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

September Light Falls

Ireland is a country of many seasons. Many, as the joke goes, all in a single day. But there are two months out of each year that are hard to beat whether the rain falls or it is dry. May is a close runner up, but for me, September is the month you cannot beat. It may partly be that I took up residence in Ireland in 2001 just at the autumn equinox. While Spring is fun, it can also feel a bit frantic. Autumn has a much more ‘Hey, man!’ vibe to it. The sunflowers still nod, but they don’t have to put any more energy into growth. They are tall enough. While it may not be relaxing for people herding children back to school, or workers returning from a late summer vacance, the earth energy is mellow. I saw my first puffball a few days ago. The only growth now is fungi. They are incredibly discreet about it. But what slays me most is the slant of light at this time of year. So that is what the Poetry Daily offers you on Day 361 of the 365 poem a day.

The Way the Light Falls

Like no other time of year...
This.
When dark clouds joust
with javellins of light
searing September sky.

Happy tears fall in sunshine
before brooding, petrol clouds.
See!
It's Cathy calling Heathcliff
or Tristan to Isolde.

Then
the meeting on the bridge.
Rainbows grow double
Come quick and look!
What's your dearest wish?

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved

Between Seasons

There is definitely a nip. The air has gone crisp. I needed to put on a pair of socks for my walk. I am shaking out sweaters and greet them as old friends. Yes! Autumn in on its way. September is one of my favourite months – along with May. They are Goldilocks months. Not too hot. Not too cold. Just right. Cool enough for porridge for breakfast. Warm enough that the rain doesn’t chill your marrow when you get drenched during a walk. It’s a season of rainbows and intense shots of light and then a lowering dark. It is a season to believe in miracles. The Poetry Daily began in this wonderful month and it will conclude the cycle of 365 days of a poem a day in September.

The nights are drawing in.There is a greater chance that I may wake in the amrit vela, the ambrosial hour, when the day is not yet born. It is a very special time, when you can feel the pulse of the earth. And while I was up, our internet had been knocked out, but was swiftly restored by our great local, rural internet provider Groupnet.


Between Seasons

It’s not full on
like midsummer's bright
clap at the crack of dawn.
No. It’s much more mellow.
The new day yawns.
It stretches. There is a chill
 
in the air. Time to pull on
a wooly or a fleece
to drink tea. To just sit
facing the blank day,
to see if my mind
can be empty
 
of the world’s cares,
its need for prayers.
It’s not half-light nor full dark.
Soon the days
and the nights, too
will know the perfect poise
 
the betwixt, the between,
have the equilibrium
and grace of ambling spider
pirouetting capers in its nets -
this time out of time,
the bliss of not yet.
 
Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved

Towards September

To the east of Ireland it is still dry and warm. Friends in England, both north and south, are melting in temperatures approaching 31C. But here in the ‘wesht’ of Ireland autumn is showing signs of arrival. While it is certainly clammy weather, the mercury is still hovering around 18C/62F. It’s close, but not overly uncomfortable. I am looking out at rain.For which I am grateful since we had quite the dry conditions until August this year. More hard rain and flash flooding and less soft rain altogether. The climate is looking less clement everywhere. Today’s prompt from 30 Days of Summer Writing Challenge is ‘Summer Nights’. I certainly have been remarking to myself the necessity of switching on the electric lights comparitively early these days. Partly this is low cloud and rain, but the nights are drawing in. From our cottage the late summer has a distinctly autumnal feel.

 Towards September

That sometimes of the summer bonus
with its daytime heat then nightly chill
crimsoning the house's creeper

Brings its surprise of electric light,
the clock saying eight o'clock
though we do not draw curtains
and windows are open for a draught

The spiders are full of industry
battening us with their silken nets
though the sunflowers stand
and face forward the setting sun

Soon equal light and equal night
the year cranking itself around
for a new season's wardrobe
shaking the sweaters out

Releasing clouds of cloth moths
the crane flies climbing the walls
legging it along ledges
watching moths flutter, beat their wings

Their sizzle, bumping and bumping against
the heat of electric light bulbs
blasting into long inky nights



Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved









Featured image Photo by Christopher Paul High on Unsplash

September is a Sometimes Season

I am fortunate in being able to make my own schedule most days. But sometimes those maintenance tasks that my friend Pen calls ‘life laundry’ cannot be parcelled out to one’s own bidding. That is when keeping up a writing practice becomes a time management challenge. Back in the last century, when still living in England, it often happened during lunch break while eating a sandwich on a park bench, or at my work station tapping out a draft when colleagues were out. You learn to use deal with time sandwich style.

So it is today, sandwiching poetry practice in between life laundry tasks and culinary activity.

September is a Sometimes Season

When sun peals like wedding church bells
and clouds are scarce,
a young man speeds along the highway
with a pretty girl by his side.
The soft top is down.
The wind teases her tendrils from her topknot.
They flail wildly
bedhead passion fashion.

The sky winks and a grey cloud lumbers along,
all middle-aged, a wrinkle and a frown, pre-occupied about
what to do to use up all those bruised apples.
By turns the weather is warm and sultry, then
the wind shivers your sweat.
In the evening you debate if it is worth switching the heating on,
just for an hour or so,
or maybe just to turn the electric blanket on low.

September is a sometimes season.

Copyright 2018 Bee Smith