Monday, 28 October 2013

Autumnal Writing Prompts

Autumn is such a rich time of year - the colours, the smells, the sounds of leaves crunching underfoot . . .

. . . all make it such a great season to write about.

So, if you fancy giving your poetry or prose an autumnal flavour, choose one of the writing prompts below to inspire you:

Title Prompt

'Spiced Apples and Bonfires'

Picture Prompt

Opening Line Prompt

Every Halloween it was the same. Every Halloween she hoped . . .

Musical Prompt

Smell Prompt

Freshly baked gingerbread 

Picture Prompt

Quotation Prompt

'Aprils have never meant much to me, autumns seem that season of beginning, spring.' Truman Capote

I hope you find the above prompts useful.

I hope they inspire you to paint some beautiful autumnal moments with your words.

And I would love to see the results, so please feel free to send them to me or post them in the comments below . . .

Friday, 25 October 2013

Writing Inspirations

I don't know about you, but I'm a real sucker for those 'Inspirational Teacher Movies'.

You know the ones, Dead Poets' Society, Mona Lisa Smile, Dangerous Minds - they all follow the same basic plot: 

New teacher joins school - new teacher has problems with class - new teacher manages to engage class - even the most cynical of students become inspired - lives are changed forever - new teacher tragically has to leave school - previously cynical students rally round in a heart-warming show of support.

And I am reduced to a quivering, tear-stained wreck every single time!

If you're lucky enough to have had a teacher like the ones featured in these movies, I don't think you ever forget them.

Mine was Miss Maybin - my English teacher back when I was 13.

One week, in class, she got us to do a comprehension exercise on a poem by Seamus Heaney.

The poem was called Blackberry Picking and there was something about the richness of the description and the bitter sweet content that had me rapt.

Instantly I was transported back to holidays in Ireland and blackberry-picking expeditions with my cousin:

"You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer's blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for

To me, the experience of reading the poem was beyond anything I'd ever felt as a reader before - and I was an official Book Worm with a degree in Word Nerdery.

My love for the poem must have shone through in my comprehension exercise because after class, Miss Maybin called me back.

'Did you enjoy reading that poem?' she asked.

I nodded eagerly. 

She just smiled and let me go.

But after our next lesson, she called me back after class again and handed me a bundle of photocopies. 

Over the weekend, she had made me a collection of some of Heaney's greatest poems.

I treasured those photocopies for years, until the print had faded and the edges become dog-eared.

I have vivid memories of curling up on my bed and poring over the words, revelling in the emotions they conjured, smiling one minute, crying the next.

Like all great teachers, Miss Maybin had spotted a spark in me and kindled it into a flame.

Seamus Heaney's poems made me see what was possible when it came to the written word.

He made me see how you could take the ordinary and make it extraordinary. 

He made me want to write.

In August this year, Seamus Heaney died.

When I heard the news I burst into tears.

At first, I was shocked by the force of my reaction - after all, it wasn't as if I knew him.

But that's the thing about our inspirations - we don't have to know them for them to leave an imprint on our very being. 

They help to form the people we become, often without ever realising it.

This week, I signed a book deal with the publisher Faber & Faber.

In a twist as bitter sweet as one of Heaney's poems, this had been his publisher too.

It's too late for me to contact Seamus Heaney but I wish I could track down Miss Maybin, and tell her what she sparked.

Who knows, maybe one day I will . . .

You can watch Seamus Heaney reading Blackberry Picking right here


Now, over to you. Who are your writing inspirations? Who made you love to read and / or write? I'd love to know, so feel free to write your own personal tributes in the comments below.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Welcome to My Writing Dream!

For many years now, it has been my dream to create a small corner of the internet where writers could come for encouragement and advice, and to share their work.

So, sitting down to compose this very first blog post for Dare to Write is a really proud and happy moment for me.

I've been coaching writers for almost as long as I've been a writer myself (since June 2003, if you want to be official about it).

That was when I ran my very first writing workshop.

It was terrifying!

I practised what I was going to do and say for days before.

My son was just a toddler back then, and I remember doing a last minute run-through of my workshop on a group of his cuddly toys.

Midway through, Bob the Builder keeled over in front of me, as if passing out from chronic boredom.

I was mortified and took it as a sign that, as a writing workshop facilitator, I was doomed.

Thankfully, I was wrong (maybe Bob had just been drinking?)

Since 2003, I have run literally hundreds and hundreds of workshops.

Running a recent workshop at Bath Literature Festival

And I have coached many writers on a one-to-one basis.

But I've never pulled it all together under one umbrella before.

Becoming a writer has transformed my life, career-wise and personally.

And having encountered various obstacles along the way - both internal and external - helping other writers overcome their own obstacles has become one of my life's passions.

We all have a right to write, in whichever way we choose.

For Dare to Write I have created - and am still creating - a range of products and services that are directly drawn from my experience as an author, editorial consultant, workshop leader and writing coach.

Years of trial and error and trial and success have gone into every coaching package, online course and e-book available here.

I will also be offering free tips and advice on this blog.

Let me leave you with my favourite quote about writing. I hope it inspires you as much as it does me:

'To sum it all up, if you want to write, if you want to create, you must be the most sublime fool that God ever turned out and sent rambling. You must write every single day of your life. You must write dreadful dumb books and glorious books, and let them wrestle in beautiful fights inside your head, vulgar one moment, brilliant the next. You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff the books like perfume and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads. I wish for you a wrestling match with your Creative Muse that will last a life-time. I wish craziness and foolishness and madness upon you. May you live with hysteria, and out of it, make fine stories. Which means, may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.' Ray Bradbury

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