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.