The Whodunit group explores colours. (Click for the resources and exercises) We find 'a purseful of eyes'; we learn that 'the imagination can always reappear'; and we hear about a ring - 'you gave it to me when I was 12.' A trusted writing group can take you places you could never have imagined on your own.
We visit the exhibition 'States of Mind'. In the writing that follows, colours permeate the approach of sleep, premonitions of death, maps of serendipidity and tales of resignation. And we learn of the waxing and waning of a relationship through paint - the make-over - the palette of light and shade - and then - a morning sun turning to frosted steel - a matt compromise - a cold shade of shadows ... drowning in blue ... black that was never rich and hard to open.
Friday 13 November - somewhere in Norfolk
Another writing group lists phrases used as alternatives to swear words, juxtaposing them with terms of endearment (Quick writes number 4). We reel them off in in tirades and tumults of voices:
I dare say you do, dear. (said with asperity)
Don't just stand there like a horse!
If you haven't got no money, you haven't got no friends.
Well, if your family don't tell you, who will?
She doesn't know which day of the week it is.
... but he comes from BURNLEY!
Then we write about familiar activity in the style of sports commentary. It's both funny and serious at the same time.
Monday 16 November in Sherborne, Dorset
Teachers list words they like: bleach, welcome, pepiniere, Winterbourne Stoke, Iolanthe, isotope, glisten... and we write and 'gift' our words to each other for further invention. (Longer structured exercise number 3)
Thursday 19 November in Newquay, Cornwall
Outside Abigail rattles the palms, and black rocks glisten and vanish in the surf. Inside the Sands Resort, 25 teachers are writing. Here come their favourite words again: honeycomb, splurge, rustic, pendulous, geranium ... and we dig into memories with the 'stems' of Kenneth Koch. (Short structured exercise number 1 - at the bottom of Quick Writes page) Then we undertake the 'Floor Plan' exercise (Memories number 1), and a teacher reads me a fantastic piece of writing. Some observe how emotional it is to write creatively. (Indeed. Read the book of the project; it's now published by Routledge.)
Saturday 21 November in Bristol
In the Graduate School of Education, 18 writing teachers and family members have gathered to hear more about the Bristol Short Story Competition - and to write. Our writing task is to eavesdrop in public spaces and use verbatim overheard phrases in our own writing. (Slightly longer writing exercise number 5 - sound scavenging)
We wander outside into Berkeley square and to the top of Park Street. Some of us opt for the Boulangerie cafe. And then we return and write for 40 minutes. Characters grow from the speech rhythms, from the suggestions of places and purposes - and reveal themselves in monologue, or in echoes of John Donne, or dressed in chinos at a soiree 'full of emotional short-hand'. After reading back, teachers - and students - talk about how all this experience feeds the writing classroom - how pupil voice and self-criticism can be strengthened through writing partnerships and writing permissions; how 'pit-stops' in particular places - outside or inside - in streets or texts - can awaken young writers to connections and possibilities. One teacher talks enthusiastically about pupils' responses to learning about 'foreshadowing' and 'alternative viewpoints' and how these ideas sent them back to their own writing with renewed insight and energy. Another describes her students' excitement with six-word stories a la Hemingway (longer structured exercise number 9) and how this had focused them on verbal economy and craft.
And of course, this week NAWE sent its petition for the preservation of Creative Writing A level to the secretary of state, Nicky Morgan. Will Ofqual's axe be stayed in 'The Shock of the Fall'? Or will autumnal gloom presage a winter of discontent?
NWP outreach director