Tag Archives: Space

A SPACE to Call Your Own

One of my projects is volunteering with Writers’ Centre Norwich for a project called SPACE. I am part of a team of volunteers who run weekly creative writing workshops for young people. It’s a lot of fun and more rewarding than can be easily described without resorting to cliches.

Here are some words I wrote about it, originally posted on the WCN website here.


The final frontier…

These are the voyages of–


OK that may not have worked as an opening gambit. Cheesy? Yup. Obvious? Check. Likely to pass some people by? Sure. Still, the first thing I learned from SPACE is that you have to dive in headfirst. Your ideas might not work out, but don’t play it safe: go for gold. I realised this a few seconds after standing in front of my first class. The group consisted of thirty disinterested young people who hadn’t expected to be there at all (their teacher had seized the opportunity to take a period off).

I came into SPACE expecting to regularly be terrified, and in that respect I was disappointed: I skipped past terror straight to fatalism.

My opening of ‘hi everyone, today we’re going to write poetry’ was not hugely successful. Following that up with a willingness to make a fool of myself was, however, much more effective.

In retrospect I recognise that feeling of ‘sod it, there’s only my self-respect at stake’ from some of my own teachers. Since my first day with SPACE I haven’t been particularly scared of anything. Except for clowns and the future and all that.

What does volunteering with SPACE involve? Step one is to identify what you can contribute.

I’m a writer, like many SPACE volunteers, and I write flash fiction. Flash fiction refers to very short stories, often under a hundred words. Part of my ‘pitch’ at my interview was that writing flash fiction would help young people overcome the difficulties I faced when trying to write at their age. These difficulties were overwriting and not finishing my stories. I found overwriting discouraging because I would write page after page without getting anywhere. With so much effort required to achieve so little, I would always give up before the end.

The flash fiction workshops we’ve run have aimed to get the young people thinking about what is essential to a story and what is superfluous. Hopefully they avoid overwriting and the pace of their story is enough to see them through to the end.

Step two works quite differently: now you know the young people you’re working with. You need to tailor the sessions to fit their needs. It’s no longer about delivering what you’re good at: it’s about finding something new outside your comfort zone that will help them best.

Next week we’re running a workshop on poetry. I never write poems and the list of poems I enjoy is quite short.

Regardless, I’m excited about this session. We’re stealing an exercise one of my friends used in their workshop. My friend got the group to cut up a ‘boring’ poem (‘The Whitsun Weddings’ by Philip Larkin) and, with copious application of Pritt Stick, rearrange it into something new. The combination of scissors (note to self: definitely safety scissors), glue and literary vandalism was a big success.

Building up a regular group at our weekly session at Gorleston library has taken a bit of work, but it has paid off with a group of really enthusiastic, talented and friendly young people. It is encouraging to see that they all have the same problems I had, so I can help them out no problem, right?

Well, it isn’t quite as easy as that. Problems I currently face when trying to write include:
Lack of confidence.
Feeling I’m not getting anywhere.
Struggling to finish stories.

Eh. All familiar obstacles, but ones I’m getting better at overcoming. Running these sessions benefits me as much as I hope it benefits our group of young people. It’s easy to be inspired to write after an afternoon with such talented young people.

Find out more about SPACE and hear from other volunteers.


Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Chapter 2

Phew, chapter 2 of my Camp Nano novel is done at last. It turned out to be a lot longer than chapter 1 but I’m going to post it anyway. Of course, despite its length you can still complete it in a few steps depending on which decisions you make.

If you’ve not done chapter 1 yet then start there (of course). I explain how this whole thing works there and I won’t repeat myself here.

If anyone has a suggestion for a title then please feel free to mention it in the comments! Also please point out any mistakes. This is a first draft and I haven’t even checked through it once yet…

P.S IT’S REALLY LONG Continue reading

Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Chapter 1

I mentioned in my last posts (I almost wrote ‘recent’ instead of last, but…) that I was going to try writing a choose-your-own-adventure novel. I’ve finished the first chapter as part of Camp Nano (http://campnanowrimo.org), an event I’ve talked about in a previous post but which I will describe anyway. Participants attempt to write 50,000 words in one month. which works out as 1,616 words every day. I’m already falling behind… That is to be expected, though, as no good nanowrimo/camp nano attempt ever goes without a last-minute rush for the word count on the last day. If you’ve been meaning to get round to writing something but never quite managed it then you should definitely try it this month or in November (http://www.nanowrimo.org/). The idea is to write without editing anything, just get it on the page so you have something to work with.

Anyway, here’s chapter 1. The sections are all ordered, unlike other choose-your-own-adventures, but only because it’s easier to write it that way. I’ll jumble them up at the end. Start with section 1 and scroll down or use ctrl+f to find the section appropriate to the decisions you make. It’s not too complicated!

Note that there is a proper end because it’s only the first chapter, but you may find yourself at a section which says [end]. That would be because you’ve died (sorry).

If you find any mistakes then please point them out. Editing this will be tricky and this is just a first draft.



Untitled Adventure

[1] (start)

You wake up with your face underwater and panic. The splashing of your arms echoes around you. No-one ever taught you how to swim and your feet can’t find the floor. You sink into the cool water but as it reaches up to stroke your mouth your hand hits something and you grab onto it. It feels like a metal rail. Opening your eyes is difficult, but you do it.

You’re in one of many pools in a long room. The walls are white and the water you’re in is bright blue. Fluorescent lights flicker on the ceiling. They do a poor job of illuminating the room. The water and the air around you are cool. There is a chemical smell in the air.

These impressions bombard your senses. You feel like you’ve been asleep for a long time, so long that your senses are all brand new.

You shiver. You’re wearing a thin rubber bodysuit that stretches from your ankles to your neck and your wrists, but it isn’t enough to keep you warm.

Do you climb out [2] or investigate the pool [3]? Continue reading

Camp Nanowrimo

So this month there’s an event called Camp Nanowrimo running where participants write 50,000 words of a novel in a month. That’s 1,667 words a day… Quite a lot. I’m giving it a half-hearted attempt since I only remembered it was running a week into it. I’m on just over 6,000 words at the moment, which is a bit pathetic. I’ll do it properly in July and maybe August. Watching your word count move closer to the 50,000 word target is a great incentive. Everyone reading this should give it a go!

This is the first part of the story I’m writing. It’s only a first draft and unedited (there really isn’t time to write AND edit 1,667 words a day), so beware of typos and (gasp) the passive voice.

Also, I’m trying to get some stuff published in magazines at the moment so I’ll be more selective about what I upload here. Most magazines want stories that haven’t been published before, and putting something on a blog counts as publishing, even if it only gets five views.

Final note, why isn’t ‘blog’ in the WordPress dictionary? And neither is ‘WordPress’, I see. MADNESS.



‘Invalid opinion, please try again.’

Monkey kneels on her bunk with her head bowed and her hands clasped together in front of her.

‘Forgive me, Deity,’ she says. She thinks for a moment. Around her the Doolittle hummed as it continued its pilgrimage through space. ‘It’s just that I’m sure I saw something when I went to the bridge two days ago.’

‘My sensors detected nothing. Your opinion is still invalid. Your opinion will be removed by free will or catechism.’

‘Yes, I see.’ Monkey frowns. ‘I suppose I’ve just been uneasy ever since we picked up the Grievous.’

‘I have not provided incentive to be uneasy. This is an irrational opinion.’

‘I know. I am sorry to be wrong, Deity. But… Please remind me of the difference between fact and opinion.’ She had seen something. She was sure. Continue reading