If you’re going through any kind of change, or just want to think more deeply about what you’re doing, you might be interested in this mini-workshop, Transitions (Re)Connect, which is being held in London on the evening of 1st December. I’m going to be giving a writing workshop, but there’s much more going on, including expert advice on how to move forward, and indeed, on just moving and being.
The workshop is part of a bigger initiative I’m very proud to be involved with. Moving Through Transitions, is run by Alison Piasecka and Jean Wollard, two women with over 50 years of professional experience in organisational development between them, and offers a number of different courses and workshops both in Britain and internationally.
I’m going to be facilitating a longer workshop with Alison in February (22-24). It’s called Postcards to Yourself, and has been designed to show how – through readings, exercises and play – writing can support self-discovery and growth. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never written creatively before, or you are an experienced journal writer, or even a published writer, because you’ll be encouraged to write at your own pace and for your own goals.
And best of all, we are going to be doing it in these extraordinary surroundings. Completely away from everything.
Do let me know if you’d like any more information. It would be great to see you there. And if you want to go straight ahead and book, the form is here.
She read from her latest book, Excisions just out from Waterloo Press, and, amongst other things, allowed us to share her memories of her father (and his love of pink gin) as well as her experience after an elective double mastectomy without reconstructive surgery.
What I love best about Clare’s work – and indeed her reading – is that she doesn’t shy away from difficult subjects but is never sentimental or loud. Instead, by examining her experiences so deeply, she allows you, me, the reader, to examine our worlds too. She’s also very funny.
Anyway, I knew immediately I wanted Clare to come on here and answer my five questions. So here she is…
When I was small, I wanted to be …
both a ballet dancer and a writer. I took ballet lessons from the age of five. I still have my first pair of point shoes somewhere – flesh-pink satin with yards of flesh-pink ribbon. I remember the excitement of putting them on, criss-crossing the ribbons up my ankles, and the wonderful blocky sound they made when I danced on points on the parquet floor of the church hall where I used to go for lessons. The ballet teacher once told me I was a born dancer. I turned red with pride. But I had to give up ballet when I was eleven and was sent off to boarding school – apparently there wasn’t room for it in the Timetable. And the Timetable was obviously the most important thing. Anyway, by then I had decided I really only wanted to be a writer. It took me a while to get there, a circuitous route via most of the book trades!
I may not say it aloud [often enough] but …
I don’t believe in having regrets. Someone wise once told me: You can only regret the things you don’t do. So I try, within reason, to do all the things I would like to do as well as the things I should do. And I don’t regret the things I have done – whichever way they’ve worked out in the end – because when I did them I tried to make sure that I thought everything through as far as I possibly could, then I made my choices and I did what I did.
The last time I went WOOP with excitement was …
probably skiing slightly too fast downhill or catching a good wave (not standing on the surfboard, I hasten to add, although I’m thinking of learning how to do that). I have a love of speed, though it’s suppressed most of the time. I think it came from both my parents – my father commanded motor torpedo boats in World War Two and my mother loved breaking the sound barrier when she flew by Concorde. She drove a Lotus Elan, into her 70s.
Something that never fails to give me inspiration is …
listening. I love being with people, and I love music, and I love activity and colourful things happening, and I listen to all that. And then I love stillness and quiet and solitude, and I listen to that in another way. If I can’t listen to the stillness to counterpoint the busyness, I quickly become exhausted, and creativity evaporates.
My five favourite words are:
Popocatepetl (it means ‘smoking mountain’ and it is the name of a volcano in Mexico) … because it is such fun to say – a sequence of small explosions in the mouth!
Blossom … because it was one of my first words. I feel deeply attached to it.
Veil … because it’s fascinating that the word came from the old French ‘voile’ which came from the Latin ‘velum’ meaning a sail.
Cachinnation (meaning a burst of loud or immoderate laughter) … because it is so odd.
Troth … because it was originally just another variety of ‘truth’.
So drop the veil, let troth be a popocatepetl as you continue to blossom, and may cachinnation sound out in all the best ways.
What a great idea!
The wonderful DJ Kirkby has started a story chain that we can all join in on. Just add your sentence to the comments (here for adults), and (here for children) and not only will the story grow and grow – I’m imagining one of those woollen scarfs that gets longer and longer but keeps us warm all winter! – but your name gets entered to win a kindle. Nothing to lose…!
And much much much more that I missed.
(The whole organisation, as with John’s poem which is currently lighting up the Westgate, see below, has been done through Workers of Art. Just amazing. I’m going to try to put links to all the artists and writers but wanted to get the photographs up first. Do let me know if I’ve missed you out!)
It would be too hard to do a post detailing every book I’ve got out of a library, and how important each one has been to me. And how many times I’ve read about other writers who credit a library, or a librarian, in the flourishing of their inner spirit. I’m wondering if we concentrate too much on the learning aspect of books, because I think it’s easy to forget how lonely childhood can be and how – if we’re lucky – books can become necessary friends just when you need them most. I know that I retreated into certain books often, and still do. At last, there on the page, was someone who understood me. I think everyone who experiences that ding dong moment will never forget it, and just how much it means. Every time.
Anyway, just one signature – here – will register how important you think libraries really are, not just as a resource or a cost-effective learning centre, but as the heart (and even conscience) of our community.
“Most people don’t realize how important librarians are. I ran across a book recently which suggested that the peace and prosperity of a culture was solely related to how many librarians it contained. Possibly a slight overstatement. But a culture that doesn’t value its librarians doesn’t value ideas and without ideas, well, where are we?” Neil Gaiman
A lovely day in Canterbury.
First two laureates have tea (Patricia Debney was the first Canterbury Laureate.)
And then one poet makes a beautiful poem.
John Siddique has spent the last week gathering secrets, to represent what he said was the most important part of Canterbury – its people. He handed out coloured envelopes and blank sheets of paper to folk in offices, groups, cafes, wherever the inspiration took him. And then he asked those people to write down – anonymously – their deepest secrets. These he wove together into a poem called The Unspoken City, using what he movingly described as ‘the poet’s job to find beauty’.
We were lucky enough to hear this at a private view tonight. Here’s John with Beth from Workers of Art, the organisers of the project.
And then best of all here are glimpses of the poem lighting up the Westgate in Canterbury:
I love this photograph of the poet, Nicky Gould, under this particular line:
How I wish I had managed to catch a photograph of the surprise on the faces of people passing by as they saw lines pop up:
And what a beautiful last line to a testimony of Canterbury’s secrets, ‘she knows all we are saying is love’…
The poem is going to be shown again, on the Westgate, this Saturday as part of Poetry City and then until the end of the festival, with images as well. Saturday’s an important day in the Canterbury Festival’s programme, and one I wouldn’t miss for anything. There will be poetry trails, poetry flash mobs, poems in apple trees, and much more. I can’t wait. I’d love to see you there too.
There’s a post about John Siddique’s Canterbury poem, The Unspoken Word, here.
I am delighted to have been appointed the Canterbury Laureate for 2011-2012.
We have lots of exciting initiatives planned for the forthcoming year, and very much look forward to sharing them with you either in ‘real life’ or via this page.
S t o r y S t u d i o
A live lit night without boundaries!
Call for Submissions:
A Story Studio Christmas special – December 11th
‘Parlour Games – Are you there Moriarty?’
This will be the last ever Story Studio at Komedia, so please celebrate with us
and send us your superb narratives to make-up the line-up by November 20th…
Victorian parlour games were rich in metaphor and psychology, dark undertones, unstated values, violence, fun, humour and intimacy.
Please send stories, playlets, and monologues with ‘game playing’ as a central theme to email@example.com.
Think of real games – the angst, fury, competition, comedy or hidden family dynamics at the heart of a drawn out game of Monopoly, or charades
Think of mind games – the psychological skirmishes on the carpeted, ‘Heroes’ littered battle fields of the post sprout, 21st century living room.
Think – role-playing, game-playing, settling scores, dominoes, darts, snakes and ladders, pass the parcel,, dirty tricks, Chinese Whispers, musical chairs
As writers and guests of Short Fuse and Story Studio for the last five years we’ll hope you’ll all be there to say goodbye to us and to a great venue.
Tara, Louise, Holly