What’s Your Story – A Review

What’s Your Story – A Review

Wordpool Festival collaborated with Liverpool-based, Writing on the Wall for a four week creative writing course, What’s Your Story, which came to an end this week.  Sue, who signed up for the course, has been keeping us up to date with the sessions…

Week One: Round table brief introductions. Twelve ardent participants raring to go. Pens at the ready!

Helen Dring, course tutor for the next 4 weeks, sets us off on our first 2 hour creative writing journey. Helen is 2017’s Pulp Idol Novel Writing winner. A proper published writer. We’re in for a treat.
After a couple of timed warm-up tasks to get our brains in gear, Helen asks us to recall a regular well-known journey and sketch a map of that journey. Map sketchily sketched, we describe that journey using our five senses. In 10 minutes! Pens down we exchange our story with a neighbour and comment, encourage, chat, find out things, and learn from each other. Next we write about the same or another journey without using the sense of sight. A different ball game altogether.

Helen is full to brimming with creative ideas, has a sense of humour, is encouraging, enthusiastic and, for me, everything I would hope for in a first-class writing tutor.

My brain enjoyed its workout in this quick-paced, well-structured, creative writing session. But only 3 more to go. It’s not enough! I want it to go on forever!

Week Two: Eager, aspiring creative writers returned for Round 2 of What’s your story?
Last week, for “homework”, Helen asked us to think of something that annoyed us. Not a problem for me – apart from what to choose from my long list of annoyances!
We listened to an angry rant recording by poet Jess Green. It was heartfelt. This led to our first task: to write a poem on a topic that winds us up.
We shared our masterpieces by reading them aloud. What an interesting mix of anger. Serious issues about bullying, isolation, harassment, the Prime Minister, contrasted with humorous topics that included passwords, traffic wardens, the M6, and dog poo. A great warm-up for the next assignment.
Helen handed us a page of prose from Jane Eyre. We selected words that we liked from the prose, and used them to write a poem. What an interesting exercise using someone else’s words. Is this being lazy? The final task was to continue with a longer piece of descriptive writing using our chosen words.
All too soon it was pens down and that was the end of our second two hours of creative writing. Like last week my brain enjoyed its workout. Helen certainly knows how to awaken our creativity. She’s an inspiration. But I’m feeling sad. There are only 2 more sessions to go. I WANT MORE

Week Three: What has Helen in store for us on week 3 of What’s your story?
We started with an exercise in writing flash fiction. Fifty words to write about an unwanted gift. A tricky one this.
Time’s up and onto the next task. An argument from the point of view of an inanimate object. Am I a vase? A table? A chair? What shall I be, and what argument am I in on? The class scribbles frantically. Time’s up.
Choose a day of the week and describe that day as a person. Helen! What are you doing to us? My poor brain is in overload.
And we’ve not finished.
Write 10 sentences building to a crescendo, with a mind-blowing denouement. Another challenging assignment. I’m worn out!
We didn’t read aloud this week but, as in previous weeks, shared our work with classmates.
This was another inspiring writing work-out: thinking on our feet and creating material where every word matters.
In readiness for next week, Helen would like us to prepare a rough draft of something we’ve covered during the course for the Writing on the Wall website. In what will be the final session, Helen will set us on the way to editing and polishing our work. With the benefit of Helen’s knowledge and experience, we’ll be writers yet!
About that rough draft. Shall I be a table, chair or vase?

Week Four:  I’m really sad. This is the last creative writing session with our amazing tutor, Helen Dring. Our first assignment: to describe a thunderstorm without using the sense of hearing. Helen knows how to set a challenge! We take turns reading aloud our efforts. Eight completely different takes on a thunderstorm make interesting listening.
To follow we are presented with a list of 30 flash fiction exercises. No slacking in Helen’s sessions! As we work through these Helen offers advice on our individual draft submissions for the Writing on the Wall website. With a bit of fine-tuning we will achieve what we set out to do. Be published!
We’ve had a fun-filled four weeks of exciting and challenging creative writing tasks. Classmates have shared writing assignments, exchanged ideas and, after four weeks, we’re no longer strangers as new friendships develop.
Before we went our separate ways, we discussed the possibility of future writing projects. The general consensus is that we’d all love to carry on as a creative writing group with Helen as lead tutor.
It might well happen. Watch this space.
Thanks to Wordpool and Writing on the Wall for offering this collaborative creative writing project.
Special thanks to Helen and Ciaran for encouraging us to keep writing.

We’re so glad that everyone had a great time at the What’s Your Story Course! We can’t wait to see the gang back together again for the Blackpool heat of Pulp Idol.

Words and image by Sue Massey


  1. Reply

    Thoroughly enjoyed reading this review! Classes like this are invaluable for bringing together writers who are, by the nature of their creative beast, solitary beings.
    Wordpool does great work and is the lynchpin of the West Lancs writing scene.

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