Each October the pretty Yorkshire town of Ilkley is host to the Ilkley Literature Festival, the largest in the North of England. Since 1973 celebrities launching autobiographies and also people who write real books have been regularly spotted in the town.
This year I booked onto a short story workshop given by Char March, who writes successful fiction, poetry and plays. She is funny, lively and a tiny bit scary.
She first announced to us all that she was “ a raving lesbian” and then turned to one of the only two men in the room and said “but you look very nice.”
Having got our attention she set us a series of challenges and told us no-one was allowed to apologise for their efforts. This was a good move as apologising is a default setting with the English and while it is perhaps laudably modest, it wastes a lot of time.
Char got stories out of everyone and encouraged us all. Her approach was straight forward and challenging but it got results.
“Write a story about a chase, you’ve got 10mins”
After the first 5 mins when every corny chase plot that I have ever seen downloaded from my brain and I couldn’t do anything with any of it, there was a very tense pause in cerebral activity and then thankfully I did have an idea I could work with. Leaving just a few minutes to write three sentences: a beginning, a middle and an end and the time was up.
Then it was “write about this picture”, “ write the ending” “now write the beginning” and two hours later we emerged dazed but inspired. So thank you, Char March for pushing us past the fear of writing. You are in the right job.