Workshop Number 2.
Helen is the author of novels, stories, radio plays and screenplays. Her first novel, My Summer of Love, won a Betty Trask Award and became a BAFTA award winning feature film. Workshop no 2 was held at Sneinton Market.
We are two weeks in to this project where we are looking at some famous women from Nottingham, authors and poets who have had or are having great success. We need to celebrate their abilities to tell empathic, strong stories reflecting the realities of girls and women’s lives. It’s also a good opportunity to listen to some well- crafted short stories as we focus on Dorothy Whipple. Her deftly drawn scenarios, rich with sensory detail and symbolism, even as she discusses the domestic arrangements of a middle class household of the thirties or forties, help us to relate to the characters and their dilemmas, reaching across the ages, across cultures and social class. The women are bound by their class and position , by the expectations and oppressions that existed, yet they are vibrant and alive , with their own emotions, foibles and opinions. Yes, naturally some of the dialogue sounds dated, but it is of its time and marvellously written. The women seem timeless in that their hopes and dreams are ours – to be loved and to love, to have adventures, to be seen for the individuals that we are and not discounted as the “fairer sex”. The men are emblematic, yes, but they also are shown to be both good and bad and also symptomatic of the cultural expectations of the time.
Inspiration comes from Helen in the form of excellent tuition on how to devise Location and to make location a central element of a short story. I am new to looking at the structure of these things, so to me it is fascinating and judging by the keen participation of the 12 or so women there, we are all hooked.
This is followed by quick fire exercises to encourage our writing flow:
– The most amazing view you have ever seen ;
– Your parents’ bedroom when you were a teenager;
– The view from your window when you were under five years old.
Later, we each look at a black and white print of an old painting and concoct a story . Mine is a photo of a cottage garden, the cottage is in the picture, with Beverley Minster looming in the background. It is all looking a bit Jane Austen , so no surprise that I come up with a character called Lydia who loves to swish her gown against the pungent mint as she escapes into the hollyhocks away from all the visitors.
Here we are , a a bunch of diverse women, working creatively together , all foraging in our past, reaping details from the present and dreaming up our futures . I am really looking forward to reading some of our best work in the anthology due to accompany the Write Like A Girl project.