Food for Thought


Writing Workshop and Writers’ Lunch

At the Swindon Festival of Literature

Lower Shaw Farm West Swindon Wiltshire SN5 5PJ
Tel 01793 771080
12.30pm – 5pm 19 May • £25

12.30pm – 1.30pm WRITERS’ LUNCH

where healthy homemade food will nourish you and meeting other writers at table may inspire you!

1.30pm – 5pm WRITING WORKSHOP: Sugar and Spice and Food for Thought with Cherry Potts

Writing is a solitary business. Writing well is a tricky one. Writing well for others is even harder. How can we do it better?

Explore the possibilities that come from using more of your senses when you write. Discover ways of writing what you really want to say to your readers.

You will be in good company, and if you have any questions, you can ask them, and reckon to receive good answers. If you are serious about writing, then this is a workshop for you. It will inspire, inform, and help you, even to have fun.

Cherry Potts is a mentor, coach, and the author of Mosaic of Air and Tales Told Before Cockcrow, and runs a fledgling publishing business, Arachne Press.

This will be based on the workshop I ran as part of the Streatham Food Festival, Sugar and Spice, and will draw in a few tasters from other senses to explore ways of spicing up your writing. (Puns strictly optional, especially bad ones).

Why Short Stories?


There’s been a lot of chat going on recently about short stories, including on the radio, this week’s Open Book had  Aminatta Forna giving a potted history of the short story from Poe, Chekhov and Saki to Helen Simpson, and even Ramblings (a walking programme … fascinating, listen!) had Claire Balding in company with short story writer Anna Maria Murphy. (nothing like being stuck at home recovering, for catching up with the radio in between sleeping.)

Having written two collections of short stories myself (and with enough material for 2 more!) and planning to publish (I hope) at least 6 anthologies over the next year or two, you’ll have gathered I’m quite keen!

I had an email yesterday in response to my posting about London Lies, in which the writer says

I was sure that it was near impossible to get short story collections published unless you are a well-known author

and asking how I managed it.

My very first short story was published in an anthology over 20 years ago. It was called Penelope Is No Longer Waiting, and I had sent it to Rosemary Manning, who was a friend, to cheer her up when she was unwell.  I got a phone call a couple of days later, saying

you could publish this

and then I saw a call for submissions from Onlywomen Press, and sent it off, and was accepted.  That easy.  I can still remember opening that letter, so thrilling.

I had two more stories in a further anthology at OWP, and then having got quite friendly with Lilian Mohin, the director at OWP, she was complaining about the quality of a lot of the submissions she received, and how she wished everyone wrote as well as me (or words to that effect).  My response was

plenty more where that came from

and I started drip-feeding her stories, one a month, under the heading of ‘entertaining Ms Mohin’, until she gave in and offered to publish a collection.  That was Mosaic of Air.

Mosaic didn’t sell very well, partly because I was in a wallflower phase and wouldn’t do any publicity, (I am so over that, as you may have noticed) and ended up with the remaining stock being pulped.  Not a happy moment!

Life rather caught up with me then and I wrote almost nothing for 11 years, then pulled myself together and published another collection, Tales Told Before Cockcrow. This did much better than Mosaic, and has almost sold out.

But what is it about the short story?

I’ll admit that some of my ‘short’ work is very long, almost novella length (now that’s really difficult to publish) but there’s something about a short story that’s like a jewel: carefully faceted and burnished to perfection, not a word wasted nor out of place.

Novels often have slow passages or subplots that don’t quite come off, but you are in it for the long haul so you put up with it, whereas you can’t afford to drift in a short story; and you can take risks and play games with language and structure, and the reader is prepared to come along because they know it’s not going to take you long to reach the punchline.

Since joining a writing group (WOOA) I’ve discovered that with a defined set of limitations I can write a fully formed story with a beginning middle and end in 20 minutes flat. Short Short stories… not quite flash fiction, because if it’s working, I write fast.

A really good short story settles into your mind with a sigh of satisfaction, like a good malt, or a perfectly toasted and buttered crumpet.

© Cherry Potts 2012

Judging a Book By Its Cover


Teresa Villegras' magnificent painting

Joan Taylor-Rowan talks about choosing the right cover for her novel, The Birdskin Shoes, and discovering the work of artist Teresa Villegras

joan taylor-rowan clip 6 book cover

© Cherry Potts 2012

Seismic Acrobats


More from Joan Taylor-Rowan, about the initial inspiration for her novel, The Birdskin Shoes, and how the idea travelled from a taxi in the English countryside to Iran, Ireland and beyond…

joan clip 3 inspiration

© Cherry Potts 2012

Interview with Joan Taylor-Rowan author of The Bird Skin Shoes


I’m posting a series of short snatches of interview with Joan Taylor-Rowan, Author of The Birdskin Shoes.  In this first section Joan talks about the inspiration for the title, and the connections between her own Irish roots and Joey’s escapades in Mexico, by way of religious imagery… its a far reaching book!

listen here! joan taylor-rowanclip 1

© Cherry Potts 2012

Sunday: Writing With Your Ears


My first ever writing workshop went extremely well.  The idea was to cross artistic boundaries and get people to sit in with an orchestra (the Blackheath Community Orchestra in this instance), and write whatever the music moved them to write.  There was a whole load of explanation about hearing and sound and NLP which I might ditch the next time I run it; because it was so exciting writing to live music, that I’m not sure I need to embellish it.

Enthusiastic and engaged participants, fabulous music from the orchestra ( Leigh told me he’d planned the most dramatic piece from the Tchaikovsky for when we were sitting in with them; thanks Leigh) and a fun time had by all.  (Thanks also to the Orchestra for letting us intrude, and particularly those who came and talked to the writers about playing music  in the tea break.)

I think I probably talked too much, and I can see ways to improve it now I have independant evidence for how effective writing to live music is (there was a tiny question in my mind: is it just me that pulls voices and characters and scenarios out of bits of music?  I always want to write when I’m at concerts, but it seems a bit rude).

There was concrete written outcome for participants including a fully-formed miniature Victorian melodrama from someone who claimed to have written only shopping lists before. I want to read those shopping lists, they are probably in haiku.

Some feedback from participants:

I like the link between writing and other creative arts (Participant)

Fantastic experience of being with the orchestra… Ideas for mixing up senses (John)

Very very informative – the time passed so quickly. I never realised before how music could have such an impact on writing. Thoroughly enjoyed it and would like to do more. (Helen)

I enjoyed the music, feeling at ease with what was happening and what was expected.  I’m glad I came, gentle but stimulating afternoon (Norma)

A new angle, an interesting experience (Jennifer)

So I think I’ll be running this again.

I am also running an all weekend feast for the senses writing workshop A Garden Full of Metaphor at Sussex Prairies,  Henfield in July.

© Cherry Potts 2012

A Garden Full of Metaphor


Plans for the next workshop are shaping up:

A Garden Full of metaphor July 7th & 8th 2012 - poster

A Garden full of Metaphor

Join author Cherry Potts (Mosaic of Air, Tales Told Before Cockcrow, The Blackheath Onegin) for a weekend of writing and inspiration for all the senses in the glorious surroundings of the gardens at Sussex Prairies in Henfield, Sussex.

Why write in a garden?

A garden gives you the opportunity to make use of all your senses: you see the colours, you feel the textures, you hear the wind in the grasses, you smell the different perfumes; you taste the flavours in food cooked using the plants.

The programme:

Saturday
10-1 Sight Lines
1-2 Lunch
2-5 Writing with your ears
Sunday
10-1 Bitter-sweet
1-2 Lunch
2-5 motion and emotion

The Price:   £120

What’s included:

  • 4 workshops using NLP (Neurolinguistic Programming) techniques to unleash your imagination and get you writing which will explore language, character creation and plotting
  • unrestricted (exclusive in the mornings) access to the garden and farm
  • home cooked refreshments and lunch, using ingredients from the farm and garden

Places to stay:

If you need somewhere to stay overnight, Sussex Prairies has a small B&B, we can provide a list of other nearby B&Bs, or you can camp on site.  Ask for details.

Booking:

Strictly limited to 15 people. Enquiries

Book online