The NAWE conference brings together a wide and international variety of professionals: published writers, education officers, lecturers, teachers and therapists – anyone who works with writing and education in schools, hospitals and the community. They all seemed to welcome the space to write together. We spoke aloud our favourite words and enjoyed their collisions and resonances: espantapajaros (scarecrow), yee-haa, labyrinth, hoodjamaflip, boing, sellotape, nesh, hallelujah … We shuffled and invented compound words and defined them. We foraged folded paper shapes, sentences, texts and objects for new ideas.
On December 1, I wrote with the Bedford community NWP group. This exercise is derived from a fascinating 2010 article by Liam Murray Bell (Creative Writing lecturer at Surrey University). We explored ‘six-word stories’ – e.g. ‘For sale: baby shoes, never worn’ - how they provoke readers to imagine cause and consequence, to infer and to carry out, what has been implied or folded tight. They might be hors d’oeuvres (out-takes) ‘Disdaining Fortune with his brandish'd steel’ (Macbeth) or re-constructions of well-known works: ‘Incineration. Invitation. Visitation. Transformation. Infatuation. Association.’ (Cinderella) And here's the whole of existence from one of our group: 'Singularity explodes. Life forms. Outcome unknown.'
On December 10, I visited the English team in Haggerston School in Hackney. (see image above of Axel Void's nearby street art: 'Comfort of the modern slave'.) By writing together, we opened up a discussion of how and why we might reorient classrooms for learning beyond exam results. The English team wanted students, in addition to their work for exams, to experience writing as a safe place
- to approach uncertainty and difficulty
- to strengthen memory, imagination and observation
- to release emotion
- and to take back control of their own stories.
Dec 21: And now it is the shortest day. A friend has gone to Stonehenge. Another sends me Alan Brownjohn's poem 'Summer time ends' which includes the line:
'The poet says: Darkness cures what day inflicts.'
And another friend sends me advice from Natalie Goldberg: 'Write every day. Keep a notebook. Be kind to yourself.'
Best seasonal wishes to one and all: enjoy the lengthening days!
NWP outreach director