Last weekend, a few friends and I went to Felixstowe Book Festival. This was my third event of this kind, and probably my favourite so far. NAWG Fest in September last year was an intensive two days of excellent workshops, with a couple of author talks thrown in. Tremendous fun, but very tiring. Chipping Norton Literary Festival, in May, was all author panels, which I found very interesting, but didn’t spark my creative muscles. So, I was glad to discover that Felixstowe had a range of different sessions on offer, including both panels and workshops. I signed up for several of both, and thought the combination worked really well.
I had a great weekend in terms of writing. My first workshop was on OuLiPo, a French movement, which focuses on applying restrictions to the writing form, in order to prompt the writer to think harder about word choices. We did a couple of exercises – one in which we wrote a few lines using only one vowel (in my case, a) and one where we wrote some more lines missing out a particular letter (in my case, s). It was fascinating, and really brought home to me that I don’t think that much about the individual words I choose when writing. Using only the one vowel was much the more difficult task of the two, but even avoiding the letter ‘s’ proved challenging, especially since I chose to write a piece about two people having an argument – and couldn’t use ‘said’.
My second workshop was on short stories, and where to get inspiration. The exercise we did involved having a selection of photographs to get ideas from, and I wrote a short piece about a woman being held up at gunpoint, with a weird twist of perspective. I was very pleased with it, got a good reaction from the rest of the group when I read it out, and have subsequently entered it in a flash fiction competition.
The third workshop was about microfiction, and was much more focused on actually getting some writing done than anything else. The tutor gave us each a piece of paper with a prompt on it, and then we had 25 minutes to produce a piece of writing. My heart sank when I saw my prompt – Once Upon A Time. But, I quickly rallied, thought about a more interesting way of using it than the traditional one, and completed a 250-word story within the time limit. Everyone read out their pieces, and I was impressed by the range of styles and the level of quality. After the session, one of the other attendees chased me down in the corridor to say how much she had enjoyed my piece, and that she thought I should enter it in a competition – so I have!
Whenever I go on a trip (festival, retreat, course) involving writing, my main objective is to come away with a piece of writing I never would have written if I hadn’t gone. And I certainly achieved that on this occasion – with three new and interesting pieces to my name. So, the weekend was definitely a success!
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