Posted on Thursday, 30 May 2019 at 1pm
by Lifelong Learning Centre Staff.
Lifelong Learning Centre Creative Writing tutors, Ebba Brooks and Cath Nichols, have recently collaborated in a way that they encourage their students to do. Ebba is the managing editor of non-fiction magazine The Real Story and she recently commissioned Cath to write a piece of non-fiction that addressed the theme of ‘transitions’ for both the magazine and for a live event held during Salford’s Not Quite Light festival.
Cath was nervous about doing this as the topic she wanted to highlight was her own transition from being relatively non-disabled to being disabled. Given she doesn’t usually write prose, except for academic papers, she needed to know how her writing would come across to a more relaxed reader. She was also worried about travelling to Salford and back on three trains for the live event, given her physical limitations.
Ebba was able to give Cath helpful feedback, both to reduce the word count and to clarify a couple of things in her story. She reassured her that using two poems within the prose story had worked.
This approach is something we teach students to do when they bring their own creative writing to the workshop. We put students in small groups (usually of four to six people) and they take it in turns to read aloud a short story or poem, and then listen without interrupting whilst the others comment upon how they understood the writing. Sharing one’s own writing can be an intimidating experience and although this lessens the more you do it, anxiety can still resurface as Cath found when you write in a different genre. For anyone who has not taken a creative writing module, we think it might be reassuring for you to know that we put ourselves through the same process we ask of you. Learning from feedback never stops, no matter how old you get!
The live event went really well, and since Ebba had offered to drive Cath home afterwards, when fatigue set in, it was not the end of the world. So rather than face the trains, Cath lay on the back seat of Ebba’s car for half an hour before collapsing into bed!
The story Frail has since been shared on social media and generated positive feedback from people with disabilities and chronic illness, as well as others. It’s been described as ‘brutal’, ‘honest’, ‘remarkable’ and ‘inspiring’. Linda Anderson, a novelist who also wrote the Creative Writing Guide used as a core text in the LLC’s ‘Creative Writing Workshop’ module, described it as an ‘Excellent, lucid account of what it’s like to have an overwhelming condition that is undiagnosed’.
You can decide what you think by reading the story here.