It’s been Mayhem!

Mayhem Film Festival

Mayhem Film Festival

It’s been a very busy week. On Monday I took part in Nottingham’s Mayhem Film Festival. Don’t worry, I haven’t forsaken my writing; no acting was involved! The event was hosted by Niki Valentine, author of The Haunting and Possessed, and co-founder of Nottingham Writers’ Studio. Niki loves all things horror and is a firm supporter of Nottingham writers. What better way to showcase her support than inviting writers to read horror related stories and poetry?

So, who was there? Chris Pearson (www.chrispearsonpoems.wordpress.co.uk) read his horror/love story hybrid which brought down the house. It was a poignant and moving piece, combined with real horror – in this case what happens when love is unrequited and you happen to be psychotic!

Angela K Foxwood took a break from writing stunning poetry and delivered a spooky tale with a warning: be grateful for what you have, unless you wish to be sucked into another more sinister reality… If horror is not your thing, check out Angela’s blog: www.shapingtheword.wordpress.co.uk where you will find the most wonderful poetry.

Pete Davis, the legendary storyteller amused us with scary tales. You have to see him in action, he is one of the most funniest people I have ever met. He runs a story workshop at The Broadway Cinema and Café Bar in Nottingham. I urge you to book a place!

The uber talented Pippa Hennessy came along writh her good friend, Victor Uggla, who charmed the crowd. by waving to everyone and giving declarations of love. Though I’m not sure how supportive he is of Pippa, as when she read her ‘horrorscope’ tale (which was funny and scary – a rare combination), Victor spent the whole time under the table.

Victor takes a break from wooing.

Victor takes a break from wooing.

Megan Taylor also read a short story (www.megantaylor.info) . I was in awe of her for most of the evening and kept a respectful distance until she approached me and offered her congratulations. High praise indeed coming from someone as talented as Megan Taylor!

Oh, what’s that? You want to know how my reading went? Amazingly well. The crowd were attentive throughout and I was given a huge round of applause. I would have posted photos of my reading but my Husband forgot to take any, he was too busy listening to me: a first!

The most proud moment came from a comment Pippa Hennessy made. She said my writing had come on so much in the past three years. So, all of the rejection letters and plain silence from publishers and magazines has been worth it. I am now in a stronger position to approach people and to read at venues such as Mayhem. All is good.

Next week I will be visiting The Harley Gallery to see Quentin Blake’s exhibition: As Large as Life. Will let you know how things go.

And finally, some great news. Nottingham Writers’ Studio have accepted a piece of fiction I submitted for their Crime Sampler anthology. I am going to be published!

Much love xx

A writer’s life!

It’s been a busy few months. I’m not complaining. Life is going well and my career as a freelance writer is starting to take shape.

In September I ran a series of workshops for Nottingham Libraries, teaching children how to write scripts. I learned a great deal from this and was lucky to have support from an ex-tutor of mine from The University of Nottingham. He has a background in stage performance and was an integral part of my workshops. Not only did the children write five mini-plays they also performed them at their school. It was a brilliant workshop activity and one which I hope to continue in the future.

In December I shall be working at The Harley Gallery in Worksop. Quentin Blake’s Exhibition ‘As Large as Life’ will form the inspiration for communal poetry. I shall be working with groups of 30 children, teaching them different poetry forms, from which they will construct their own ‘class poem’. This will then be turned into a mini book, complete with illustrations. I cannot wait! I grew up with Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake; they were my childhood companions. I went everywhere with a copy of The Magic Finger and, The Twits, tucked under my arm and I yearned to be as talented as my idols. To say that I am excited by the thought of using Quentin’s illustrations as a backdrop to my teaching is an understatement. I have bruised arms from the pinching I keep doing!

So life is good. I feel the balance between teaching creative writing and doing it myself is slightly biased towards the former. But… I am writing. On Monday, 4th November I shall be reading a short story to a group of around 150 people as part of Nottingham’s Mayhem! Horror Festival. It’s being held at the Broadway Cinema and Cafebar and I am uber excited by this. Not nervous. Just glad that something I have written is being put out there. 

Life is all about doing things in moderation, isn’t it? So, a bit of teaching, a bit of writing. And a pinch of self-belief. It just goes to show that if you set your mind to it, you can achieve most things – not all, but most!

 

 

 

Waiting

A build-up of tension along with the train
curls around the track
and slowly ambles towards
the grim-faced businessmen
and exuberant children.

A balding man steps forward
suitcase handle gripped in hand
one step starts a calamity.

A man, thin hair, thin face
steps towards the fray
his hand rests on his wife’s back
and growls to the crowd:
I was here first.

nobody listens
the train grabs their attention
and the crowd surges forward
clasping their reserved seat tickets.

a child cries

a whistle blows

doors open

suitcases are thrown

out into the crowd
who tap their feet
and check their watch
and glare at the departing crowd.

then onwards and inwards
the crowd goes
further in, further on.

A fight breaks out
in the luggage rack
between short and bald
and short and fat.

Two women glare at a third
who dares to wear
last year’s coat.

and then
silence.

after the seats have been fought over
and battles have been won – or lost.

a triumphant eyebrow is raised
a coffee is ordered from first class
complete with plum in mouth.

and throughout it all, an old woman,
sits knitting a jersey
for her cat.

You can go your own way!

I note with interest that it’s been two months since my last blog… A great deal has happened during that time.

I am now a freelance creative  writing practitioner and writer. I have gained work. I have joined National Academy of Writers in Education and the Nottingham Writers’ Studio. And I have a non-fiction writing project on the go – with a good chance of publication in early 2014.

Let’s take a look at that list again.

I am now a freelance creative writing practitioner? How the heck did that happen? Hard work and lots of courage. When I graduated from University I was plagued with fear and worry. I was desperate to find work as a writer, and I was frantic about how to do so. I also had the pressure of knowing I needed to support my family. And so I was torn between finding a job which pays well but has no creative outlet or to focus on my freelance career. I am still looking for part-time work in a non-creative setting (read admin!) but I have also made steps to find my own work.

Becoming a freelance worker is difficult – there is no guarantee of a steady income and you have to find your own work (unless you are lucky and have lots of contacts). I approached many schools during the spring term to ask for the opportunity to run creative writing workshops. The response has been… muted. One school in question promised me everything and gave nothing. It’s unprofessional but not personal. It is unfortunately due to funding. And that is a freelance writer’s worst enemy.

But… I have had success. I joined NAWE(National Academy of Writers in Education) which made me feel part of the creative writing practitioner community. NAWE offer advice, support, insurance, periodicals, newsletters, and academic books. They are a fount of knowledge for those who earn a living working in schools. It boosted my confidence no end in belonging to such an esteemed fellowship.

This new found confidence gave me the boost I needed and I approached Nottingham Libraries with a proposal for running creative writing workshops during the summer holidays. Unfortunately they had already booked another writer for a series of sessions running City and County wide. But on the back of my proposal another team from Nottingham Libraries approached me to work on a series of Art Award workshops. I am running these sessions in late September 2013.

Recognising the worth in belonging to a writers’ community, I joined Nottingham Writers’ Studio earlier this month. Because of my contact with NWS I have been approached to run a series of workshops for The Harley Gallery, in conjunction with an exhibition of Quentin Blake’s iconic illustrations. The aim is to link Quentin’s illustrations to a communal poem written by myself and a school. Fantastic!

And finally, I am working on a secret project! It is a non-fiction title which I cannot divulge as yet. But needless to say it is an exciting work in progress. I will share more with you as soon as I am allowed to!

As you can see from this post, dreams do not come true just by wishing for them. You can dream and you can wish. Both are fine. What makes them come true is hard work, determination and self-belief. So the next time you wish for something – don’t sit back and wait. Only you can make it happen.

When art and words collide!

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On Friday 28th June, 2013, myself and local artist, Sue Bulmer, invaded Bulwell St Mary’s Church of England Primary School to deliver a full day workshop, combining art and words. What followed was an explosion of creativity:

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The children were asked to work on a 12ft (I don’t know how long that is in meters, but its very long!) collage, depicting a magical landscape. Sue provided a template complete with her iconic birds and houses and my challenge was to inspire the children to write something creative to complement their illustrations. Both concepts were met with huge success!

The children enjoyed the freedom of being able to work creatively without the constraints of National Curriculum. It was a true explosion of creativity.

It is hoped that myself and Sue continue to deliver these workshops on a regular basis, as they give children the opportunity to explore expressive arts and it allows the teachers to have a well earned break!

I know after running the workshop with Sue, we both commented on how rewarding the experience was. Rewarding and tiring!

 

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An unexpected journey…

I write this blog in between editing my ebook and having discussions/interviews about my future career plans.
This is a new experience for me. In fact the past four years have been full of new experiences…
Four years ago I made a ‘to do’ list:
1. Go to University
2. Get published.
3. Graduate with First Class Honours.
Four years later, I have achieved all three.
It has been hard, hard work. Along the way I have been faced with eviction, poverty (those two come hand in hand) and losing my mother-in-law to cancer. I have wanted t give up at times. But at night time when my children were sleeping, I picked up my laptop and typed away. I researched my dissertation, planned my coursework and wrote creatively. For me.
Then in the morning, after packing the children off to school, I travelled to Uni, often falling asleep on the bus.
I drank copious amounts of coffee to keep me alert during seminar groups. Then trudged back home and spent time with my family. It wasn’t quality time. I was a zombie! Too tired to string a sentence together.
And yet…
And yet I have achieved everything I set out to do.
Is there more? Of course there is. I have a new list:
1. To be involved in Nottingham Festival of Words 2014 – as a coordinator or part of the steering committee.
2. To set up and run a community project involving The Arts society and local schools.
3. To have a collection of short stories published by SALT.
Watch this space!

What does Crochet and Home Education have in common?

There are times in your life when you meet somebody so inspirational, you have to tell the world about them. Louise Hatfield is one of those people.

            I’ve known Louise for about two years, but it is only recently that I have had the pleasure of finding out more about her. Louise is a full-time mother and businesswoman. She is intelligent, witty, wise beyond her years and a wonderful, giving parent.

            We met to have a catch up (after losing touch for about a year), but what followed was a diverse and engaging conversation spanning topics such as motherhood, home education and starting a craft business from scratch.

            Firstly we discussed Louise’s decision to home educate her middle child.

            ‘Seth started Year One in September 2012. Initially I was happy for him to go to school, but things suddenly changed.’

            How so?

            ‘Well, he’s always been a very active child, he loves nature and the outdoors. He’s never been a bookworm – unlike our other two children!  Far from being worried, I was happy to let it go. Reading was something I wanted Seth to come to organically. I did not want him to be forced into literature. But that was not the attitude of his school. Every day Seth would come home with his reading record, complete with a note from the teacher explaining that we needed to listen to Seth read on a daily basis. It came to a head before Christmas; Seth was becoming tearful each time he had to go to school. He was also a target for being “different”. Children would be curious about his long hair and question his gender. They were also confused about the contents of his lunch box (olives and hummus). The teacher was also nonplussed about Seth’s need to eat his lunch on a plate and not out of a box.’

             Did you discuss your concerns with the teacher?

            ‘Absolutely. The teacher talked to the rest of the class about Seth’s hair and that actually he is a boy, not a girl. But as for the literacy thing, that was my main concern. Seth is very confident in how he looks. He has always had long hair and with it the attitude of “If you don’t like my hair, that is your issue, not mine”. But I felt instinctively that how Seth was being taught was wrong for him. My real fear was that he would be put off reading for life. The teacher still wanted myself and David (Louise’s partner) to persevere with the daily reading. But it just wasn’t right for Seth. He became more aggressive at home, just not his usual happy self. Seth is…insightful. He definitely thinks things though before he speaks. And this aggression was completely out of character. I made the decision to home educate Seth in January 2013. I haven’t looked back since.’

            How difficult is it to home educate your child?

            ‘I found the de-registration part the most difficult. I wrote to Seth’s school and asked them to de-register Seth as I would be home educating him. A terse reply followed explaining that I needed to contact the Local Authority. I do not make knee-jerk reactions to important decisions. I had researched home education, found forums and of course had looked into the correct procedures for teaching your child outside of a school setting. The letter from school stung a little, as they did not seem to want to know the reasons why I had decided to remove my son from their school.’

            What is the most rewarding part of home educating Seth?

            ‘Lots of things! Seth really thrives on the home-school environment. He has developed a real love of literature which is amazing really, considering how anti-books he was. He enjoys reading Flat Stanley. Whilst I don’t have a set routine, some of the work we do is very intense. I have purchased some software for our home computer, which combines literacy and mathematics and from that Seth has started to gain excellent keyboard skills! But it is the freedom Seth has that has had the most impact. We go for walks in the woods or spend an hour in the garden, talking about why there is ice covering the puddles or why the sun bleeds into the sky. Seth’s totally back to the way he was before he started school. His aggression has gone. He is very happy.’

            It sounds like the teaching you do is very instinctive and completely based on Seth as an individual. I am interested in educational policies, as you know. What do you think needs to change in the way education is delivered in primary schools today?

            ‘I have spoken to many home educators and we agree that teaching needs to be more instinctive. Sandra Dobbs, a home education guru, gave me some invaluable tips on teaching – and this can and should be applied in a “normal” educational setting. An example of this would be to start a conversation with a child about a famous portrait – the Mona Lisa. Who painted it? Leonardo Di Vinci. Where is he from? Italy. What is the currency, the culture, the history, the politics. One simple question about art can springboard onto lots of different subjects. So instead of having a timetabled day – English, Mathematics, History etc, you can cover a diverse area of many topics in a shorter, more intense time period. Also I think classroom sizes need to be looked at. How can one teacher make an impact on a so many children? They can’t. Smaller class sizes, different age groups. I think that needs to be implemented in schools.’

            Louise is passionate about her children and their wellbeing. I find this to be refreshing in someone so young – Louise is in her early thirties. It therefore makes sense for Louise to work from home – whilst home educating Seth and looking after her youngest child.

            Louise is a very creative individual. And that word ‘individual’ sums Louise up to a tee. She is a self-confessed ‘Hippie’ and is used to be stared at in the school playground. Louise is like Mother Earth. She breastfeeds her youngest son, and has never owned a pushchair. She soaks information up like a sponge and constantly researches information. I’m surprised she has yet to take up the mantle of Higher Education as she is clearly capable. But Louise is very much attached to her ‘full-time mother’ role and so looked for a way to combine her love of crochet with earning a living. The genesis is her newly formed small business Dark Sprite Designs.

            Louise uses organic fair-trade cotton (what else?) to make her eclectic designs. These can range from reusable make-up/cleansing pads to door hangings to soft toys. The colours used are inspired by nature – muted greens, warm browns, vibrant orange. She is very understated in her creativity. When I wowed over the examples she showed me, Louise smiled and shrugged. It takes a creative type to recognise creativity in others and Louise has it in spades. She is an artist in the making.

            I will not dwell on the other things we discussed during our catch up. Some things are meant to be private. But what I will say is that when I discussed my mental health issues with Louise, I found a kindred spirit. It irks me to think that those who talk about madness and creativity being linked may actually be right. Or is it that those who suffer from a mental illness are more able to tap into their creative side far more easily than those who are ‘normal’?

            You can find out more about Louise’s business on her facebook page: Dark Sprite Designs. You may also be able to follow her blog as soon as I have convinced her to set one up. I have assured her that many people would like to know more about the wonderful Louise Hatfield.