Write Like A Girl is an art project being run by the talented Helen Cross. 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 1 was held at a Networking Venue, Sneinton Market. Great venue, except not on a February winter’s day when the thin glass veneer surrounding us makes it feel like we are stuck in a snow globe with no hope of movement. I did not remove my gloves, not even to write. This though was the only frozen aspect of the afternoon. Everything else served well to fire us up and get the creative temperature rising.
We assemble around the plain tables, all eager to write and to explore our heritage. Nottingham has, we learn, got some famous women writers to match the much lauded men in talent, passion, output and sales. Yes, these women were feted in their day, they changed things and had their voices heard. There is even a living black woman, Panya Banjoko, who speaks to us all through her poetry. Come on Nottingham, recognise these women, read these women and remember them!
Over the next months we will be congregating to consider these authors in more depth:
Susannah Wright b1792
Mary Howitt b 1799
Dorothy Whipple b 1893
Helen Cresswell b 1935
Panya Banjoko, contemporary.
Inspiration is just around the corner, in this case quite literally as Sneinton Market is not far away.
We file into the chamber- more debate
Egos have blown up in our red faces
Leaving Europe come what May, oh too late,
Emperor’s clothes are missing, your Graces
Naked truth confronts wicked lies of men
Power grabbers set the country ablaze
David did it with one stroke of his pen
Long hidden and run away from our gaze
No choice now but to make a decision
A land divided needs strength, seeks vision.
I have just returned from the historic members’ library on Angel Row, Nottingham. Contrary to the ethereal address, I was attending a workshop on concrete poetry facilitated by the grounded and warm Kate Genever. And there was cake. Sitting in a book- lined room in an 18th century townhouse full of words proved to be the perfect surroundings for inspiration.
Alan Sillitoe’s personal library beckoned. It does not necessarily reflect his Angry Young Men label, being refreshingly sprinkled with reading material as diverse as An Edwardian Lady’s Diary, a Jane Austen Memoir and a book on Pioneer Women. I feel doubtful that his most famous character, Arthur Seaton would settle down with such bedtime reading. It seems that the Jane Austen tome was a gift from his publisher and as I grapple with it, a hand written note drifts out , hoping Alan will like it and talking about repression and the irony of writing. The irony is enough to galvanise me to write a poem, “ The Life of Pioneer Women” .
Back to the concrete. I should have read the definition before I went :
” poetry in which the meaning or effect is conveyed partly or wholly by visual means, using patterns of words or letters and other typographical devices”
Kate patiently explained and demonstrated the form, yet still I heard only “Poetry” and was in equal parts befuddled and inspired by my fellow participants concrete efforts. I should have been cutting, drawing, glueing, modelling, forming and shaping. A rabbit hole of writing swallowed me whole and words were set down on a pristine page. Perhaps it was because I had walked in with Anne Frank’s line ringing in my ears: “ Paper has more patience than people…”
Bromley House is a house of dreams and words leapt out at me from each book I held. Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, I will chisel away at them to sculpt something special.