Notttingham Festival of Words – running our collaborative writing workshop

Collaborative Writing Workshop at Nottingham Festival of Words

We’ve run our collaborative writing workshop a few times now, so we were looking forward to its first outing of 2013 at Nottingham’s first Festival of Words.

There was a system of pre-booking, so we asked the day before how many people had booked onto our workshop. Two, they said, and one of those hadn’t confirmed. Oh.

We came up with some other ideas. If we only got a couple of people, we’d still try and give them value, and maybe we could even fit in some other activities. No worries.

We arrived at the venue nice and early so that we could have a look around and see what was happening. We met some familiar faces, had a cup of tea and went to set up.

The Newton building is a wonderful environment with stunning classrooms and hi-tech lifts that you could play with all day if you weren’t due to run a workshop…

It didn’t take long to set up. Iain tweeted a picture of the empty room as a joke as the start time rolled around and nobody was there. Then we started to wonder if anybody was actually coming.

After a brief delay, that I suspect had something to do with the logistics of getting around events that were spread across a fairly large area people started to arrive. Eleven participants in all, which is a superb number. We were surprised to find that five of them were from Germany. They were in Nottingham as part of a cultural exchange project.

After a brief preamble, we started the first activity, which is intended to help collaborators find their common interests by working through a selection of story ideas. Once they’d honed their personal list, they compared with a partner’s and then talked about what sort of story they might write based on the overlaps. A quick zip around the room. Yes! Everybody had the brief outline of a story.

[Our German delegates had, for the most part, an excellent working knowledge of English (far better than our knowledge of German) although one Anglo-German pairing became a little unstuck so their story (of a love triangle between a trapeze artist, an alcoholic ringmaster and a clown) had to be conveyed through drawings. Now, that’s a whole other workshop… – Iain]

Then they had a few moments to decide on the cast list. What essential two or three characters were needed at the core of the stories?

To flesh out these characters, we all played the index card game. We wrote character traits on cards. Some of them were straightforward like “enjoys loud music” and other stretched off into bad habits or mad idiosyncracies. “Licks lamp posts ” sparked some interesting discussion!

[we are sooo stealing that ‘licks lamp posts’ story for Clovenhoof 2 – Iain]

Batches of cards were then swapped, so that each group had a fresh set of traits to use for their characters. A few small items of vocabulary were questioned. I mimed what it means to walk with a skip for our German friends. I declined to mime somersaults. A few minutes later Iain said to me “I just mimed skipping!” Were they having some fun with us? You decide!

After some more discussion, each group had a very good idea of what their characters were really like. Were they ready to be tested? One set of collaborators agreed to be tested. They answered questions about how one of their characters would react to a given situation, without hearing their partner’s answers. It wasn’t a clean sweep, but given that they had only just met (each other as well as the character) it was impressive.

Here is a blog written by one of the particpants:


Posted in 2013, Events Tagged with: ,