A student again

After a few years of not going to any regular writing events, other than the lovely Stanza I organise here in Trowbridge, I’m taking part in the 2019/20 Poetry Business Writing School which means I’ll be up in Sheffield several times a year for workshops and I’ve already begun reading for the course and completing a few introductory tasks.  It’s good to be a student again! One of the reasons I haven’t taken many courses/workshops in recent years, apart from the fact that I felt I wanted to spend time solidly writing and reading, is simply the financial costs involved.  I don’t earn a huge amount, so I didn’t feel I could justify the expense.

When I took my MA in Creative Writing at UEA in 1997, I was lucky enough to receive a studentship from the AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council, UK) – I doubt I’d have taken up my place there if I’d been turned down for funding, to be honest.

I worry that people think they need to spend money in order to get better at writing and I really don’t believe that’s true – although some courses can be extremely helpful and the right workshop can spark many ideas and develop your creative practice.  There are excellent free resources available online, although you might have to spend time finding them, as well as some extremely good ‘how to’ books (available through libraries).   I learned so much by taking ModPo, I can’t recommend it enough.  There are other such courses to look out for, one of which is How to Make a Poem offered free from MMU via FutureLearn.

I wrote this post On not spending money (to learn to write poetry) a few years ago which gives some more suggestions.  As is often the way with blog posts, readers have also left some interesting and helpful comments at the end of the piece.

Having said all that, because I now have some spare cash and because I really like Ann and Peter Sansom who are running the Poetry Business Writing School – and whenever I’ve been in workshops with them, I’ve always produced something in my notebook which sooner or later has become a poem – I decided to apply for a place.

On top of that, I’ve also signed up for an online course taught by Paul Stephenson at The Poetry School – Channel Hopping: A French Exchange – “Writing ‘real’ poems inspired by France’s vibrant and diverse poetry scene.”  I’m  not sure if I’ve mentioned that I used to live in France (not that you need any knowledge of French to participate in this course) and I practise a tiny bit each day using the Duolingo app on my phone and computer.  So, this course really appealed to me – I’m looking forward to learning about contemporary French poets and their work and I imagine that Paul will be a hard-working, imaginative and fun teacher!

I was a teacher myself this week, running a poetry workshop with a lovely group of Year 8s from the Dorcan Academy in Swindon.  This was a chance for me to put into practice some of the techniques I learned when I took part in the National Literacy Trust’s course, School for Writers, which I wrote about here.

Breaktime’s over now, however.  Time moves on, a few spring flowers have started to appear in the garden and it’s back to school for me.


14 thoughts on “A student again”

  1. Thank you for your generosity in sharing details of some free resources Josephine.
    I’ve also just enrolled for a Poetry School online course (in the same series I think – trans reading, using translated poems in a non-English language): David Tait’s course using modern Chinese poetry. I have very little knowledge of Chinese or the script.
    And I sometimes attend the Poetry Business Saturday sessions in Sheffield – like you I also come away with poems to work on. After my first session a poem I’d started there got into The North!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Josephine, I am currently half way through the How to Make a Poem Course – its brilliant! I use futurelearn frequently – I think you learn twice, once what the Educators tell you and secondly what the other students’ comment on. In Poetry, I have done the William Wordsworth and Robert Burns courses.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve also taken various writing course with FutureLearn as well as the OU. They are great. I’ve become rather obsessed with FutureLearn for all sort of learning, though right now I’m doing a novel writing course so haven’t time, so dare not look at the their website in case I get drawn into something 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha! I know what you mean, Heather. I’ve dipped into courses about climate change and others about politics and different literary forms. Keeping a focus is an ongoing challenge for me. Best wishes with the novel writing course!


  4. Hi Josephine, I know what you mean about spending money to write poetry (or not). The question of justifying the cost is something I think many of us relate to. I used to envy those on Creative Writing MA courses, but then decided the main reason I wanted to do one was that it would ‘allow’ me to spend time on poetry, which was a bit silly. Have a fantastic time on the Po Biz course. I get the emails about the Sheffield Writing Days, and have wanted to go – I could just about do it as a day return on the train (so avoiding the cost of staying over) but the earliest I could get there would be half an hour after the start time. I did once ask if they had any local poets on their books who might put another up for the night, in order to come to the Writing Day, but was told no, I’d have to organise it myself, which is a bit tricky when one doesn’t know anyone in Sheffield. Your point about free resources is a very good one. Tons out there – and of course writing peer groups, which I do find invaluable.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Robin, and thank you. I’ve only been to one Writing Day (like you, I needed to stay over somewhere – and I will need to do this for the Writing School, as well). It was very good but very crowded, so be warned. Having said that, I like the Sansoms’ no nonsense approach and the writing prompts come in rapid succession. The crowded room adds a little (gentle) pressure which produced some unexpected and pleasing results in my notebook. I might have a contact for you for an overnight bed, I’ll message you. Thanks for commenting!

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Strangely (or serendipitously) I first heard about FutureLearn yesterday from a current poetry participant… and then today I read about it in your post. Thank you, Josephine, for sharing the information with us. And I feel sure you will benefit hugely from the Poetry Business Writing School.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Oh yes the Sansom’s is ‘rapid succession’! Youve described it well Josephine. Different to any workshops I’d been to before but I responded to it by accepting that route and in the end got some material to work with. I wouldn’t rely on it for producing a poem to be critiqued in the afternoon – I’d take 10 copies of one I already have.
    Sorry I can’t offer accommodation in Sheffield, I travel from Leeds.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I enjoyed this post, Josephine. I’m trying to limit expenditure this year by concentrating on my own writing and not buying any more poetry books until I’ve worked through the pile of unread ones I already have (I think I went a bit crazy on the poetry book-buying front last year!) Thanks for the link to Nell’s ’32 ways of reviving a rejected poem’, which was really great. Maybe you could share that with our Stanza group members as I’m sure they’d find it very useful?

    Liked by 1 person

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