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Wednesday, 05 July 2017 14:16

The Write to Work Course - A Review by Caroline Barden

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The Write to Work course was more than straightforward instruction, it was practical, personal, supportive and very challenging. We started with descriptions and storytelling, drawing on our memories and dreams. Straightaway we were asked to work together, to encourage each other and to discuss ideas to enhance our writing. This dialogue with our peers was a really important part of the course.

I had been out of work for more than six months when, on a Tuesday in January, I sat quietly in the introductory session, listening to other people on the course talking about their writing. It was very interesting and I wanted to hear more, but I wasn’t sure what I would do or even what my aims were. However, worrying about long term aims soon became unimportant as I became involved in the course. I was writing and I hadn’t expected to enjoy it so much.

Over the next twelve weeks we had many brilliant tutors, all with their own slant on what to write and how to make it pay. We came away each week inspired, with notes and handouts and lots of ideas. So much that will be useful, and so much still to go through and study and try out.
We heard about the importance of first drafts leading to second drafts, third drafts and more. As time went on we stopped counting how many drafts we did, thinking about the voice, and discussing words and sentences with a friend to eliminate the jarring notes.

I started to get sidelong glances as I got out a notebook or a scrap of paper to redraft a poem on the train, but as I was soon caught up in my work their looks were forgotten.

Most of our tutors set homework and returned the next week to review and discuss what we had achieved. The homework was a really good way to consolidate my learning and gave a focus for study. One week the suggestion was to write a food piece for the Family Guardian. I did this, shared it with my family then sent it to the newspaper. It became my first earnings from writing, when, to my astonishment, the Guardian editor chose to publish it in a Saturday edition a few weeks later.

I had a flash fiction piece longlisted in a weekly internet competition and, with this giving me confidence, started looking around for other opportunities to showcase my work. The WoWFest flash fiction competition has been my next entry; maybe I’ll be lucky, but even if not, I am pleased with the piece.

I found that I can write poetry, a lovely way to put ideas and feelings down on paper. I started the poetry session with very little confidence, but now I have two poems for our Write to Work book. Week 12 of our course was performance skills, when I stood up with my poem and read aloud to the group.

Thank you to Emma Hulme and Writing on the Wall who have arranged this course, these past twelve weeks have changed my life. I am a writer now.

- Caroline Barden

To read her winning entry of the 2017 WoWFest Flash Fiction competition click here
To apply for Write to Work click here
Wednesday, 19 April 2017 12:56

The garden in April

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There are six apple trees and their tight, pink buds draw your eyes around the garden, where, damp from the drizzle and in the gentle light before the sun breaks through, newly emerging leaves show a multitude of greens. 
 
The lawn is central, long grass perfect for cats to pounce in, and defined by shrubs and tangled flower beds. Dark spears of mint stand strong like a miniature forest and angelica seedlings force their way up through winter stems and shrivelled daffodils. 
 
A solitary rose has opened with delicate petals of the palest pink and a wonderful fragrance. And at the back, by the wall, a silver birch tree reaches high up to the sky, its leaves small and fresh, rippling and dancing in the breeze.
 
Wednesday, 19 April 2017 12:52

Three games

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Mahjong
Even when the sun shone at my grandparents’ house we would put up the card table to play Mahjong with our Granny. We were evenly matched, my sister, brother and I, and, although we had no betting and played slowly and carefully, there was just as much competition as in the noisy games played in the doorways in London.
 
We built walls, to keep the enemy out, with beautiful bamboo tiles that clinked and slid under our fingers. Then we collected runs and sets and special favours, giving no quarter to our opponents. How I longed to pick up an intricately painted flower or the tropical bird of the one-of-characters; and how hard to disguise the disappointment when I drew another set of circles.
 
We played game after game, comparing scores and remembering scores from the day before, until Granny announced it was time for tea. Then we ate sticky cream buns and reviewed our strategies for tomorrow.
 
Racing Demon
My dad always said I had reactions as quick as a cat’s when I was young. On rainy afternoons we would gather with our friends and play Racing Demon. For those who have never played, Racing Demon is like Solitaire played against other people at top speed. On the floor or on the table? The floor was best, it gave you more opportunity to lunge and grab. 
 
‘Start off by counting your pack of cards, you never know if the person before you has cheated and hidden a card under the rug.’
 
Some packs of cards were better than others, slidey or slippery to speed the process of turning over, or with patterns of tears on the back so we soon learned the face value. 
 
‘Get your cards ready, sit on your knees ready to lean over the circle, then … go!’ 
 
Everyone focused, watching what the others were putting down and slamming cards down in the middle. 
 
‘Work quickly, the quicker you turn the more you’ll get out. Keep your eye on the queens, then with your king in your hand dart it under your opponent’s and shout ‘king!’ with glee.’ 
 
We played until our concentration started to wain and our knees got sore, then sprawled on the floor unpicking our wins.
 
Table Football
The pub by our house had a games room for those underage and we would meet up with friends and have lemonade and toasted cheese sandwiches made in a new-fangled machine. The room was stark, with dingy red walls and half a dozen hard wooden chairs, but the best thing about it was the table football game. 
 
We would crash and spin the handles and cheer and groan loudly. When we played with a partner it was even noisier, as we shouted instructions and encouraging words to each other. We all thought we were the best as we flirted and jostled and tried out our teenage emotions, until the coins ran out and we drifted away.
 
Monday, 10 April 2017 14:54

The Summer House

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We slept out in our Summer House on hot nights, breathing in the smell of varnished wood and dust from the fly husks in the corner. We ate treats for a feast, and, with the taste of gingernuts on our teeth defying sleep, we opened the door and gazed at the stars, pretending to know all their names.
 
In the daytime, we had a secret club with badges and codes and ‘keep out’ notices. We would race our snails on the ancient grey floorboards and tell stories of ghosts and bravado.
 
One summer a hedgehog crept in by mistake. Returning from holiday we pulled open the door. The air stank of rotten things while bluebottles buzzed around our heads, their eggs glued in all the cracks.

Everything was spoiled, the magic gone, and our Summer House returned to the silence of being a shed.
 
Tuesday, 04 April 2017 13:34

Incredibly Selfish

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Why are men on Merseyside going up on rooftops? One at a time, with no apparent connection between one another, up they climb.
A man called McKelnikov sets out in search of answers but he is presented with more questions: what has this to do with pirate ships and the Middle Passage, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, The Beat Generation and Elvis?
A present-day novel based in post-colonial, post-Merseybeat, post-Brexit Liverpool, Duncan Lyon searches out a cast of characters on the brink of discovering their own beautifully brutal truths and while the world looks elsewhere a city and its people are going literally “up the wall”.
When did it start? On whose orders? On whose command? And where is it supposed to end?
What are they looking for and what do they find? Why isn’t it happening anywhere else yet?
Tuesday, 04 April 2017 13:26

Yoga is the place to go

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I love yoga, reading and art, especially mosaics.
Tuesday, 04 April 2017 13:15

Hello......and so the journey begins..... ;D

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Since I was little I have always loved to write, listen to stories and read books. I have always thought about entering competitions but when it came to showing my work I never did and ended up regretting just not taking the chance. Now I am looking around and noticing just how taking a chance can change your life.
          In 2009 I attended Edgehill University and came out with a 2:2 in Ba English and creative Writing. I didn't really try to pursue a career or consider furthering myself in the writing industry because in my third year at university I found out I was pregnant with my third child.
          I became a stay at home mum, which I have loved being able to watch my children grow but now I feel that as they are getting older I want to get back to being me. I want to write, to take a chance and share my words and thoughts within my local area, the North West and even maybe the world one day.  ;D
         Through my time of being at home I did put myself forward to becoming a freelance writer. I have worked for some small companies, writing content for their websites and brochures and even had a dabble in the advertising industry. 
         Looking back, I wish I would have pushed myself more and pursued my dreams of becoming a published author and getting my name and work out there for all to see. I would love nothing more than to be heard as well as seen, I have a lot of ideas but don’t really know where and how to channel them.
 I have loved having the opportunity to be involved with the write to work project…..
Tuesday, 04 April 2017 13:11

Writing toing anding froing

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spread the word of love, though love may break the pen, still the tongue, maim the heart, rinse the eye, stay the hand...