Fudge is a local cafe and restaurant, situated on Princes Avenue in Hull, and I have been there a few times for tea and cakes and dinner. And, of course, home-made fudge. All of the above have been delightful. I was there the other week for the wonderful Nikki Joy's graduation dinner, and happened to stumble across a little advert in the ladies'.
The course was run by two tutors from the University, lovely ladies - Jackie and Susan. It sounded like a wonderful opportunity to meet other local writers, learn some new skills and just to get writing. It's the kind of thing I have been known to talk myself out of for some ridiculous reason or another, but this time I was determined not to get in the way of myself. So on Friday, I booked myself in and paid, so that I couldn't back out.
It was a good tactic because on Saturday morning I found myself sat in the upstairs room of Fudge surrounded by new friends talking about life and writing...and Dr Who.
We all introduced ourselves and settled down with laptops and pen and paper. What did I forget? A notepad. But, because we are in the 21st century, we were allowed to use our laptops to write. Phew.
We started off with ice breakers, going round the room introducing ourselves by saying our name and then talking about our names for a minute or two. Then we wrote down three things about ourselves - two of them true, one of them false, and had to guess which one was the lie of a partner. This was a classic warm up at Uni, and emphasised the nature of fiction. If you make something convincing enough, then nobody will know if it's true or not. Still, I;ve never been very good at this exercise, and wished I could have come up with a more exciting lie than 'I've got a rabbit.' Maybe next time... (unless, of course, you count that time I talked at great length about my little sister, Lauren, to the poor girl in Blue Banana... I thought that was pretty convincing.)
We were then given the task of thinking of a pair of boots or shoes we had had when younger, and to write a short descriptive piece about them and what they meant to us. I didn't get very far with this, but enjoyed it nonetheless. I wrote about my first pair of boots - they weren't DM's, but in the same vain, as I recall. My Dad had encouraged the buying of them, and I remember they were black with multi-coloured flowers all over them. I with they still fitted me, because they were awesome.
It was time for a tea break. I was delighted to find Earl Grey teabags in the box and helped myself. I haven't bought a new box since I ran out, because at the time I still lived with Nikki; her tea collection is the greatest in all the land.
Now it was time to get down to serious writing business. 'Think of a particularly vivid or important memory,' we were instructed, 'and write a short piece of prose about it.' Again, a classic topic, and classic for a reason. We constantly make new memories, and life writing has a certain richness to it, especially this form, because we tend to choose the things that mean a lot to us and have a lot of depth behind them.
So we all got to work. I leafed through my 22 years of memories and wondered which one was good writing material. The memories I am most in search of at the moment are those involving my Grandfather. I wonder sometimes if I sound like a broken record. But I hope you understand that I must write about him, because I must remember.
So I thought through all the memories of him I could find; taking me round galleries, the first time I went inside his studio - when he taught me to use oil paints, the time he took Heather and I on a pub crawl around London - to the places only a select few would know about. And I settled on one particular memory that has been fluttering around my head recently - you see, I found my old year 9 art book when clearing out my bedroom, and in it I found a landscape painting that landed me an A. I remember producing that piece as though it was yesterday - the lessons I learned that day. Because Granfer took me out and we painted together. He taught me about colours, about light, and about looking through the things you think you see.
As you can tell, it was a very important day for me, so I thought it would be perfect to write about.
I'll tell you, I'd forgotten just how great it is to sit and write among other writers; I had got talking to the lady next to me, Lynne, and so we were helping each other out a bit as we wrote.
'What do you call this action?' or 'What's a better word for this?' It was a wonderful atmosphere. At the end of our twenty minutes, we read our pieces out to our partners (in crime) and gave each other feedback.
After redrafting, we had a look at various writers performing their work on YouTube, including Benjamin Zephaniah. I'd forgotten how much I love him. I was lucky enough to see him perform about six years ago now I think, as did most people my age. He was in the curriculum, you see.
Lunch was glorious. Truly divine. It was a buffet provided by Fudge, and they really know how to put on a lunch. There was all sorts, but if I go into it I may never stop. I had second helpings, needless to say.
So then Jackie and Sue performed pieces they had prepared earlier to give us an idea of what we needed to produce. We were put to work editing our pieces to be performed.
This was an interesting task. Writing descriptive prose is one thing; writing descriptive prose to be performed is quite different. There was a lot I had to take out and replace words with an intonation or an action, and I found myself adding more in to make it more lively.
And the climax of the day was an hour of performance. We were each given a slot, and five minutes to perform, with a tea break in the middle - Fudge's sponge cake. Wow.
Everyone's work was great, and it was inspiring to hear how people's pieces had changed and improved from the first draft. There was such a mix of good talent and different approaches to the task, and it was really fun to watch everyone perform. I was a wee bit nervous to begin with, but after about the first line, I got into it. It's strange how I wasn't phased compared to a few years back, when I wouldn't have done anything of the sort. I guess it goes to show that all that Preacher Training has paid off.
I'm really glad I went to what turned out to be a wonderful day of creativity, learning and making friends, so thank you to Fudge, Jackie and Sue, and everyone else who was there for making the day such a great experience.
Has anyone else been on a day course or workshop like this recently? I'd love to hear about it :)