Review of Hay Writers’ Circle Fiction Workshop, October 2018
Article by Alan Oberman, 18/11/2018
According to its participants, the 2018 Hay Writers’ Fiction Workshop was a huge success. I have taken part in a handful of creative writing workshops all, without exception, enjoyable. They shared a common structure, examining theme, plot, character, style, beginnings, middles, endings.
Peter Salmon, leader of the Hay Writers’ workshop, had none of that. He set out to liberate us. His slogan – THERE ARE NO RULES. His message – when we abandon the reins that set our writing along a predetermined path, we will arrive in unfamiliar country of which we had no prior knowledge. Let the mind free and it will roam wherever it will.
He sets us to write with the instruction that at no time is the pen to cease moving across the page. I find this laughable. My writing process involves staring out of the window for an inordinately long time attempting to define what I want to say and then staring at the page struggling to find the most appropriate words to express my thoughts. I commence the task and within seconds find Peter’s eyes upon me admonishing me that my pen is not moving. OK, I thought to myself, if the instruction is to write a flow of drivel, drivel is what he’ll get. And that’s what he got, except…somehow it worked. The story you create takes you to places and situations of which you had no prior thought. Accept no rules, says Peter, that inhibit and confine one’s imagination.
Then, having got us to write on that topic for ten minutes, Peter calls on us to wrench the story into a new direction. Try it for yourself. Take a sentence at random from any book. Here’s an example you could use: “She lifted the back-door latch but something obstructed the door preventing it from opening as freely as it always did.” Using your sentence as opener, write for ten minutes without pause for thought, with the pen flowing continuously. Then (don’t look now!) insert the sentence you’ll find at the end of this review and take ten minutes more to conclude the story.
Through the day, listening to what each participant made of the various tasks was a pleasure and how different were our stories.
Peter Salmon is author of the highly entertaining novel, The Coffee Story, as rich and dark as coffee itself. He left us with one final instruction – spend ten minutes every day, letting the pen take you to worlds you never thought you might imagine. Well done Hay Writers for organising this workshop.
It was at that moment that my grandmother exploded.