If we could have arranged it – we rely more heavily on happenstance than on a dictatorial style – it couldn’t have worked out better; Kate was the first Fellow to contribute this morning and she began with the daily log. The log captures what has gone the day before, documents it if you will, and includes some reflections, reactions, insights and wonderings. Though the guidance to Kate was minimal, she captured all of this in an informal but very thoughtful account of Day 1 of SWIFT 2017. We have journaling time now and I’m glad of the chance to intellectually and emotionally situation myself in the room. It’s always great to have moved to Day 2 of SWIFT – there is a momentum that is lacking in a sort of pre-institute inertia – and there is a still the building of the week, the group settling in, folks still not sure of each other’s names, the reluctance to sit at a different place at the table. We will rearrange the room a little today.
We continue with the today’s first demo – it’s Colette and she is going to help us to consider point of view. We are going to look at characters: we’re actually going to write a character – invent one. Colette’s demo has its origins, its prompting, in how afraid she finds her students are to articulate their voice. They feel vulnerable and nervous. They fear being understood/misunderstood. They fear being wrong. To help them to get over this fear Colette encourages them to write as someone else; to write as a character. We work through this by choosing an object and using it to build our character. We are given a hand out which helps us to respond to the object: we are to describe the object, say why it matters to the character, give our character a name and age, say what they would change about their lives. We make a telescope of another hand out and use it to look at room we are in, in an effort to see it as our character might. We finish by writing about the character and the object. We see them in a room like the one we are in – we imagine a scenario. When we finish we are all invited to read some of what we have written. We don’t need to share it if we don’t want to. We can if we would like. Everyone contributes something. Some people read their first paragraph or two. Others read their ideas – where they were going to go with the writing. It really interesting to hear what folks have done. After this we chat about Colette’s demo: folks note things that are useful for them, and things that turned their heads. We give Colette written feedback and consider how we might use what we’ve learned – what we have experienced.
We have a break – for coffee/tea/chat.
Before the next session Margaret from SWIFT 2014 arrives. It is a complete pleasure to see her. We catch up and chat about her work and remember her group. We plot ways to keep our ideas alive and gaining pace. She stays with us for the session on writing groups and joins us for lunch.
When we regroup we consider writing groups. Hitherto unknown thespians in the group are gently coerced into role-playing the villains of writing groups past: there is the cheer-leader, the soap-boxer, the ‘enough about you, let’s talk about me’, the one who always agrees, the punctuation/grammar extremist. There are award-winning performances all round and it sets us up good humouredly to continue our discussions about writing groups, our experiences of them, what they do, how they behave, what their functions might be. We share ideas around this and then break into smaller groups where we work through draft guidelines for writing groups. We are to come to a consensus around what we would like to see in our own guidelines. This is for future reference and also in preparation for writing group on Thursday where we will each share a piece of writing that we have been working on.
Lunch is followed by Joan, Fellow from SWIFT 2016 who takes us through another demo that uses objects as a way into writing. This time we are urged to consider the objects, that represent our lives, that we would put in a museum. We are to gather them and curate the collection: questions around what to leave, what to include. When we have them gathered we are to write something about them – about the collection, or one object. Form is personal – it can be a poem, a story, a piece of memoir, whatever we fancy. We are treated to a verse, a series of 6 word stories about 10 objects, a image of a car sagging under the number of artefacts of a life which may be substituted for a profound, existential vacuum! Joan follows our writing by giving us a piece of reading, from Seamus Deane, Writing in the Dark. It is about objects and the view from being hidden, being the nearest thing to underground, and feeling a tragedy but avoiding describing it, like spiralling in but then veering out again, unable to bear the centre of grief. I am struck by the fact that we haven’t read too much so far and that, as we know, it does something to our writing.
We have postcard writing and personal writing time to finish. I’m glad of the chance to blog in the room. I like the sense of us writing together. Remarkably it isn’t in any way distracting or irritating; this may have a lot to do with having had lunch.
Tomorrow we move to the Library. Rebecca has agreed to journal. It will be Day 3. I’m glad of today.