Monday, 12 October 2020

Bury Art Museum Workshop 2 Writing with the senses


In July 2020 during the Covid-19 lockdown I ran an online creative writing workshop.  This invited attendees to engage with what they had at home and what they could find on the museum’s web site. In these posts I shall go over the exercises and showcase the attendees’ writing.

Working with the Senses

This always produces good writing, especially if you try and get into words what you’re really seeing, hearing, feeling (in both senses of the word), smelling  and tasting. You will probably find that you have most to say about what you see and hear.

Choose from one of the following scenes:

1.       What you can sense when you look out of your  window

2.       What you are experiencing right now

3.       A time  and  / or place where you were very happy

Now write for ten minutes about this scene. 


You are trying to include:

What you see

What you hear

What you smell

What you taste

What you feel (in both senses of the word)

Try to avoid writing a list.

You will probably produce a piece of excellent writing but something that doesn’t have a lot of structure. You can make this into a bit more of a story later by making something happen that changes the writer a little.

Follow up work

You might like to collect a few of these. You could even use them as a type of journal. Could you write one a day? A week? A month?         

These sorts of scenes can turn very well into poetry that can give a very strong sense of time and place. 

Show case

It is six o'clock in the morning and it is raining outside. The wind lashes the rain against the window and it is cold although it is July and I'm so tired. I can't be bothered to switch on the heating. I shiver and think about the rain dripping off the roof, running down the drainpipes and shiver again. My mouth feels dry and I feel so tired now and I wish I could just drift off to sleep. My feet are so cold. I will have to move soon and then I hear the click of the timer on the central heating and I smile.

Jean Foster 

Image by Anemone123 from Pixabay 


Friday, 18 September 2020

Bury Art Museum Workshop 1



In July 2020 during the Covid-19 lockdown I ran an online creative writing workshop.  This invited attendees to engage with what they had at home and what they could find on the museum’s web site. In this post and the following ones I shall go over the exercises and showcase the attendees’ writing.

The Haiku Exercise

Sit by a window in your home and look and listen for ten minutes. Make a list of what you see or hear. Or maybe even feel or smell.  Jot down a few words and phrases as you are observing. You can write down odd thoughts as well. Don’t worry if you can’t write all of the time. 

Here are some words and phrases I found earlier by looking out of my window:

TV aerial at jaunty angles, trees fluttering, old trees with TPOs, next door’s roses dancing, blotches on the brickwork, radiator creaking, clock ticking,  whoosh, grey clouds, old brick wall, warmth on my toes,  in June, Metrolink, that woman, isn’t she locked down? Some red trees, near the flats, that’s the graveyard, ping pong, an email arrives, aeroplane, are those leaves yellower? Clock on wall, satellite dish, rumble rumble, tick tock, tick tock, measuring time, PVC, plastic doors, lamppost looks like Narnia, blackbird flies   


Writing Haiku

      A haiku is a short poem consisting of three lines.

      The first line has five syllables

      The second has seven syllables

      The third has five

      There is some sort of shift often between the second and third line. 

Some examples

      Five syllables:

     Old trees fluttering

      Seven syllables

     Are those leaves there yellower?

      Five syllables and change

     Trees with red leaves dance.    


old TV ariels

 stuck at jaunty angles mock

 satellite dishes


radiator creaks

clock on wall tick tock tick tock

measuring out time

Follow up work

You can write a lot of these. Some you may throw away. Some that you think work really well you can put in a notebook and collect.  It’s also fun to make them into cards, wall hangings, coffee mugs, mouse-mats, tote bags, calendars, and many other items. 

Try or    

Show case

Tall Silver Birches
Tops of their branches dancing,
Swaying in the wind.

Patterns in our Lawn
Mowing grass on Saturdays;
I cannot cut straight!

Empty Washing Line
Its Whirly Arms beg for more
Clothes; I’ll make it wait!

Allison Symes

View obscured by tree

Photographs on the window

Me and Phil in Greece


No birds singing here

Is it the double glazing?

Is it too early?

 Jean Foster   

Thursday, 10 September 2020

TV Addicts


Write an article, poem, story or script about someone who is addicted to television.  This might be an individual or a whole family.

The characters

Who are they? What are they like physically, intellectually, emotionally?  What is their greatest desire and what is their greatest fear?   How are they addicted? How does that addiction show?  What effect does it have on their life? 

You don’t necessarily need to write all of this down or even include it in your text but you do need to think about it.

Story arc for fiction or script

Inciting incident

Growing complexities (maybe three?)

Crisis point – point of no return

Climax – have all the excitement here

Resolution (Do they get over their addiction?  Do they do something else?)


Structure for an article

Start with “colour” – show us a scene, maybe your telly addict channel surfing

Present us with some hard, verifiable facts.

Quote some experts

Define the problem and suggest a way forward

Finish on another note of “colour”  



Which form will you use? – sonnet, haiku, ode, blank verse, something else?  

Will you emphasize the physical or the emotional? Can the physical suggest the emotional? 

Image by André Santana from Pixabay

Monday, 31 August 2020

A Sense of Time and Place

Look at this in other novels / short stories as well as your own.
  1. What has the writer done here to include a sense of time and space?  
2.      In which ways does this piece of prose resemble a novel rather than an epic story?
3.      How close is the time / space image to real time?
4.      Which bits of the scene are left to the reader’s imagination?
5.      What makes the space concrete here?
6.      Has the writer taken short cuts?
7.      How does this time / space frame impinge on the characters?
8.      Which voices are there in this extract?
9.      Which narrative techniques are used?
10.  How do we recognize different characters from what they say?
11.  Is there an authorial voice?
12.  Does the writer use the senses?
13.  Whose point of view is s/he showing?
14.  How do they show that point of view? 
15.  Does the author step in?    
16.  Can you spot places where the writer goes down deep?  
17.  Where are they more on the surface?
18.  How does the writer use dialogue? 
19.  How is this similar to and different from a film?
20.  What is the balance of exposition, description, dialogue, action, and inner monologue? Does this feel about right and why or why not?  

Image by Vincent Ciro from Pixabay