This is a new feature on the website - Crichton Writers has several published writers in its number as well as experienced teachers, so we often have peer-led workshops at our monthly meetings. We have found these so valuable we decided to share their content online.

 

July 2017 Workshop

Unravelling a Tale

'Fishbones Dreaming'

 

led by Vivien Jones

 

 

 

A Fishy Story by Edmund Wigram

 

They took my bloated flesh

Picked the bones clean

The sea trout too

They liked him best

I watched my dinner disappear

 

Life was not ever thus.

 

My feather’s left me first

Discarded by nameless claws

Hoping for more

Swept by currents far away

I am everywhere now.

 

Life was not ever thus.

 

Locked in my claws

This great sea trout

No right has he to be so big

That he drowned me

The catcher caught

 

Life was not ever thus.

 

I am the fish eater, not them

My talons hold fast, and don’t let go

In the moment I felt his power

Ripple through my claws

I first knew fear

 

Life was not ever thus,

I soared to the sun

Floated sky high and free 

Born to master wind and sea

Now only they whisper my name

 

Ospreeee……

 

 

 

 

May 2017 : workshop

Starter Statements

 

led by Eleanor Chesters

 

Starter statement

Tell me, what else should i have done? Doesn't everything die at last and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life-

 

Starter statement

We're going to Svalbard next week to meet the polar bears.

Doesn't global warming matter to you? There won't be anything left when the ice has all gone.

 

and some responses : 

 

Jane Richardson :

 

She looked at her daughter.

‘Tell me, what else should I have done? Doesn’t everything die at last and too soon?’

‘Mother, I can’t believe it. I go away, ask you to water my plants, and come back to this, dehydrated, mess!’

‘I think you’re over reacting, dear. Dobbies will have more.  Look, I’ll nip down now and get some.’

‘I don’t think so, Mother. This is a special plant.’

‘What do you mean, special? Doesn’t look very special to me.’

‘Healing, Mother……’

The mother looked at her daughter, shrewdly.

‘Please tell me you didn’t ask me to water – this?’ She gestured to the plants.

‘Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life.’

 

He’s getting’ hame the morn. That’ll be me, cooking’ his denners again. Hates mince’

 

Six months it’s been. He’d have had plenty o’ mince there. Mebbe not, but he wouldna’ have the choice. Well, he’s not havn a choice at hame either. He should nivver a got involved, should nivver a done it, and should nivver have left me wi the weans.  Mair I think o it, the mair I like the sound o mince.

 

.............................

 

Bill Wigram :

 

In answer to your essay Young Man…..

 

Dust! Dust is where we came from.

Dust and water made life.

 

We evolved from that?

Conscious life evolved from dust and water?

How! Why?

 

The Creator, that’s how, why and who.

 

The framework of time within which life was made

Is eternal.

But like a shooting star,

Each life makes only a tiny flash,

And is gone.

 

Before the universe was made

The souls were born.

They are eternal.

My soul is not mine;

We are part of them; I belong to my soul

 

Each soul is a flow of love,

Held in the heart of the creator,

Learning love on its eternal path.

Becoming love at its ending,

When eternity is reached.

 

Each breath of the soul 

On its way to eternity

Is a lifetime for us, we are that breath.

As the soul breathes in

We are tasting life and learning.

 

One breath!

As the soul breathes out, we are giving

Teaching, and then passing on

To the soul all we have learned.

That is who we are, and why we are here.

 

The eternal soul dwells in a place

Where only love can be,

All time is there, it is

The realm of the Creator, 

We call it heaven.

 

For us to get to heaven, 

On our journey back

To the eternity of the soul,

All that is less than love 

We must leave behind.

 

We cannot take pain with us,

Or anger, jealousy, greed, or fear.

No room for any of these, 

And emphatically, no hatred! 

Rejoice for this exquisite freedom!

 

Life is about learning

What it is that nourishes us,

What feeds our spirits,

Uplifts our hearts,

What makes your heart sing?

 

Fun and laughter?

Harmony and happiness?

Peace and beauty?

Joy and love?

This is the recipe for life.

 

If you feel nourished

By fear, or suffering,

Anger, or hatred,

What you will receive is

Anything but love.

 

If you feel nourished

By peace and love,

Then whatever you receive

You will find love,

And grow.

 

This is your purpose

In the infinite that is the universe.

This life is your one moment

In the eternity of your soul.

Use it well.

 

.......................

 

Leonie Ewing

 

Statement

“The Earth moved a nanometer further from the Sun. I’m surrounded but slightly more alone that I was before.”

 

Response

I could see planet Earth, so beautiful; blue oceans, brown, green or white continents laid out as on a map. We are on our way to Mars, the Red Planet. Our aim is to Terraform that inhospitable domain, turn it into a refuge for Earthlings.

 

Only now, as Earth recedes, does the enormity of my decision hit home. There will be no going back. I’m heading for the unknown. I wonder what is going on inside the heads of my fellow space travelers who will help found the colony.

 

We have all endlessly discussed our hopes and fears but now, faced with reality, would anyone want to turn back or is it only me?

 

Now Earth has vanished from the screen.

 

....................

 

Linda Powell

 

Starter Statements 

  1. “Tell me ….your wild and precious life”

Mirror Talk

“I knew she was unhappy, sitting there year after year, unable to speak or move. I felt that her memory was on a loop, replaying her years of servitude to our grandmother: the wasted years, the sacrifice of turning down John’s proposal, the forfeit of a possible marriage, children, fulfilment, the lack of time to exercize her amazing artistic talent. 

 

And then to be struck down with the same fatal condition as our grandmother, locked within herself and condemned to die….

 

I had to do it. I had to save her from the coming years of increasing decrepitude. And I have to live, really live. I can see youth is already fleeing.

 

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your wild and precious life?”

 

.............................

 

 

 

 

 

 

February 2017 workshop:

‘This book would have been better as a tree.’

 

Reviews/ Barbara Mearns

 

Advance info:

 

At last you’ve given birth to a beautiful book. You’ve held it in your hands, fondled the paper, told all your friends that it’s been published. But what if it gets criticised? Or ignored? How well will you cope?

 

In this workshop we’ll look at book reviewing from both sides: getting them, and writing them. We’ll share experiences (good and bad!) and tips to increase your chances of getting good publicity. 

 

AIM: Prepare us for the possible downside of being reviewed – help us get good publicity – and if we are asked to review others, help us to do it well.

 

My experience: 

Rick & I wrote 3 books together in the 80s - published by Academic Press. The 1st two books each contained about 100 short biographies of people who have had birds named after them. AP had a very efficient system of sending books out to ornithological journals – and various other places, so we got more reviews than we expected! I know what it’s like to dance round the kitchen with joy on reading a review. But we also got criticism. Rick & I also write reviews, mostly of biographical books for ornithological journals. So we’ve talked a lot about both perspectives.

 

We began in pairs by asking, ‘Who does a reviewer write for? (eg their editor, general readers, potential purchasers, author, themselves...)

 

Criticism goes with the territory ....

We looked at some critical / contradictory reviews:

Of classics see   HYPERLINK "http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/23/bad-reviews-classics_n_6527638.html" http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/23/bad-reviews-classics_n_6527638.html 

Now, of course, we don’t just get critique from peers and professional critics, but almost any kind of comment online / in blogs:

 

From Amazon:

 

- "I'd like to say the book had potential, but I don't think it did." - Review of Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

- "Maybe it has a deep meaning that I didn't get, but honestly, no! It's just not worth the read." - Review of Carrie by Stephen King

- "This collection of books is really, really terrible and boring, and I wouldn't wish the task of reading it on my worst enemy." - Review of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

 

We talked about Bill Bryson's response to a critical review of One Summer: America 1927 by Douglas Brinkley in The Washington Post 

 HYPERLINK "https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/one-summer-america-1927by-bill-bryson/2013/10/04/2a68a572-2460-11e3-b3e9-d97fb087acd6_story.html?utm_term=.9a12412a2e09" https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/one-summer-america-1927by-bill-bryson/2013/10/04/2a68a572-2460-11e3-b3e9-d97fb087acd6_story.html?utm_term=.9a12412a2e09 and a totally different description of it at  HYPERLINK "https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17262366-one-summer" https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17262366-one-summer 

 

Then we studied a review of one of Vivien’s books (Perfect 10) and extracts from two of mine, followed by other authors sharing ....

 

What’s good about getting a critical review?

It’s still publicity / Learn & improve / Make new contacts in your field, perhaps even friends or collaborators.

 

How do we cope with a critical review? 

Share with other CW/ keep in perspective/ keep going – remember why you write!

 

Kingsley Amis says, ‘A bad review should ruin your breakfast, but not your lunch.’

 

Discussion in small groups: what should the reviewer do?

 

How can we increase our chances of good reviews?

Obviously, make the text as good as you possibly can /Get your ms read by friends/ experts / for message, facts, punctuation, standardisation etc

As you go along, gather potential outlets/ online blogs etc

Look for non-critical publications as well as those who will give an opinion! 

Use back cover, perhaps a foreword and press release to feed into the kind of publicity you want used by busy/lazy sources. 

 

Writing exercise 1: 5 mins –  what would you want a reviewer to write about your work? – dream review – but grounded in reality.

 

 

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