Creative Writing at the Penzance Literary Festival
As you know I’m branching out into fiction. And in fact my first book is almost ready to launch. Somewhat terrified but anyway. I saw details of a creative writing course being held at the Penzance Literary Festival. I have great memories of that festival as I was there last year and did my first piece of public speaking on how to publish a book. So I have very fond memories of the place and remembered how friendly and supportive it was. I figured a writing course run there would be really nice.
Steve looked at me and wondered if I wasn’t putting the cart before the horse. Hadn’t I just finished a book? Shouldn’t I have done the course first? Well the fact of the matter is I had done an online course before I wrote the book. It was the Penguin Writers Course and it was very beneficial in parts but I missed that one to one eye contact. I like asking questions and I like to see a person’s whole answer. Not just their typed response. I like to read the pause, the head nod, the intonation, the grin. The whole shebang. Now here was another course and yes I have finished my first book but is it perfect? Of course not. Do I know all there is to know? As if. Will I ever stop learning? On the day they burn or bury me.
I set off nice and early 8.30 for a 10.00 start. I slunk in at 10.45. Everyone was silently writing. Bloody traffic. The worst part was arriving at the library late and very out of breath, the lady at the desk looked at me disapprovingly and told me I was very late. Well no shit Sherlock. She was then hesitant about letting me enter the room. Was I going to have to wait for the Interval?! Happily, her colleague dashed over and waved me through.
Anyway I missed the introduction except I had to introduce myself which is fair in the whole Trust circle thingy but I didn’t know who any of them were. Fair enough I was the late one after all but I spent the day chatting to a few and finding them fascinating. I’d loved to have found out more about the others given how interesting the ones I spoke to were. There was a long-distance walker, he was great to chat to. And then a really wonderful lady sat with us and she had last month cycled down from John O’Groats! This was not a travel and fitness writing conference just a massive coincidence. She made me laugh. It had rained every single day as the heatwave that the rest of the country was experiencing was being washed out by the depression in the north. She said she was aware that Scotland had mountains but she could only attest to their clouds. Rain every single day! How unfair is that?
So the writing course itself. It was run by Bridget Holding of Wild Words and published author. It was very interesting, there were discussions and exercises and bits of feedback. It was held in the private Morrab Library and we spent time popping into the gardens as well.
All in all, an enjoyable day. Bridget is a thoughtful person, and encouraged a lot of silent consideration. Not my strongest point in fairness. She was clever and encouraging and I really like the way she taught. Personally I would have benefited from more writing exercises than talking and thinking ones but that’s OK, there’s always something new to learn. We looked at the importance of emotion and connection and then layering that onto structure. Obviously there is far too much to cover in one day but Bridget addressed both the top notes and the important foundations. At the end of the day we were all encouraged to write something based around an emotion. I drew a blank so I asked her for a prompt. She gave me the location of a garden. The action of a swimming pool being dug and an emotion. Here’s what I wrote. Can you guess the emotion?
Jack pulled off the petals from the rose, his grin becoming more savage as the flower gradually lost its beauty. He moved on to the next one when a shout broke his concentration.
“Oi! Move it”
Looking up, he realised the work crew had now finished digging up the lawn and the diggers were lumbering toward the flowerbed. The smell of diesel engulfing the flowers’ perfumes. Sneering, he stood mutely, only moving as the builder stepped towards him. He moved along the border and then sat down again.
“We’re digging up the whole bed, son. Why don’t you go and play elsewhere?”
The small boy’s face tightened. He wasn’t this man’s son. There wasn’t a man alive that was entitled to call him son. He felt his throat choking as he stood up again and spat on the grass. He stared at the builder, willing him to react. Jack’s blackened fingernails dug into muddy palms but the builder just shrugged and returned to his crew.
Jack slumped. Snatching a few more rose heads he returned to the lower terrace where he had reburied Scamp earlier. He had dug down with his hands until he felt the fabric. Carefully he uncovered the tea towel that he and his father had wrapped Scamp in. The bundle was smaller and lighter than he remembered. He had wanted to look at his dog one last time but as he held the bundle he was so unnerved by the bony outline that he simply kept the bundle intact as he removed him from his resting place.
Now Jack sprinkled rose petals over the new grave. As each petal fell Jack swore as rude a word as he could manage. ‘Stupid swimming pool. Shitty swimming pool. Piss. Crap.’ Then he thought of Mr Hamilton, Mummy’s new husband. ‘Mr Hamilton’s stupid fucking swimming pool’.
His face was wet and he could feel the grit from his hands rub across his face. That would not do. ‘Remember son, never show them what you’re thinking. Never show them what you’re feeling.’
Liz Hurley as well as being the owner of this blog, runs a bookshop in Cornwall, right by the sea and writes books. You can buy them in her shop (of course), Waterstones and other outlets as well as Amazon.
When she’s not reading, she’s writing and when she’s not writing, she’s walking. And when she’s not doing any of that she’s binging on box sets and sleeping.