Zoom into Creative Writing this September

Zoom creative writing workshops

Regular readers of this blog will know that in late June and early July I asked for volunteers to help me learn how to run a creative writing workshop on Zoom. With Covid19, we are having to reinvent our world. Writing is a solitary pursuit, but it does not have to be done in isolation. Writers need feedback. Writers need encouragement. Writers need to find new approaches to help us construct our poems or paragraphs. Mostly, we need to communicate and express ourselves through the glory of the written word.

I loved teaching creative writing – even to reluctant writers. Under the trading name of Word Alchemy, over the past seven years I have worked with kids from ages 9 to 14. I have worked with adults in all women and all men groups and mixed gender groups. I have worked in schools, community halls, arts centres, outdoors and in prisons. It’s a bit of a vocation for me. I have conducted workshops outdoors at sites in Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark, usually ones that combine haiku writing with walking in all of nature’s splendour.

Cavan Youth Arts Lab
After a walk on the Cavan Burren, teens create a renga poem
haiku poetree walkers
Ready to ginko down Claddagh Glen at Marble Arch Caves Visitor Centre

Covid19 made me sit down and have a really hard re-think about how or if I could continue. My husband is 70 and I will soon be 64. We have cocooned quite contentedly, but I am aware that others found it hard. We have to keep our social distance and I will shield for as long as necessary because I really want to keep both of us fit and in good fettle for another couple decades. In winter it can be hard to get out on icy roads in our rural area anyway. I generally worked in person in spring and autumn time. But neither am I in denial and think that Covid19 will be magically disappear anytime soon.

We need to keep ourselves occupied and motivated. We need each other, but we also need to keep our distance. These seminars are my response to the challenges of our current circumstances.

Besides, this is what creatives do…we create.

To be clear, I plan to kick off from September when the schools, at least in Ireland, will go back in session. So far, I have three courses planned. In September I will welcome beginners and improvers, those you may not have had a go at writing for some time. While I have a number of faithful students who are used to my methods, I felt that it was important to start with a taster course. Then I will offer month long courses that will focus on short fiction in October and poetry in November.

Because so many of us are working in unfamiliar patterns – working at home, working new and varying shift patterns, on different days alternate weeks, etc.– I have decided to offer two Zoom slots a week to adapt  and include as many who want to nurture themselves  with some creative expression. So long as no session has more than eight participants we can cope! One will be on a Thursday evening and the second will be Saturday at noon.  The time slots can even concievably include people who do not live in my own time zone! (Some have already asked!) If you cannot make your preferred regular slot on any particular week, then you can join the other meeting and not miss out on any unit.

These online weekly workshops include some in-session writing exercises, as well as group sharing of homework and ongoing work.  We will explore these forms over the course of September, a different form each week. You will receive emailed course reading material, inspirational video resources at the beginning of each unit, some weekly homework, and a weekend motivator email to help you keep on track with your writing practice.

Word Alchemy creative writing workshops are held spaces where we can inspire, encourage, and share ideas with one another.  We collaborate in the process of beginning with raw ideas and support the magic as they are transformed into something meaningful for both writer and reader.

I am calling the initial course “Pick n Mix’ because you get to try out a number of kinds of writing and get a feel for what may be your metier. Or, you might even surprise yourself and find out that even though you thought you were a memoirist that actually you have a wicked sense of humour that romps in short story or creative non-fiction forms.

So here is the plan for openers:

Week 1 – September 1st -8th – Short fiction

Week 2 – September 9th -15th – Poetry

Week 3 – September 16th -22nd – Creative Nonfiction

Week 4 – – September 23rd – 30th – Memoir

The course format includes:

  • One weekly emailed assignment
  • 2hr  weekly Zoom seminar from 8pm-10pm  Dublin time on Thursdays, September 3rd, 10th, 17th, and 24th And/or 2 hr Zoom seminar from 12noon – 2pm Dublin time on Saturdays, 5th, 12th,19th and 26th September
  • One weekly writing motivational email

Block book the four weekly sessions for a cost of €45/£41 payable by Paypal. Alternatively, Residents of Republic of Ireland and UK may pay by cheque if they prefer.

I hope to meet new students,even as I welcome past participants who live in Cavan, Fermanagh, Tyrone and Leitri here in Northwest Ireland. It would be great to have some international students in the mix! The Irish are always hospitable. Even if we won’t be able to lay on the tea and barm brack, we will always have plenty good craíc!

Class begins with the first email to you on 1st September! Want to Join?

Send in this Registration Form!

Bee Smith
Bee Smith invites you to join with other creative colleagues in her Word Alchemy workshops on Zoom

Featured image is Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

The Land of Before

There is no freshly pressed Sunday Weekly poem this week. I did write, but I am not feeling the strong pull to post just at the minute. This Sunday weekly poem from the beginning of March is weirdly prescient in that our world will be a Before and an After Covid-19. Also, we had a bit of a kitchen sink drama in the past 48 hours that has eaten up a lot of time and energy. Despite a good ten hour sleep last night I feel weary. I need to cut myself some slack from routine. Routine is good for structuring one’s day and week, whether you live in lockdown or the times past. We have two more weeks before Ireland will gradually loosen lockdown. It will begin a three month process of gradually re-opening the country, measuring the curve and keeping it flat along the way.

In the meantime, I need some writing cocooning time. I need to re-think this blog. I have re-writes and a complete re-visioning of the manuscript I have been working on for the past nine months. Some things are eternal, but do they reflect the impermanance that is our current condition?

One thing this lockdown has done is ask us to address what is essential to our lives. Also, how to negotiate the non-essentials that really feel quintessential for a life well lived. Poetry is not essential work in this pandemic. Yet, poetry writing may just be essential for mental health under lockdown. Along with santizer, hearty hand cream and disposable gloves.

Sojourning Smith

Yesterday the wind blew and rain poured down. It looked like it was going to be yet another weekend of stormy weather. But lo! There is some sunshine and the clouds there are not too fearsome. So I am going to keep the Sunday Weekly poem post short. Maybe a bit bittersweet. Because it is Potato Day at the Organic Centre and we need to get there early to have the most choice from the many seed varieties that will be on sale. Along with garlic. Which has great medicinal value for those of you in a panic over the Covid-19 virus. Grow your own. Get fresh air. Wash your hands. And be well!

The Sunday poem this week was prompted by a quotation in a Guardian Review article last week. I often don’t get to the Review section until well after Saturday. I am particularly fond of the image…

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Divination

I am going to be taking a midweek dip into the archive to review some of the oldies from the year of consecutive 365 poems a day. This one still appeals to me.

Sojourning Smith

Still recuperating and finding mornings are on go slow. I am cutting myself some slack. Sometimes I don’t want to do this poetry practice. Or feel that it is impossible. There cannot possibly be anything more to say. I am out of words. But then there is some thought that I think I might be able to something with…but I beg indulgence.And will spare you the ruminations I started with this morning…”what is poetry actually for?!” under the headline…Squeezing the Pips…of Poetry.

Instead, this came out of the real poetry practice.

Divination

Diving deep into the deck
let me just ask some questions
of You, God.
Ones somewhere between
bone to pick
and petition.
There's the two big ones.
And what do You know
about money?
I mean, really...
How much change jangles
in God's pockets?
That's like asking
what is the sound
of a single clapping hand...

Which…

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When the Well Runs Dry

It’s useful to look back to what I was writing about this day in another year. This post is particularly pertinent as I completed my brídeog, or Biddy doll, this day last year. On St. Brigid’s Day 2020 I will be leading a day retreat that will include creative writing, art AND we will craft a biddy doll, too. We are fast approaching not just the Chinese New Year, but the old Irish season of Imbolc, the time of earth’s renewal. It is time to wake up and grow things! What will you be growing over the next few months?

If you are in Ireland and want a day retreat to celebrate the multiplicity of St. Brigid’s wonderfulness, full details are here:   http://bit.ly/2NHkOMy

Sojourning Smith

I finished making my brídeog (Biddy Doll or St. Brigid’s doll) yesterday. The festival of Brigid (or Brigit or Brighid or Bride) runs from 31st January to 2nd February and coincides with Imbolc, the ancient Celtic festival that heralds spring time. And the return of the goddess Brigid in her maiden form. And the Feast Day of St. Brigit, Abbess of Kildare, one of Ireland’s three national saints. What you need to know about me is that I celebrate the coming a springtime (even though the upcoming Wolf Moon is also known as the Snow or Ice Moon) with as much fervour as most people reserve for Christmas, Thanksgiving or Halloween. I prepare, decorate and bake. And if there is snow that is no bother. The point is that the days are getting much lighter. When you live in Ireland that is is something to celebrate. Winter is on the…

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Joy

Happy Halloween. A lucky dip into the archive re-visits a Halloween Party given at the local open prison for a group of mentally handicapped young adults. It was a stunningly joyful event, staged in the coffee shop that is open to the public, but also open to inmates. Joy can be found in the saddest places sometimes.

Sojourning Smith

I am minded today of the Arundrati Roy quote to seek joy in the saddestplaces. We need to be reminded of joy and a prison qualifies as a sad place, but my husband and I and about fifty souls witnessed it yesterday in our local low security prison. I feel it warrants memorialising in my poetry journal. As backstory for you to understand the context of how it came about, I need to explain that they run a coffee shop that is open to the public, as well as having a car wash and polytunnels where you can buy plants. This is a bank holiday weekend in Ireland so there were a lot of visitors about the campus on a Sunday. The barristas in the coffee shop had been chatting to some of the regulars who work with a group of disabled young adults locally.  They cooked up the…

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Ghosting

This seems an appropriate themed poem pulled from the archive to Halloween

Sojourning Smith

For reasons I cannot quite fathom I have been feeling really tired this past week. Maybe the juggling of three and more projects is catching up with me. I have a list of things I need to attend to today, but I kept slapping the ‘Snooze’ on the alarm. I felt completely flat and out of inspiration for poetry practice. So I was lazily looking at my email, Facebook and finally Twitter. I generally just check in once daily there, but as soon as I opened it there was a post in the feed with a poetry prompt from @UrbanWordNYC…”write a poem addressing how death is the original form of ghosting.” So okay. I have my assignment for the Poetry Daily! Serendipity saves the day! I may have more personal experience of ghosts than social media ghosting, but I can work the metaphor…

Ghosting

Everyone leaves.
At some point I…

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Borders

While the deadline approaches at Halloween, we still don’t know exactly what the daily reality of what Brexit will be for those of us living on the EU frontier with Northern Ireland. This was written nearly a year ago. And still…we don’t exactly know…

Sojourning Smith

I am sometimes asked where all the ideas come from that inspire a new poem. Well, I range around. Today’s poem’s train of thought was provoked by a tweet. I am not a frequenter tweeter, but I do follow a few who are only on Twitter. And my current favourite is The Irish Border (@BorderIrish) who is wittily discoursing on the Brexit crisis about what to do with the problem of it. A lot hangs upon the Good Friday Treaty (aka the Belfast Treaty of 1998), which spelled out the end of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. We live in border country. For instance, today we went to the launderette in Fermanagh, which is eight miles away. If we opted for ones in Leitrim, we would have had to travel around sixteen miles to do the dirty washing. We fill our prescriptions in Fermanagh…

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Drawer

In a chat with someone this week I characterised 2019 as the ‘Stuck or Chuck’ year. Many complain of feeling stuck and not achieving lift off. Meanwhile, others, including ourselves, have had a huge over haul of ‘stuff’. And while it has been hard to get things to completion on some tasks, or a real struggle to, on balance I would say this is the year of ‘chuck’. We have been through so many drawers and cupboards. Yes, there are some boxes remaining. Yes, the kitchen cupboards need their annual overhaul still.

How would you characterise 2019?

Sojourning Smith

No subject is too mundane to not be potentially transcendental. At least in the early hours of the day, when you really are a night owl. But it was still dark when poetry practice called.

Drawer

Everyone has got one.
That drawer full
of catchall, untamed, uncategorised
bits, bobby pins, bats, half-chewed rubber balls.

Once
I heard a psychiatrist on the radio recount
strategy with a a suicidal patient’s call
during another client’s fifty minutes.
She said just go an tidy a drawer until
She’d ring back in twenty.
He was calmer on the call back.
He had dispensed with death
as a persuasive option
when appraising the matched and folded array
of an ordered sock drawer.

We all have that drawer.
Sometimes we empty the contents
into a box
and slide it under the bed,
or to the back of a closet,
out into the shed,
or the far cobwebbed…

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Venus Dives Deep

Trawling through the archive it is interesting to see how the news cycle may have gone around and around, but that still certain reactions to past news can feel current. We had the new moon this weekend and this was my response to the 2018 Libra New Moon

Sojourning Smith

There was a fashion in creating ‘found poems’ or ‘cut-outs’ from sometime back in the mists of poetry time. Probably the late 60s when those who were there can’t remember. Today I decided to create a chorus of women’s voices, taking direct quotes from articles or newsletters I have read this morning. It is a New Moon today in Libra, ruled by that most feminine of goddesses, Venus. Sky and astrology watchers will have noted that Venus is currently retrograde, seemingly stationary, or moving backwards (rapidly towards the Dark Ages.) Today’s poetry practice, or journalling as I am coming to think of it, is playing with a different kind of cut and paste. Also, I want to celebrate women’s voices. We want to be heard.

I won’t keep my chorus Greek, masked and anonymous. The quotes are not in order, but feature the words of Barbara Kingsolver, Jude Lally,Chani Noble…

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What Remains

We are travelling to Mayo tomorrow for a funeral, which prompted me to seek out this poem from the archive. Irish funerals, especially those in rural districts, are highly ritualised. As the final rite they are very moving.

Sojourning Smith

In Ireland, death is highly ritualised. Wherever a person dies, almost invariably ‘the remains’ are brought home. There is the wake with neighbours, friends, and extended family visiting the deceased, who is usually laid out in the best room, all coming to say goodbye, praying the rosary, drinking tea, eating sandwiches. Then the house may go private to family only before ‘the removal.’ The remains are removed from home to the church the night before the funeral and a service is held to welcome the coffin.  There are forms of words and people who may  not have visited the funeral house line up to sympathise with the family, shake hands, say “I am sorry for your loss.” Then the funeral, the commital for burial or cremation. Over three days, the bereaved waver on that liminal place of letting go. Each sympathiser dins the reality home. You have lost a loved…

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