Back in September, several members of Chudleigh Writers’ Circle attended a one-day writing event in Totnes. It was a small, but perfectly-formed series of workshops, one of which was led by Jackie Juno; followed by an open mic session and finishing with a Poetry Slam, where Jean Grimsey was a contestant. Today, Lisa Baxter and Elizabeth Ducie give feedback on some of the sessions they attended.
Writing Fiction with Lee Weeks
Lee, we discovered, is a writer of crime novels and is committed to writing one a year for her publisher. This was an hour and a half packed with tips, hints and information to help the writer mix all the ingredients needed to start that novel.
Lee highlighted the importance of research, research and more research; of compiling a file of any titbits of information that might lead to a plot, including pictures, newspaper articles and observations. She then gave the group a photograph of a man and later a woman and asked us to describe the kind of people they were, from clues in the picture. With our pen pictures of the two people, we were then shown a variety of different homes in which they might live. We took a look at Lee’s photos of a local coffee shop and were asked what kind of ambience the photos evoked. With the photos, we could compile a number of different stories about their lives.
It really brought to life the concepts behind character and plot development in a participatory way. We all contributed to the discussion. A great workshop!
Writing for Magazines with Nick Fletcher
Nick Fletcher has a wonderful pedigree in writing for magazines; he has had thousands of articles published over the years. And this session was a great distillation of his experience and the lessons he has learned.
We discussed why magazines are the way to go, rather than newspapers; how the ‘second string’ titles are a better bet than the more well-known ones; how research is critical (of course); and how thinking ‘outside the box’ can bring up all sorts of opportunities. For example, Nick has a particular interest in cars. But instead of aiming for the mainstream titles, he has written articles on the best wedding cars, in Bridal magazines, for example. Nick kept emphasising it’s all about the angle. Get that right and publication is much more likely.
We finished with a great overview on how to approach editors in order to pitch an article. And one great tip to finish with: have the skeleton of the article ready before pitching, in case the response is ‘great idea; send it straight across.’
Writing for Podcasts with Lucy Lepchani
I’ve never considered producing a podcast; and to be honest, Lucy’s session didn’t change my mind. However, I love working on the radio and have often considered doing more writing along those lines. And this session was very helpful not only from that point of view, but also in relation to my blog. In all cases, it’s about knowing your audience and making sure the purpose of the piece is clear and consistent.
This was the most practical of the sessions I attended. We wrote the opening lines for our podcasts and then brainstormed what worked and what didn’t with each one. We looked at brand identity and Lucy gave some examples of podcasts on diverse subjects that were worth checking out. I was particularly taken with the idea of Fungi Town, which makes science fun. And there were some great technical tips too.
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Many congratulations to the organisers of Write Now Totnes. We look forward to attending more such events in the future.
Lisa Baxter and Elizabeth Ducie