which day they have family features, and pitch it to the editor of that section.

Good luck!
Caroline Deacon

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