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On Write Like a Grrrl… and IGNITE being in Mauritius!!!

Write Like a Grrrl (WLAG) was founded in 2013 in the UK by Kerry Ryan to help women of all writing abilities to juggle the many commitments in their lives, overcome the barriers to writing, and find time to write. Together with other women around the UK (and around the world), she now runs six-week and one-day intensive courses in collaboration with For Books’ Sake. 

I came across Write Like a Grrrl (WLAG) in early 2016. One of my new year resolutions had been to reconnect with my creativity, and I thought starting with writing would be ideal. The fact that the course would be taking place about a 10-minute bus ride from where I lived was also a major motivator at the time. 

As I arrived at the co-working space that Saturday morning, I felt really nervous: yes, I loved writing, and scribbled bits and pieces here and there but I hadn’t written any fiction in years, and I certainly didn’t want to have to read my work out loud in front of other people.

It turned out that there was no need for all that anxiety.

The course was led by Kerry herself, who’s a Scottish powerhouse; she’s feisty and wonderfully blunt but above all, encouraging and considerate, and one of the loveliest human beings I’ve had the opportunity of meeting. She is amazing as a teacher and makes everyone feel really comfortable from the very first minute of the class. We were all given a chance to speak, listen and feel included – and there was no pressure whatsoever to read out loud anything that I’d written! My confidence soared and it reminded me that I could write fiction after all – but that my non-fiction writing was also creative writing. Moreover, it made me realise that it was important to find my tribe: writers who would be willing to read my words and help me make them better in the most constructive and supportive way possible. Those 6 weeks were so full of writing and conversations about writing that if I could do them all over again, I probably would!

This is the outline of what we do on IGNITE (which is what the 6-week course is called):

Week 1: We meet and are introduced to the course material. We have a discussion about barriers to writing, and why a regular practice of writing is more beneficial than binges; the homework here is to write everyday for 15 minutes.

Weeks 2, 3 and 4: We focus on character, dialogue and setting – what are good examples of these, and how to write them well.

Week 5: We take what we’ve learned so far and create a piece of writing.

Week 6: We use that piece of writing to learn about editing and what happens next. We are also given one-to-one feedback on the piece here we wrote a week earlier. 

WLAG is built on the idea that a lot of what we’ve been told about writing is a myth: for example, you don’t need to wait for the Muse of Inspiration to hover on your shoulder to write, it is rather about finding little snippets of time in your day, and using them to write. It is also about being in a safe and supportive environment of people in similar situations and with similar interests, who are ready to cheer you on with your writing.

More importantly perhaps, at the core of WLAG is the message that we all DESERVE to tell our story. This is powerful: don’t think of writing as being selfish or trivial or pretentious, or that it is only for certain people because you’re not good enough (for whatever reason). You don’t need to be J.K. Rowling. Be confident to call yourself a writer at whatever level you’re at. Because writing is first and foremost about the joy of creation and imagination.

When I made the decision to relocate to Mauritius, I talked to Kerry about it, and she told me that it would be great if we could collaborate to bring IGNITE to Mauritian women…

So, here we are: IGNITE is now in Mauritius, classes are from 11 am to 1 pm every Saturday starting from the 3rd of August to the 7th of September 2019 at The Hive in St. Pierre. The whole course costs Rs 4800 (or Rs 4950 with a certificate of completion). You can get a Rs 300 discount by signing up to my mailing list here (you will receive an email with a code to input on the registration form). You can register for the course here.

To help you make up your mind, here are a few questions and answers that you might find useful:

Are there any requirements for getting on the course?

You need basic English writing skills, and to identify as a woman and want to write. 

You don’t need to have ever written before. The course can accommodate everyone from a complete beginner to someone who’s putting the finishing touches to their book. There’s something in WLAG for everyone. Every woman is welcome!

What if I miss a class or two?

Life happens! You will get all the notes even if you don’t/can’t make it to all the classes, and I’m happy to answer any questions you may have. 

I’ve tried for years to write now. It’s not like I’m going to be writer after taking the course, is it?

One of the aims of the course is to get you to write and to not be afraid to call yourself a writer. Writing can be lonely and isolating (believe me, I know!) but the point of the course is for you to also meet other writers and to build a community. I will definitely help with this throughout the course, and after.

I don’t have stories to tell. Even if I did, I don’t think people would want to read what I write.

We all have stories to tell.  Because we all have imagination. We just need to tap more into it, the course will help you with that. And I want to read what you write; the course will also make you realise that there are people out there who not only want to read what you write but who will also relate to what you write.

I don’t want to seem stupid in front of others. What if my writing is not up to scratch?

No one’s writing is perfect. I didn’t want to seem stupid in front of other people when I signed up either but the whole idea of the course is that you’re not stupid for wanting to write, and that we all have the potential to improve our writing be it as a complete beginner or as someone who’s been writing for years. 

I don’t want to share anything that I write with other people.

There is no pressure to share any of what you write during the entire course – apart from the piece that you write at the end, and that’s only with me so that you can get feedback. I’ve been in your shoes before and I know how nerve-wracking this can be: I will be as supportive and encouraging as possible because I want you to realise just how much joy writing can give you!

So, what are you waiting for? Book your place now on IGNITE and unleash the joy of writing!

writing

On Reading Like a Writer

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Everyone knows that if you want to be a writer, you need to write (and re-write). But another important part of being a writer is reading. In fact, every writer starts off being a reader first and foremost.

As a child, you begin recognising letters, words, sentences, paragraphs until whole stories emerge. Growing up, some of us continue to read stories and start crafting our own, be it fiction or non-fiction. Reading, therefore, is an inherent part of writing.

But there’s reading and… reading like a writer. I am a voracious reader and will read almost anything you put in front of me (wine bottles and cereal boxes included!). That reading, although done with intention – to understand something, for the thrill of what happens next, to escape into another world and so on – is not always close reading, however. When you read like a writer, you need to read actively, to ‘read carnivorously’ Francine Prose, the author of the acclaimed book Reading Like a Writer, puts it, that is, to read for what can be admired, absorbed and learned from.

How do you then read as a writer?

The way to start reading like a writer is to, first of all, re-read a favourite book, and to make notes from it. This is something I learnt on Huma Qureshi’s writing course The Quiet Words – a course I highly recommend if you want to start writing creatively. Make notes about what you like in the book, find and underline the words and sentences that stir you, and write them down in a notebook. BUT don’t do this if it’s not your own copy or if you think that it’s a sacrilege to ‘disfigure’ a book, instead ONLY write them down in a notebook or an online document, or if you’re reading an e-book, highlight the relevant section and email them to you (I do this on my Kindle). Look at how the sentences that stirred you have been constructed – look at the placement of the words. Let them sink in.

When you’re re-reading a book, you already know what the plot is so you won’t be distracted by it as such. Instead, you can focus on the mechanisms that the author use to move the plot. Is it in linear or chronological fashion? Or do they jump from one time-frame to another?

Hone in on how the writer has crafted a particular character or characters. How is the protagonist brought to life? How do you know about their motivations, their desires? Why do you like or hate them? What are the techniques that have been used to achieve this?

Look at what works in terms of dialogue. How realistic do the characters sound? Can you imagine someone talking in that way? Are they saying what they mean? Read the dialogue out loud – taste the words in your mouth. Write down the ones you think work but also the ones that don’t work. This is all part of your learning process.

Crucially, don’t read like a writer before bedtime. Carve out time for reading in your schedule just as you would for writing or going to the gym. Start in a chunk of 15 minutes and go from there.

You will find that reading and re-reading the books that you like or by authors that you admire will not only give you ideas but it might make you emulate them in your own writing. This is fine as you start out but as you experiment with writing and as you start to read like a writer more widely, you will find that, almost subconsciously, you start to develop your own writing style, your own voice.

As if by magic.