Collecting stories with Anna Maria Murphy

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 storiesCollecting 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.


The Parabola Project

Launch of The Parabola Project II: The Quickening

I’m lucky to live in a place like Falmouth.  A place that’s beautiful, vibrant and bursting at the seams with creativity.  Everywhere I go I meet writers, poets, photographers, designers and musicians.

I’ve been going to Telltales ever since I moved to the area, nearly three and a half years ago.  It’s a regular evening for ‘readers, writers and listeners.’  When I first came across Telltales, it was based in a small independent cafe that felt like being in someone’s, admittedly rather quirky, living room. RIP Babahogs Art Cafe, you are still missed.  Usually about eight people would turn up, and probably five or six of those would be reading.

Since then, it’s gone from strength to strength, moved venues a couple of times, and now attracts a large crowd of word lovers from across Cornwall.  I’ve enjoyed reading from time to time, listening to a huge range of work, and meeting other writers.

The Parabola Project was launched in 2010, with the aim of producing a illustrated publication showcasing the work of writers in Cornwall, with fresh voices appearing alongside established names.

After the success of the first edition, the second volume The Parabola Project II: The Quickening was launched on 29 November 2011. The illustrators have done the writers proud.  Each of the pieces, including my short story, Stargazer, is wonderfully illustrated.

It’s fantastic to see a project like this come to fruition, especially as I’ve been involved with Telltales since its early days.  The Parabola Project is a far cry from a handful of writers getting together in a little cafe to share their work, but it just shows what can be achieved.  I also have to say a big thank you to Clare Howdle, one of the original founders of Telltales and the driving force behind the Parabola Project.

So will 2012 bring volume III?  Here’s hoping!