June Perkins, author, poet, blogger, photographer and videographer, held a Writing Poetry in Response to Art, workshop which showed how visual art could inspire poetry or some form of writing. Aspiring and emerging writers and poets were given an insight into ‘how to think differently’ about writing poetry. This event was part of the mini Illumine Festival on 6-8th October, 2017 at Magda Community Arts, Brisbane.
It was a thought-provoking workshop which allowed me the freedom to write without boundaries. Creating poetry from a photograph/visual art piece was liberating. It allowed my words to tumble onto the page from what I observed, sensed and heard within. It motivated me to write unhindered, to explore poetry with a new insight and confidence. I found it a decluttering of preconceived ideas – about poetry, allowing a fresh voice to emerge. I also learnt from my peers who viewed the same pieces differently again.
On the weekend I attended an inspiring workshop in the Writelinks Workshop Series with Marianne de Pierres.
“She is the award winning author of the acclaimed Parrish Plessis, Sentients of Orion and Peacemaker science fiction series. Marianne is an active supporter of genre fiction and has mentored many writers. She lives in Brisbane, Australia, with her husband and three galahs. Her Night Creatures series, Burn Bright, Angel Arias and Shine Light has been very popular among young adult fiction readers. Marianne is also the Davitt award-winning author of the Tara Sharp humourous crime series under the pseudonym Marianne Delacourt. “(From Good Reads)
During our two hour workshop we focused on developing ‘settings as characters’ and how to make them best reflect our characters’ emotions.
We examined the ‘strengths and pitfalls of tropes'(they can easily become cliches), the central importance of story even as we work on settings and we gained experience ‘tethering our landscapes to emotions and character.’
Marianne engaged us to listen and pay attention to the topics she was raising through not only the content but the style of her delivery. She did not stand still in one spot at the front but walked up and down the room to engage with us as a group. She was keen to show us, not just tell us about the concepts she was explaining. Her face and hands were expressive.
We read examples silently and aloud. She encouraged us always to be ‘critical readers’.
Marianne explained the concepts of setting as characters using: examples, question and answer and practicals exercises. She had us spend about ten minutes during the session thinking of our own setting and writing it using some of the principles she had introduced us to.
As a group we suggested settings as character and one example that came up was the Tardis! We felt the tardis is an interesting character that is; protective, reliable, unreliable, mysterious, contradictory.
The Secret Garden was another example of a powerful setting reflecting the transformation of its central character’s emotional journey.
Marianne gave us choices of what we might like her to cover towards the end of the session. We chose ‘transmedia’ from the options.
She ended her workshop sharing the many opportunities for writers to develop their stories across platforms in a world where ‘transmedia’ is the future of storytelling.
I’d say this was one of the best discussions and explanations I have heard for personification and am inspired to adopt this into my writing and do some more critical reading looking out for writers who do it well.
A participant asked why people write things that might be challenging to them, that require research, and not just what they know, and to that Marianne, responded with her story of her immense love of astronomy even though it is not her field of expertise and that she just loves writing it.
She encouraged us to surround ourselves with ‘expert friends, ‘ who can educate us about their passions which we share and want to convey in books, rather than just books and online research. Sometimes it is just so much easier to ask someone who knows the field you are trying to write about and they will fill you in on details you need to get right.
Research is an important skill for speculative fiction writers, but it is important not to get ‘lost down the well of research.’ As some point you have to write. Some writers like to research as they go, not before they start writing.
As many of us were writers for children and young adults, she told us how important for us to not make silly mistakes when writing about things we are not expert in but want to have as settings for our books. Children not only deserve that respect but will pick up any mistakes if it is something they love.
I definitely want to read JG Ballard after this workshop!
Here is what I wrote in the session:
My cocoon of glow wormed light swaddles me as if first born, so quiet, it’s full of heart beats, and it lights my way to safety within its cold cave walls. Those outside can’t see it, because the grass haired roof would confuse them. It is camouflaged and the oasis of cool within the searing heat would remain hidden, unless they knew just where the doorway sang.
(c) June Perkins
I am loving the writer’s workshops through Writelinks, and feel they give me a lot of support to keep developing my writing skills.
I highly recommend this workshop series and have enjoyed the presenters we have had this year. This week I will apply some of the learning from the weekend into a series of short stories, possibly novellas, that I am working on.
The newest boy at Mrs. Timmins’s Home for Orphans and Foundlings awakes at first light with no name and no memory. But a strange girl who hides among the shadows of the orphanage tells him that a mysterious wizard’s creation, the Book of Lies, holds the answers, and then gives him one clue: “Your name is Marcel.”
The Book of Lies trilogy was followed by the Silvermay Series and the Doomsday Rats, with numerous other books and collections all around. [Buy James’s books here]
CYA was; brilliant, entertaining, informative and educational. I enjoyed catching up with talented artists and writers such as award winning Katrin Dreiling and Helene Magisson and listening to the amazing Morris Gleitzman.
I did my first ever in person pitches to editors and agents. They were friendly, constructive, and helpful. I’m going to be busy working with their advice now and a couple are keen to see some more work, when I am ready. Thank you! Thank you!
The session I loved the most was definitely the Morris Gleitzman master class. We had a total of three hours to learn from him. He entertained us with stories, showing, and not telling, about his own writing journey as well as guiding us through some of his books. These were so memorable (and often very funny) that I related one in the car on the way to an engagement party after the conference. He gave us insights into how he structures and builds a story, blends in exposition, and extensively drafts outlines of his novels before he begins to write – the technique is drawn from his television writing background. We even had a chance to ask a few questions at the end, and yes I jumped at the chance to ask one!
My daughter, who is fifteen, thought this was the most brilliant public speech she had been too, and was absolutely riveted. She went to art character development sessions with Sarah Davis, which she absolutely loved and enjoyed spending the day with artist/illustrators.
Another inspiring session was the success stories from previous participants in the conference – I just loved these. They were encouraging to all aspiring authors and illustrators to follow their dreams – and to have an international outlook with their work. I was so delighted to see Helene Magisson up there sharing her story. She mentioned our upcoming project, Magic Fish Dreaming! with some excitement amongst her ongoing journey and I was so happy that such a brilliant illustrator is looking forward to our collaboration.
Jennifer Loake’s story was particularly inspiring, as she went from having her picture book story placed very lowly at the competition, to persevering with it, and editing it until it has been published. And the idea behind her story was just something she always believed in and wouldn’t give up on! If you are thinking about a career in writing for children and young adults I highly reccomend attending this event, and entering their competitions. You receive feedback on your story and how to improve it.
I have begun sending a story I entered in it last year (and have been editing for 12 months) to publishers just a a few weeks ago – perhaps now I will find a publisher for it.
A big congratulations to Tina Clarke and the wonderful team of volunteers who were so warm, welcoming and helpful. A special mention to my writing buddy Dimity Powell who I met in person for the first time. After attending the conference for years she decided to be a volunteer this year and add to everyone else’s experience, including things like giving me a pep talk before I went into do my publisher pitches – thanks Dimity! Oh no I forgot to get a photograph of us together – another time maybe!