Specialist writers’ groups for sustaining momentum while you write a long piece of work.

Specialist writers’ groups for sustaining momentum while you write a long piece of work.

Why is writing so difficult to get down to at times? In our groups you get the space for your work to breathe, whatever stage it’s at. Writers get inspiration, feedback from other practitioners on problematic areas… and discuss ideas which may still be tentative.

Using our long experience, we put the groups together carefully, to make the most of their potential for peer to peer help. In these writerly environments  you find ways forward, bringing your work into existence. Sometimes we just write together. We have successfully mixed screenwriters, playwrights and memoirists with the core of novelists who make up our groups. We look at what stories have in common and, in our longer groups, we invite visiting specialists in these fields. You get the chance to hear other peoples’ work, and when you’re ready, read out your own. You also learn strategies for sustaining momentum and get at least one private block-busting session.

Eight-week groups

Small groups of writers, mostly novelists, serious about finishing a longer piece of work, who get together weekly  in Central London (Tottenham Court Road). Next group begins September 2017.

Writing a long piece is arduous, and the momentum is more easily sustained when others commit to you and your work, and encourage you.

There is a taught aspect each week of the course. You  learn in-depth about  sentences, scenes, plot, pacing and rhythm, among other things. … and each week at least one member of the group reads their latest piece of work. So the combination of accountability and stimulation helps you stay with it.

Workshops

We do one-off workshops at festivals, shows and in places with an interesting feel.

Coaching

Josie  offers phone coaching for blocked or stuck writers

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Writing with Paintings in Holland Park

Writing with Paintings in Holland Park

On July 2nd, next Saturday Josie will be leading a writers’ workshop in the Ice House gallery Holland Park on the Storyteller’s voice.

Writers will get a chance to respond to the images around them  painted by Alex Stewart  and develop imaginative ideas about the Storyteller and other characters  in their writing. There’ll be time to write and read to each other if you want to.

Creativity begins with…well a few days ago I would have just said said  play… but it can also be the happiest response to uncertainty and drama. This workshop is intended to give adults the chance to play with ideas around images, and articulate what wants to be expressed in a narrative voice.  It will inspire you if you’re a regular writer. But no writing experience is necessary.

It may be of particular interest if you are writing fiction and want to develop your understanding of how to use point of view.

We suggest a contribution of £7.

15 places max. Booking required.

email pearse.and@icloud.com

Adapting work for TV

Adapting work for TV

I’m excited to be running a beginners adaptation workshop at the Finchley Lit Fest… we will be looking at a short story text and playing with ideas to take it onto the screen. The process will enable you to work on your own ideas later with more confidence. There will  be a chance for attendees to talk briefly about their own ideas for adaptation and get some feedback. Tickets are bookable  through MeetUp.

I first got interested in adaptation when I was studying English and Drama at Middlesex for my first degree. My drama classes  focused on the technical skills of performance, which was no bad thing for a writer because even though I didn’t want to act, I felt I needed to know something about where the actor comes from.  But my main aim was to write,  so I persuaded my lecturers to let me  adapt Flann O’Brien’s Third Policeman as my final project.

What surprised me was how  collaborative the process was. The scene I gave to the actors first off was not entirely  the one we ended up with. The process of having actors feedback which of  my lines didn’t quite work,  or re-ordering my scene, was humbling because they were mostly right.

I like working with others and I try to make my workshops as collaborative and fun as I can. So Fran Lima, an actor, will be joining us for the workshop. She’s done quite a bit of TV so she can answer questions from an actor’s point of view and she also writes.

This workshop is not for the super-career-minded or those seeking ways to get finance for projects. I’m happy to point you towards the professional providers but my workshops are about playing with ideas.

When I’m writing fiction,  I feel my way into the story alone and I rarely talk about it before I set pen to paper. In fact I’m superstitious about discussing a story in embryo…because my unconscious will convince itself the work is done if I do, and I’ll never write the thing. So, I’ll probably go to my  writers’ group with a second draft – and then I will talk about it. But with adaptation, right from the ideas stage, writers seem to be discussing concepts and ideas with other creatives.

When you’re adapting something though it’s a long time before you get to writing. You dream, visualise, toss ideas around long before your characters start speaking on the page. I spoke  to screenwriter Elinor Perry Smith who occasionally teaches for Pearse & Black:

Screenwriting can be a lonely process in the early stages, she says, in that you have this great idea, you get your logline/concept nailed, then the outline, then you flesh out a treatment, then it all changes! Oh joy…

I do find that it’s very helpful to discuss your concept at the earliest stage with peers that you trust, or pay for feedback from a professional. This is something that not many screenwriters do when they first set out – and I was no exception. I think it’s vital to remember that film-making is an entirely collaborative act. Everything WILL probably change!

Your ‘first’ draft is probably more likely to be your fifth… it’s only your first in that it’s the first to see the light of day with someone else’s critical faculty brought to bear on it. Screenwriters discover that they’re in it for the long haul but can easily lose heart after bad feedback or a disheartening peer review. The sensible screenwriter, therefore, develops relationships with allies – people they can trust NOT to trample all over their dreams and with whom they can reciprocate.

I love the way she puts that – you need people you can trust not to trample on your dreams.  We all do. Pearse and Black workshops are based on  ground rules that keep things safe and provide the most creative space possible. Editing comes later.

So the difference in the process of making the script public here  is a treatment – in prose only non-fiction writers  submit an equivalent proposal  without much actual writing and sometimes none having been done. Novelists are expected to have their whole manuscript finished, and the best it can be, before they approach the industry.

The other difference is that phrase  everything changes. It’s true that editorial feedback for fiction writers might result in a re-structuring but in my experience,  not to that extent.

In all writing  at some point in the process you are on your own, in your writing space, listening for the next line and whether its dialogue or prose,  you have to show up and  wait for the right words. We come together in workshops briefly to share this strange and wonderful thing we do.

But briefly, back to Middlesex… for my acting skills I chose physical theatre, so I ended up getting six credits of my degree in juggling. I can still do it a little. It helps me think.

In the workshop we will look at what draws you to a story, what kind of freedom there is in adaptation. And although there wont be any juggling, there will be food for thought.

Paying Attention

Paying Attention

 

In Publishers Weekly this morning I read that Amy Hempel, a creative writing tutor, always asks her students…

‘Why are you telling me this?’ Someone out there will be asking, and you better have a very compelling answer. Is this essential? Is this something only you can say—or only you can say it this way? Is this going to make anyone’s life better, or make anyone’s day better? And I don’t mean the writer’s day.”

Something like this makes me sit up and pay attention.

 

Writing with Art

On Midsummer’s Day  2015 Josie ran a workshop at the Artisan Gallery in Harlesden. Writers gathered to respond in words to the Puca MacGuffin show by artists Elizabeth Porter and Alex Stewart.

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Alex and Lizzie write: as children the toys we loved most were the ones with which we could make our own worlds. Using lead soldiers, puppets and stuffed toys, trains and cars strewn across a landscape of cushion and carpet.We’d both had Pollock’s theatres and wondered if we could make our own.

We wanted to give writers the kind of treat visual artists have when they go  to museums and fill a sketchbook with ideas. So we developed  a series of playful exercises to help writers bring the characters in Lizzi and Alex’s work alive and encourage tale-telling, tall or otherwise, in a group.

Writing in a gallery can free you from self-imposed rules. You can give characters who are absurd, magical or abstract to begin with their own logic. Anything can happen.  When we respond to an artist’s work,  fragments of stories arrive from our own depths, wearing new clothes. A line can indeed go for a walk, a colour can soak a paragraph. puca

And there is a long tradition of artists and writers using miniature theatre to develop ideas and speak the unspoken. Like fairy stories, or cartoons in the late 20th century,  the tiny theatre is a form which became a children’s entertainment. But it has had a much wider audience throughout history. The French tradition of Guignol for instance, popular during the French Revolution, starred a  kind of Everyman for whom nothing was sacred. Alfred Jarry and his contemporaries in the early twentieth century credited the birth of Ubu Roi to playing Guignol theatre as students.

The poetry and imaginative work that came out of the day inspired some of the participants to carry on writing and Pearse & Black looks forward to seeing where this goes.


 

 

 

 

Murder in the Library

Murder in the Library

For the festival season Pearse & Black have created Murder in the Library,  a light-hearted writing workshop for adults. Lasting two hours, there will be exercises and writing time. You will probably come away with the bones of a short story.

Learn how to get your plot in a twist and kill your darlings.

Tickets North Finchley