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 Leitrim 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

Penultimate Poem

Day 364 of 365 days of writing and posting a poem a day. Except for the blip on 30th November when the internet went down. There were two posts on 1st December. When I considered what might be a fitting subject as I have the finish line of this poetry writing marathon in sight, I thought I have not, directly at least, written a love poem for Ireland. I also am very fond of old style maps. You know, the paper kind, rather than the interactive, digital sort. Months and months ago I found this wonderful image of an old map of Ireland that has been on my desktop teasing me. It’s a map of Ireland from circa 1808. It delinates the four ancient kingdoms of Ireland- Ulster in the north, Leinster in the east, Munster south and Connaught in the west. I live in a village on the Black Pig’s Dyke, which was an ancient earthwork system to discourage cattle raids from over yon border. (These schemes for walls never work. Why do we never learn, but just keep repeating the same old same old?) Half of my village is on the Ulster side of the River Shannon, where I live. Cross the bridge and you are in Leitrim and Connaught.

There was a rosy glow of dawn’s early light over the Playbank as I let Ellie out to answer her call of nature this morning. It never fails to take make me feel blessed to call this place home. So, a love poem for Ireland…

Éireann

Island or land mass
aorta?
Every chamber
has its particular
function.
Everyone
of its four fields,
their rivers,
arteries of love
running through.
Their oxygen, too.

It may only be
the size
of a human fist,
yet everything
depends
upon this:
the morning mist,
its mythic hints,
the river gods
serving
the seat of awe.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved

Borders

Brexit

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, because our doctor’s surgery is just over the bridge from  it on the Cavan side of Lough MacNean. It is often cheaper too, but if it isn’t they send us to our nearest Leitrim pharmacy which is (yes) sixteen miles in the other direction.

Today’s featured image is a photo of an art project at that bridge point that marks an international boundary. The 2017 project was ‘Soften the Border’, a peaceful way of voicing what locals want for their future. And it was done in knitting and crochet!

art installation 2

Read more here We Need to Talk About Symbols

The poem opens with a reference to the Black Pig’s Dyke, an ancient earthwork fortification (a bit like a neolithic Trump wall) to keep out invading incursions between Ulster and Connaught. More here Pigs Can’t Fly?

And today’s inspiration comes from the Yellow Manifesto. Which was the spark that lit the metaphorical match today.

 

Borderland

 

“A border is where realities co-exist” – The Yellow Manifesto

 

We know this well, those of us who

ride the Black Pig’s back here.

We remember its day of rampant tusk and harsh bristle

over thirty years and more.

We unwound a lot over the past twenty years,

got past the gore; uncombed some knots and tats.

We like the one we have right now,

and would very much  like it remaining invisible.

Except perhaps on bureaucrats’ maps.

We have done the hard work to make visible

more than any political magical thinking.

(Much of it paid for by the EU, thank you!)

 

We cannot go back to the hot-cold war ways

of Checkpoint Charlie rifling for contraband bacon.

Besides of course of which, it’s probably already

being stuffed down the granny’s corset and brolly.

We long ago learned the math of two currencies,

but newly know the true value of peace.

It’s just another way of doing the double,

understanding how the other side thinks.

We can tell you the exact cost and

count it in epigenetics because

PTSD still holds a lingering legacy.

 

Land is porous. Just like our meadows and bogs.

You would think after two millennium

we’d get the hang of forgiving trespassers,

the being kind to our neighbours.

Maps are for magical thinking that

set traps for the less canny and unwary.

Borderlanders know the true juju

of negotiating their lives betwixt and between.

 

Copyright © Bee Smith 2018

 

Yellow Manifesto