On Saturday I went up to Liskeard for a writing workshop – Collecting Stories. I’d been looking forward to it since I first heard about it. Not only was it an opportunity to spend the whole day focusing on writing, but it was also a chance to meet Anna Maria Murphy (best known to those outside Cornwall for her work with the Kneehigh theatre company). I’ve been an admirer of her work for some time, so I was keen to see her in action and find out more about her writing projects and processes.
Process is one of the things that I’m always interested in when I talk to other writers. It’s something extremely individual. But the one thing that almost all writers seem to agree on is the importance of the notebook. How each writer might use their notebook, and what type of notebook they choose is a different matter entirely. Discussing writing materials reminded me of how much I used to enjoy writing in pencil. It’s something I haven’t done for a while; I’m not sure how I got out of the habit, but it’s one I intend to take up again. There’s just something about the flow of writing in pencil that you don’t get with a biro…
After spending some time in the garden using the natural world as inspiration for kennings, we set off to explore Liskeard. Anna Maria Murphy opened our eyes to the wealth of possibilities. Potential inspiration is everywhere – we found plenty of ideas for stories and characters in the car park. As we walked, we created our own ‘story maps’ of our journey, jotting down details that we could use later.
Collecting stories in the car park
Our next challenge was to go into charity shops (often a particularly good source of stories) and either talk to the people working there about the most unusual items they’d come across, or choose an item of clothing, and conjure up what kind of person might have worn it. We also spent a while surreptitiously observing people, taking note of what they were wearing and their mannerisms. What the people shopping in Liskeard thought of us, scribbling away furiously in our notebooks, I don’t know, but plenty of people were happy to stop and talk to us.
Back at the Liskerrett Centre, we shared our stories and looked at ways of developing characters from the material we’d collected. It was heartening to realise how much could be gathered in a short space of time. I came away feeling inspired, with a notebook full of ideas ready for potential development.
Stories, it seems, are everywhere. You just need to know how to look for them. Now, where did I put my pencil…
The Collecting Stories workshop was part of the Vital Spark Festival – a celebration of creativity in Liskeard that runs throughout January and February.