Since March is Women’s History Month it seems like a good time to celebrate the work of women writers from an earlier age. Fortuitously, as joint editor of NAWE’s Higher Education Journal, Writing in Practice No 5, I read an article by Sally O’Reilly analysing her approach to writing a historical novel, Dark Aemelia, (Myriad Editions, 2015) about Shakespeare and his relationship with Aemilia Lanyer, a contemporary poet, and a possible identity for the Dark Lady of his sonnets.
Amos Oz, who died in December 2018, has always been an important writer for me, not only because of his support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian deadlock, but also because of his multi-part solutions to writing, whether it be with reference to subject matter, context, genre or viewpoint.
My old school. Well they’ve still got the 11+ but never mind, I’ll go along all the same, do a talk and maybe a workshop. They still sing the Harrow School Song as their school song: the tramp of the 22 men in a single sex girls’ school. Well maybe they are transitioning. After all this is LGBT history month.
I want to share details of how I wrote a poem recently, bringing several aspects of my writing life together. The idea for the poem started with a workshop I was doing for the WEA in Weston Super Mare.
I was intrigued reading some of the visual arts, students and tutors, writing about the materials and techniques at their disposal. It made me realise that all the writer has is very little in comparison: words and nothing more. We can splash them across the page, join them into sentences, paragraphs, lines, stanzas, novellas, chapters, scripts; or we can sound them out at performances, readings, and online, visually and orally.
October is Black History Month and I am not black. And as far as I know, the OCA has no black Creative Writing Tutors. So how do we write about Black History Month?
Content-wise flash fiction, however short, will have a narrative arc while flash poetry will catch a moment with maybe implied narrative. In fact, flash poetry will have more in common with a photograph than with a piece of prose.
I guess all good writing like all successful visual art has to start with observation. Maybe, that’s too sweeping because sometimes we might start with imagination. But I would still maintain that imagination has to feed on observation.
Getting the child’s voice right in writing for children is easier than using a child narrator, or child’s eye view in free indirect discourse when writing for adults. If you have a child narrator in adult fiction, you have to decide if the narrator is looking back with hindsight or whether they are pretending to still be the child they were. There are plenty of examples of both of these approaches and some narratives that fall between the two extremes.
Join OCA tutor Liz Cashdan on the 19 November in Bristol.
“Online teaching gives the tutor time to read and think deeply about the student’s assignment, none of which is possible in a workshop.”
In the news recently, Anthony Horowitz reveals that his editor has warned him off writing a black character into his next book. As he comments, that would be a pity, because if he only wrote characters that he represented himself, he would be restricted to 62 year-old white, male, Jewish men living in London!