Writer events go online
This week I should have been in Italy at the Watermill in Posara, teaching my usual How to Write Life Stories class to 12 residential guests. I should have been teaching on the vine terrace, at the monastery and in Fivizzano on market day, but the course has been postponed til next year.
The annual mecca for wordlovers, The Hay Festival, is cancelled because of the coronavirus.
The Arvon Foundation, a company offering residential writing courses, can no longer provide classes.
I have run a free writers' circle once a month for the last 30 years, but now it's forbidden to meet in groups.
The Edinburgh Festival is cancelled and we'd booked our accommodation.
All these amazing events, events that fuel my muse and teach me so much, cancelled until goodness knows when.
The bright side
But last night I watched an interview with Paulo Giordano, author of How Contagion Works. I watched from my own sofa as the local Borderkitchen organisation conducted the event via Zoom. The event went ahead and better still it was free of charge. So, you see, there is a bright side to the awful pandemic that is keeping us confined to our homes. Many enterprising folk are embracing the new normal and finding new ways to deliver amazing content.
Twice in the last month I had the pleasure of attending poetry workshops by my favourite modern poet, Anthony Anaxagorou, for the bargain price of £16.50. Not living in London (yet) I would have been unlikely to be able to attend his workshops so easily nor at such a low cost.
The Watermill is offering my Writing Life Story Piece by Piece workshop on June 18th online and it's free of charge!
The Arvon Foundation are offering a range of workshops with great writers and, instead of having to pay for accommodation and travel to a residential course, you can take them online for about £30 a time.
The Hay Festival is offering its entire programme free of charge and with over 2000 spots available per event, believe it or not you do still have to reserve your place online.
And as for me, I'm running weekly Speedwrite Live events free of charge every Friday. Then there are free In Conversation chats with wordsmiths such as Anne Rainbow of Red Pen Editing and even, coming soon, a chat with Anthony Anaxagorou about poetry. My workshops, normally only available locally are now part of my online offering and much cheaper than they would have been live, and I'm running a Book Mentoring Circle and two weekly Writers' Circles too.
So, you see, not only has the pandemic brought events and workshops I would not otherwise have been able to attend to my door, I am now able to take mine to a wider audience.
What's more, I'm rather enjoying and embracing these new ways of learning and teaching and I think they are here to stay.
Check out all the links in this blog post to find out more about all the workshops and events mentioned above.
How to write better with TA and the 4 Cs
Sounds like a rock band, doesn’t it?
Well, here we are again at The Inspiring Bit. Another month of lockdown has gone by and an increasing number of people are, like me, starting to recognise what really matters in life and what they want to do. For many that includes getting writing at long last!
So, I was delighted to be interviewed by Louise Wiles of Thriving Abroad (that’s the TA) for her regular podcast series about Writing Through Challenging Times. You can watch the interview above (if you're reading this via my Monthly Inspirer email you may have to click 'view email in your browser' at the the top to display the video) or just listen to it, along with many other fascinating episodes by subscribing to the podcast.
The 4 Cs are something completely different. Here goes:
Jo’s 4 Cs for better writing
Write clearly and know your reader’s reading level. I’m always harping on about being accessible, writing in short sentences and short paragraphs so that what you are saying is easy to digest. The easiest way to see if your writing is clear is to read it aloud. If you stumble over the text as you read then the reader will stumble too – yes, even if they are reading it in their head.
Readers are not stupid. You may have been told at school to “tell them what you are going to say, tell them and then tell them what you said,” but that can be boring to read. Some of the ropiest tabloid newspaper stories do this. Keep your writing short and to the point. Don’t bog the reader down in overlong descriptions, just give them one or two details to hang onto so they can picture it and move on. Keep it simple. Keep it short. If you want to hammer a point home then do that like this:
For years I have been asking my students to ‘paint a picture with your pen’. Show the reader your characters, your settings, your feelings. Make your writing come alive. One of the best ways to do this is with dialogue. A page that contains dialogue looks more interesting. Lines that start with the inverted commas (“) that indicate the start of speech always pique my interest.This looks like a fun page, I think. Dialogue allows you to show character and to move the story forward. People make your writing colourful. Carefully chosen specific details do too.
For a piece of writing to make the reader want to stay with you on the page, it must retain their interest. Keep your writing lively. Vary sentence length, make your vocabulary match the mood, move the story forward and your writing will have pace. Pace and plot make a story compelling but so too does ‘voice’. Voice is the way you write. Your natural writing style. A style that shows your personality, is authentic, unforced and fun to read. One of the best ways to find your writers’ voice and settle into it is to join a writer’s circle. Why not join my Friday Speedwrite Live events, do some writing and then share it and get feedback from the group? Trust me, it’s one of the best ways to find your voice.
That’s it then, if you want to get writing and think you may have run out of excuses then watch my Thriving Abroad interview, remember the 4Cs and join a writers’ circle.
And, now, every month you can join my monthly Life Story Jar Live webinar, have a short lesson, do a writing task, share and get feedback.
For more inspiration and live events go to www.joparfitt.com/virtual-events.html
If you miss an event you will be able to catch up via the Tools for Writers tab on my website.
20 tips for writing expat memoir for our book award
There are now just three months to go until entries close for our book award in memory of Lindsay de Feliz, our much-loved author, here at Summertime Publishing and Springtime Books.
We are only asking for the first three chapters and an outline, so come on, use the lockdown to get started on your story.
20 tips to get you started:
Have you embraced this new normal?
These may be times of social distancing but my social life is busier than it's been for years. We are now 'meeting' friends in foreign fields for coffees, cocktails, catch-ups and games not once a year like in days of yore but monthly, maybe more.
I expect your life is pretty similar. What has surprised me most is that like so many of you I have had technology 'thrust upon me' thanks to the lockdown.
For years people have asked me to run online writers' circles and I've been too resistant, bone-idle even, to do so. But now that my precious monthly face-to-face writers' circles are impossible, I've taken the plunge and paid for a subscription to Zoom. Just four weeks into lockdown and instead of leading just my local circle I have run 10 online writers' circles and four weekly Speedwrite Live events. That's 14 events instead of one!
I'd been too scared to try and run online workshops but now I'm doing that too now and am surprised to discover they really work too.
I always knew I was pretty good at connecting with people but now that I have a busy Virtual Events calendar I am thrilled that folk from years gone by, like Andrea, who used to come to my classes in Oman decades ago, are back in my life. So there I sit in my office in The Hague, looking out at the social distancing shoppers in the street below and there on my screen, we chat with Pascale in Perth, Isabelle in South Korea, Yvonne in Washington and Geraldine in Ireland.
Now, I know different. I am grateful that the lockdown has shown me a better way of connecting with more people and has forced me, at last, to take my classes online.
I've just finished reading Seth Godin's book, This is Marketing, for the online business book club I just joined. Godin believes that when people are in a state of transition they are ready to try new things. We are all experiencing a 'new normal'. None of us knows the rules. This means that the times are ripe for trying new things.
"We build something that people would miss if it were gone," he writes. "something that gives them meaning, connection and possibility."
I'm not sure whether my new normal is 'better' than it used to be. It's certainly different. If you are reluctant to leap on board with online connecting possibilities then I urge you to think again. It might become your new normal, as it has rapidly become mine. This week alone, I have signed up for online pilates and poetry classes, am running three writers' circles and a Speedwrite Live.
According to Godin we make change by "normalising new behaviours".
In just four short weeks this new way of connecting is beginning to feel like home.
To find out more about my virtual events please visit www.joparfitt.com/virtual-events.html
Jo Parfitt's Monthly Inspirer