creative writing

The Flash Fiction Writing Sessions

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The Flash Fiction Writing Sessions are for anybody to read and / or do. They can be done independently online or in structured group sessions delivered by The Safe House.

The sessions encourage structure and creativity in writing through presenting a stimulus and a guide on how to approach each specific writing task. Participants are encouraged to use each session to produce a short piece of creative writing.

For more information on the Flash Fiction Writing Sessions at The Safe House go here.


italian dog logoIf you are interested in participating in these sessions, either as an attendee or facilitator, or both (!), or if you would like to discuss developing your own Flash Fiction Writing sessions with us, just fill in the form below and we will get back to you with details of how to be involved in this part of the work of The Safe House.

This IS The Safe House 

“We can take you to a better place.”

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The Cardboard Library

girl moon umbrella butterflies adana1The Cardboard Library sessions are creative writing development sessions.

Participants are led through a series of stimulating journeys, both real and virtual, which form the catalyst for poetry, flash fiction and short story writing. The products from these sessions are collated and presented by The Safe House as The Cardboard Library, a hand-made occasional ‘magazine’ showcasing new creative writing talent.

italian dog logoIf you are interested in participating in these sessions, either as an attendee or facilitator, or both (!), just fill in the form below and we will get back to you with details of how to be involved in this part of the work of The Safe House.

Left Luggage

The Left Luggage project is based around a series of walkshop events comprising:

  • poetry reading.
  • local sights and landmarks.
  • walking, talking, discovery and writing.cat on the luggage

The Left Luggage sessions involve walks in the outdoors, poetry readings and discussion. They focus on understanding, analysis, comparison and appreciation of poetry as well as offering an opportunity to read and hear poetry in the fresh air.

These sessions could be particularly useful for anybody who is working towards GCSE or A Level English Literature qualifications.

Of course, practice in understanding poetry for national qualifications is not the only benefit of the Left Luggage sessions  and we are sure that they will inspire participants to seek out more poetry and maybe even write some too!

italian dog logoIf you are interested in participating in these sessions either as an  attendee or facilitator, or both (!), or if you would like to discuss developing your own sessions as part of the Left Luggage series, just fill in the form below and we will get back to you with details of how to be involved in this part of the work of The Safe House.

Rhyme in Dylan Thomas’s The Hunchback in the Park

The hunchback in the park
A solitary mister
Propped between trees and water
From the opening of the garden lock
That lets the trees and water enter
Until the Sunday sombre bell at dark
 
Eating bread from a newspaper
Drinking water from the chained cup
That the children filled with gravel
In the fountain basin where I sailed my ship
Slept at night in a dog kennel
But nobody chained him up.
 
Like the park birds he came early
Like the water he sat down
And Mister they called Hey mister
The truant boys from the town
Running when he had heard them clearly
On out of sound
 
Past lake and rockery
Laughing when he shook his paper
Hunchbacked in mockery
Through the loud zoo of the willow groves
Dodging the park keeper
With his stick that picked up leaves.
 
And the old dog sleeper
Alone between nurses and swans
While the boys among willows
Made the tigers jump out of their eyes
To roar on the rockery stones
And the groves were blue with sailors
 
Made all day until bell time
A woman figure without fault
Straight as a young elm
Straight and tall from his crooked bones
That she might stand in the night
After the locks and chains
 
All night in the unmade park
After the railings and shrubberies
The birds the grass the trees the lake
And the wild boys innocent as strawberries
Had followed the hunchback
To his kennel in the dark.

Rulin’s

  1. Work more and better
  2. work by a schedule
  3. wash teeth if any
  4. shave
  5. take bath
  6. eat good – fruit – vegetables – milk
  7. drink very scant, if any
  8. write a song a day
  9. wear clean clothes – look good
  10. shine shoes
  11. change socks
  12. change bed clothes often
  13. read lots good books
  14. listen to radio a lot
  15. learn people better
  16. keep rancho clean
  17. don’t get lonesome
  18. stay glad
  19. keep hoping machine running
  20. dream good
  21. bank all extra money
  22. save dough
  23. have company but don’t waste time
  24. send Mary and kids money
  25. play and sing good
  26. dance better
  27. help win war – beat fascism
  28. love mama
  29. love papa
  30. love Pete
  31. love everybody
  32. make up your mind
  33. wake up and fight

kerouac list

Time is a Trick of the Mind

imageJack Kerouac’s list of stuff to do .. jUst cLicK tHe iMage.

kerouac list

Task

Choose five of Jack Kerouac’s ‘new years Resolutions’ and use sequencers to create a narrative paragraph.

Creativity with regard to time frame and order of events is the way to engage your reader, for sure!

clock green

jUst cLicK tHe ClocK

About This Person

(A Flash Fiction Writing Session from The Safe House)

This session involves a bit of old fashioned detective work. You could imagine Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, you could be more daring and think of someone like Anthony Horowitz’s Jim Diamond, or you could fall back on someone like Agatha Christie’s Miss Marples and think about how she might have pieced the clues together.

a rolled up noteIn the poem, About His Person, Simon Armitage creates a sense of melancholic mystery using the contents of a man’s pockets listed almost matter-of-factly, giving the reader tantalising insights into the life and even character of this man.

Not only this, but Armitage also invites us to imagine the context in which this man’s possessions are being listed.

Here is Simon Armitage’s poem:

About His Person

Five pounds fifty in change, exactly,
a library card on its date of expiry.
A postcard stamped,
unwritten, but franked,
a pocket size diary slashed with a pencil
from March twenty-fourth to the first of April.
A brace of keys for a mortise lock,
an analogue watch, self winding, stopped.
A final demand
in his own hand,
a rolled up note of explanation
planted there like a spray carnation
but beheaded, in his fist.
A shopping list.
A givaway photograph stashed in his wallet,
a keepsake banked in the heart of a locket,
no gold or silver,
but crowning one finger
a ring of white unweathered skin.
That was everything.

He is surely dead, isn’t he? The title, with its play on the official crime jargon used to introduce a description of items found on a dead body,  gives the reader that much. But how did he die? Who is making the list? Is it a policeman? The coroner? A forensic criminologist just out of university with the task of piecing together the man’s world in order to assist in discovering the truth about his death?

We, the reader, don’t know. We have plenty of clues, but can they tell us anything for certain?

Fact or fiction? Who knows.

Activity:
Write a paragraph speculating on the significance of objects found on a dead body.

Stimulus:
The poem and the objects described are the stimulus for this piece of writing.

Guide:

Armitage presents a number of everyday objects for his readers to ‘use’ to piece together the story of the dead man. For example, there is ‘five pounds fifty in change’, a ‘library card on its date of expiry’, a postcard. All of these things give us clues about who the man was. A rich man? An avid reader? Who was the postcard for? Similarly, Armitage describes the man’s diary which had a number of dates ‘slashed with a pencil’. What happened between March 24th and April 1st? What was the note? Who wrote it? Why has it been ‘beheaded’? We, the reader, don’t know but we can make guesses, we can speculate. There are many more ‘clues’ until finally we are made aware of something that is different because it is not there. What could be the significance of the ‘ring of white unweathered skin’? 

simon_armitage_credit_paul_wolfgang_websterIn this session, you are invited to take some or all of the objects listed in the poem and write a paragraph describing what you think they tell us about the man.

Word count
It’s a paragraph so, unless you want to emulate the incredible Roberto Bolaño and write sentences that are longer than some other writers’ chapters, this won’t be too long. 250 words? 500 max., we reckon.

Time
As in all of The Safe House Flash Fiction Writing Sessions, the length of time you spend is entirely up to you. We would think, though, that you might want to spend about an hour on this to make it into a complete paragraph with carefully constructed sentences and accurate spelling, punctuation and grammar.

Genre
Well, the stimulus is a poem but you could fit this to all sorts of genre. Crime fiction comes to mind, obviously, or even crime reporting. You, the writer should choose.

Point of View
Pretty sure this would usually be third person, but you might want to write it from the point of view of the detective who is trying to piece together the clues about the dead man. You, the writer, should choose.

Process
Of course, you will need to read the poem. And probably read it again.

Then, it might be good to make a list of the items you are going to focus on in your paragraph and link them to notes from your ‘detective-like’ thinking. This list, and the notes that go with them, will form the research and planning stage of your writing. There is no need to worry about sentences or accuracy yet.

Next, you could take each of the objects and the notes in turn and construct a sentence which explains the significance of the object. You could then join these together using linking words to form longer sentences and, eventually, a whole paragraph.

When you have a first draft of the paragraph, take a short break and then come back to it and read what you have written. Think about the meaning of the sentences you have written and, if there is any confusion, edit your writing so that your meaning is clear to your reader.

The next stage involves reading again, carefully and checking for spelling, punctuation and grammar problems. These need to be sorted out so that you are not embarrassed at a later stage and so that your reader doesn’t get distracted from the points you are making.

Make sure you are happy for people to read your writing!

italian dog logoWhat next?

If you feel like it, or if you want some ideas about how you can develop what you have written, you could share it by sending it to The Safe House at:

share@thisisthesafehouse.com

Here at The Safe House we will give you feedback to support you in what you are creating!

This IS The Safe House – “We can take you to a better place.”

 

Jeff the Iguana

By Lewis Dunmore

I came home from holiday in Tenerife and finally fell on my bed out of exhaustion.

Eventually, I opened my suitcase, grabbed my phone and without warning saw my bag fall over.I went to grab it when suddenly a scaly head popped out. It was a large pale green lizard which swiftly made a run for it under my bed. I grabbed a torch, checked my bed and saw a lizard sitting there.

To my astonishment, I identified it to be an iguana and looked at it in wonder. It had bright red spines on its back that looked liked knives or the back of a small stegosaurus. After that, I slowly pushed the door shut, grabbed a washing basket from the corner of my room and I held it above the lizard. I was thinking of how to get it out when I heard my dogs barking. Then, all of a sudden, the iguana bolted out from the bed and into the open. I slammed the basket onto the floor and trapped it. It froze on the spot! I shouted for my mum and dad and explained how the lizard had somehow got into my bag.

Then, the next day, me and my dad went to the shops and bought a lizard tank and we have kept Jeff ever since.

I think he’s happy.

Writing Backstory

Lewis wrote this story using a fairly straightforward writing method which involved reading a text for stimulus, conversation about and consideration of the scenario, guided written note-taking and planning, drafting, proof reading, editing and redrafting. 

The process was fairly intensive and Lewis got tired at the end of the last session. At the time, he was happy to leave it as it is. I think he could probably go back and edit his story a bit more, if he felt like it.

He could maybe look at avoiding repetition of some words; ‘suddenly’ stands out as one word that could do with a synonym of some kind!

He could also look at sequencing words and phrases to give a bit more emphasis on specific events and to engage the reader with the whole story.

What do you think?

Maps through your Bones and Skin

(A Flash Fiction Writing Session from The Safe House)There are maps

This is a short poem by Christopher Poindexter.

It would be so easy to do an “All Curious Cats” analysis on this poem.

The poem seems to make the point that our past thoughts and experiences  act on our physical appearance and offer evidence, in the present, of our pasts.

Things in the past are connected to the present.

Task

Write a paragraph where someone talks about their past experiences and how they have made them the person they are today.

Stimulus

Take a look at the links behind these phrases.

Choose one of the people involved, or create a character based on one of these people. Write about how their experiences have changed them in some way.

Guide

The task here is to reflect on the experiences of the people involved and imagine how they have affected the character’s lives and perhaps still affect them in the present.

You could write in the first person, which means you will need to imagine how this person feels about his or her past experiences and describe them as if you, the writer, have been in their shoes.

Or, you could use the third person, in which case you will still need to use your imagination but you can also take on the role of omnipotent author and describe things that your character perhaps does not consciously know or feel.

Word count and process

watts quoteThe first thing to do is to look at the links and choose one. Read the information in detail and make notes about the things that have happened and the effects they have had on your character. Think about the physical, but also about the emotional changes that have happened. How has your character’s life been changed? Has his or her appearance changed? Has their work life  been affected? Have your character’s personal relationships been more difficult because of what has happened?

Take your notes and turn them into sentences. You could imagine that the person is talking to a friend and trying to explain what has happened and why they are the way they are today. Maybe your character is apologising for something that has happened as a result of their past experiences and the effect it has had on them.

Write as much as you can then take a break. Read what you have written and edit it. You might want to add bits of detail, delete things you have written, change the order of events. You might want to think again about the causes and effects you have described and rewrite all of it.

This is quite a complex exercise as you are writing explanations for things that have happened in the past. You should probably aim for at least 500 words if not more. A thousand…?

When you have written your piece and are happy with what you have included and the order in which you have written it, have a look again but this time for issues of accuracy. Check for spelling, punctuation and grammar. In particular, check that your piece makes sense in terms of the tenses you have used.

Make sure you are happy for people to read your writing!

What next?

italian-dog-logo2.jpegIf you feel like it, or if you want some ideas about how you can develop what you have written, you could share it by sending it to The Safe House at:

share@thisisthesafehouse.com

At This IS The Safe House we will give you feedback to support you in what you are creating.

3. Irreclaimable Vagabonds

(A Flash Fiction Writing Session from The Safe House)

Roger_Fry_-_Virginia_WoolfIt is words that are to blame.
They are the wildest, freest,
most irresponsible, most unteachable
of all things. They live in the mind,
variously and strangely.
They hate being useful;
They hate making money.
They hang together,
in sentences, in paragraphs,
sometimes for whole pages at a time.
When they are pinned down
they fold their wings and die.
Our unconsciousness is their privacy;
Our darkness is their light. (from – Virginia Woolf’s ‘On Craftsmanship)

Activity

Take a set of words and ‘hang’ them together in sentences, a paragraph or even a page.

Stimulus

dump        heart          kids              happiest      Chicago      bone       defence     sombrero    cloud    dead       taught      rebel      pleasuresbooks for words

Guide

If you look at the extract above, taken from Virginia Woolf’s 1937 lecture on the craft of writing, you will see that she has some interesting things to say about words.

In her lecture, Woolf uses a number of human qualities to point out the difficulties that arise when we try to make words do what we want.

In this session, you are invited to take words that have not been pinned down into sentences and bring them alive using your creativity and imagination. The session is about creating a piece of writing that has meaning for you, the writer, and which could have meaning for a reader too.

Word count and process

wordThere are thirteen words to begin with. You could use less or more, of course.

The words we have used come from the titles of thirteen books we have been reading or dipping into at The Safe House recently.

You could use these words, or you could look at your bookshelves and find your own.

Take the words in the order you find them, or jumble them about. When you have a set sequence, put them into sentences in the order you have chosen.

lowYour sentences do not necessarily have to have logical meaning, of course, but it would be good if you could use the words as accurately as possible with regard to grammar and sentence structure. That way the reader will probably be able to get to grips with your sentences and your paragraphs more easily.

Take a moment. Read what you have written. Have another go.

Try it a few times with a different idea or theme in your head. Maybe take a title of one of the books and use that as a theme to create your piece around.

Later, spend some time re-reading, re-writing, deleting, revising, re-reading, re-writing, deleting, revising again and again for as long as you can. That way you can be as sure as possible that you have produced a piece you are happy with.

Concentrate on grammatical accuracy, but don’t worry too much about the actual meaning of the piece you are writing.

Let the reader worry about that!

italian-dog-logo2.jpegWhat next?

If you feel like it, or if you want some ideas about how you can develop what you have written, you could share it by sending it to The Safe House at:

share@thisisthesafehouse.com

Here at The Safe House we will give you feedback to support you in what you are creating!