February the Fascinating Month

Almost a month since the last Project post.  You can see from the way the blog Pages are filling what a creative month it has been.  Here are some February highlights, but this is by no means an exhaustive list!

THIRTY WRITERS are now actively engaged in Project 2017, from places as far afield as Taunton, Wimborne, Exeter, Malmesbury, Reading, Newport in Essex, Glastonbury and Wells.

Singer songwriter MIRANDA PENDER has just joined us as a long distance guest. Miranda is just completing her second album and has written about it extensively on her Page.

PAUL BROWNE  from the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institute is planning to let us share and respond to his exploration of the relationship between writing and film.  ( This will be a special, extra workshop session, with details still to be announced.)

Those of us who have been brave enough to keep up with our online progress logs, are now running into obstacles… changing direction…. beginning to discover what our project commitments really mean.  There are eloquent new ‘progress’ entries from LESLEY SAUNDERS, VERONA BASS,  and MICHAEL LOVEDAY, to name three.

MICHAEL LOVEDAY’S progress piece draws attention to one of the core problems we all face when writing personal memoir/autobiography. He puts it very well.   The process of writing and gathering (poems about a relative ) has raised doubts about the viability of my  project. ….Tension and conflict is the stuff of writing, and the writer in me does not have the same agenda as the son. Can I produce a rounded portrait without risking offence? How does one write interesting biography about living relatives?  So many of us have been in this place. We will certainly be visiting this conundrum when we meet up on February 25th.

February’s principal theme is the how writers select the individual words which are the raw materials of everything they  do.  A piece of writing can only be as good as its weakest word.  What does this mean for our poems, our translations, our prose pieces, our magazine and competition entries?  We will have three extraordinary contributions on this, one from LESLEY SAUNDERS who will be drawing us into her experience of translating from the Portuguese, and another from CLAIRE DYER, who is exploring how differently meaning arises from the conscious and the unconscious selves.

Writer/graphic artist SARAH GREGORY will be bringing images to spark verbal responses, and helping us think about how the processes of moving from image to word / word to image really work. How do they feed each other?  How do they qualify each other?  How do they complement each other? How do they conflict?  All these ideas will inform our feedback sessions on the pieces of ongoing writing the thirteen workshop participants will  bring in.

We will also be visiting ANN PRESTON’S project in relation to her fascinating piece about artist Djordje Ozbolt whose work has featured recently at the Holburne Museum.  Please seek this out on Ann’s Page on the blog.  We will be using this as our first portal into the EKPHRASTIC theme which has already appealed to so many writers who have joined Project 2017.

And finally, three marvellously chosen quotes from JANET McCLEAN  who is rejoining the Writing Days this month.

QUOTE ONE :   Instructions for living a life.  Pay attention.  Be astonished.  Tell about it. 

QUOTE TWO : Poetry isn’t a profession, it’s a way of life. It’s an empty basket; you put your life into it and make something out of that.” Mary Oliver

QUOTE THREE :  If not now, when?  Anon

a-february-sky

A February Sky

Nothing but Good News

So many good things happening on Project 2017.  Here are just a few which came in this week…. click the names on this post to reach the personal Pages of the writers featured here and learn more about their news.

2016 Templar Poetry Straid Collection Winner RUTH SHARMAN has just joined Project 2017 to work on the poems of French writer Philippe Jaccottet. Ruth will be Guest Reading at Dawn Gorman’s excellent, Words & Ears at The Swan in Bradford on Avon,  on Thursday 26th January next week.

Widely published Exeter poet CHRISSY BANKS has just joined Project 2017 as a long-distance member of the group. Chrissy will be working towards a second full collection. Take a look at the website which heads her Page on the Project blog and which can also be accessed here.

Fresh from his success with  A Fury of Yellow from Eyewear in 2016,  ROBIN THOMAS now has a forthcoming collection to be published by Cinnamon.  Robin will be bringing a sequence of poems to share with us during the Meetups in April and July.

Project 2017 Convenor SUE BOYLE will be Guest Reading at Ware Poets in Hertfordshire on Friday 3rd February with  a new programme titled Safe Passage: the secret history of a poet’s life.

CLAIRE DYER and RUTH SHARMAN  both appear on the May 15th billing at Anne-Marie Fyfe’s impossibly  prestigious London Troubadour. A date for everyone to circle in their poetry diaries.  Be there if you can. And, if you haven’t been to the Troubadour before, prepare to be amazed!

 

glad-day

William Blake : Glad Day or The Dance of Albion

FINALLY, unless the tiny number of  stragglers don’t mail in their cheques by the end of this month, this year’s Cafe Writing Days  are now virtually fully booked.  This has been the fastest ever booking for a Cafe Workshop series – and no wonder, when you read the names of the talented writers already on the list, and the wonderful variety of challenging projects they intend to share.

A Message from Sue Sims

Dear Sue

Writing continues to help me. I intended a Facebook message this morning and the message so badly wanted to be a poem. It will be included in the collection but I am not precious about my work so I have let some out into the world prior to publication. 

Early morning in London, 

the room holds 

Mark’s peaceful breaths. 

London wakes beyond 

and below our window

steam rises

an aircraft gains height

in candy crush clouds

and a big fat hello of a sun

burns the horizon. 

Susan Jane Sims January 17th, 2016

Mark Sims’ blog is here : https://wrestlingmelanoma.com/

Remembered Days : One

With Marilyn Francis, Sarah Gregory, Verona Bass, Louise Green, John Richardson, Ann Preston, Sue Chadd, June Wentland, Linda Saunders

The first Day of Project  2017 turned out to be an excellent springboard for  the  good things that lie ahead – unsurprisingly, given the talent and energy of the nine writers who converged in Bath with such fine examples of their writing to create the day. What follows is the convenor’s view of some of the key issues and concerns.  Following on soon, I hope, will be additional thoughts from some of the other participants about moments and activities that highlight the day for them.

COMPETITION POEMS AND MAGAZINES

Many people in the room have joined Project 2017 with the intentions of publishing in good magazines, featuring in good competitions and gaining more recognition for their work.  This means that learning to edit for excellence is bound  to be a core concern. Taking inspiration from the poems which won First and Second Prizes in the recent Torbay Festival competition, groups discussed and presented their  ideas about what makes a good competition poem.  This is not quite the same,of course, as the question of excellence in all short poems, but close enough to provide an extremely useful checklist for anyone preparing to send a piece of their writing  out into the world. I hope that these collective thoughts on excellence will soon have a Page of their own on the Project blog.

PAMPHLETS AND COLLECTIONS

Six of the January writers are working towards these. Ideally, every poem in a collation would be excellent enough to win a competition, with added richness  provided by its being part of a greater whole and therefore able also to shine in the borrowed light of the pieces on either side.  Poems in collations should gather strength from their surroundings – providing someone is attracted in the first place to read the book.  We looked at pairs of poems from five of the poets and fed back our thoughts which poem of each pair would most attract us to the imagined book, and why.  This feedback will be very useful in telling writers what readers respond to most strongly in their work, and therefore where their appeal to a professional editor might  lie. We will repeat this activity on future Project Days.

THE POWER OF THE SINGLE WORD

Every writer knows that they have to edit every word in what they do, rigorously, before dispatching anything to the world beyond their room. But this is a process much more easily described than done.  We had a very useful discussion about one word in the last line of an otherwise immaculate sonnet – soon to be published in an excellent magazine  – a word raising issues for some readers who felt it introduced a distracting note. The word seemed to introduce a backstory at a very late stage in the piece which,  for some of us, weakened  rather than enriched.  A poem is only the sum of its relatively small number of words.  We have to learn to read our pieces through the eyes of strangers, and test the possible nuances of every mark we put on the page.

POETRY vs PROSE

One of the writers read us the statement about the personal memoir she is preparing to complete this year. It was a wonderfully graceful, moving, concise, eloquent piece of prose, intended possibly to  preface a sequence of poems which are also likely to work extremely well.  I am about to ask the writer whether she will allow this statement  to be featured on the blog. The question arose yesterday for me – if you can write so excellently in prose, is there any reason to use the alternative medium of poetry?  Prose does not need to be discursive and connected from page to page.  A prose passage can have the same  lovely self-sufficiency as a poem and might give some writers greater scope to express their thoughts and demonstrate their skills.  I am hoping that through the year that we will be able to consider this and that  more of the Project writers will be bring prose passages to share.

TELLING OUT YOUR TRUTHS

I have left this to last.  It is of course, for writers, an issue which never goes away,  but for various reasons it  came most vividly to the surface at the end of the Project Day.  The memoir project lead to a discussion about the difficulties  of personal, revelatory writing, and the different ways we all approach using our personal experience in our work. How does personal experience translate into ‘literature’?  Is self-revelation as important to the reader as it is to the writer?  When we read, is it enough for us to know that the facts as given are true, or are we looking to literature to give us something more? And if so, what is the ‘more’ we want?  Do we actually need to know whether what a writer tells us is ‘true’, or is it enough for us to be persuaded by the ‘authenticity’ of what we read and hear? Writing can be inventive, or confessional, or can find itself a space between these two.  Charles Dickens is and is not David Copperfield.  What are we really looking at when a writer appears to invite us into a life?  This is something we will certainly be exploring when we meet up at the end of February for the second Project Day.

That is scheduled for Saturday 25th February and is already full, with a waiting list.  But there are a few vacancies later in the year, for any writer who would like to join the group.

 

Project 2017 Getting Underway

The new Cafe Writing Days series, Project 2017, has made a remarkably strong start over the Christmas/New Year Holiday, with 22 writers already booked in and starting to build up their personal Pages on the blog. The series is for any writer of prose or poetry who wants to pursue an extended  project during the year and would enjoy sharing their journey with others on the same path.  The six-weekly meet ups in the Open House Centre in Bath are booking now – 60 spaces already taken / February and April already full.

If you would like to join Project 2017,  you can check the available vacancies on the blog, as well as exploring ( as of today)  personal Pages from Ama Bolton, Claire Dyer, Ann Preston, Susan Jane Sims, Verona Bass, Robin Thomas, Marilyn Francis  and John Richardson.  Other Project Writers are creating and adding to their Pages. More will follow soon….

If you like the blog, then this series might be for you. Contact Sue Boyle if you would like to learn more, or to join.

New project for a new year

The seven dates for the Project 2017 Saturday group sessions have now been confirmed. Here are the dates and current vacancies.

January 14th 2017 :  FULLY BOOKED     

February 25th 2017: FULLY BOOKED 

April 8th 2017 : FULLY BOOKED 

May 20th 2017 : FULLY BOOKED  

July 1st 2017 : one vacancy 

August 12th 2017 : three vacancies

September 23rd 2017 : FULLY BOOKED 

Project 2017

This site has been created for the writers who have joined the ongoing writers’ group, Project 2017, organised by Sue Boyle.  There will be regular Posts  about the project including digests of the six-weekly group sessions in the Open House Centre in Manvers Street, Bath.

Under the WRITERS heading, each member of the group has a dropdown Page to outline their work so far, update on their new book and magazine publications, flag up guest readings, share photographs, write about their current project and publish extracts from ongoing work.