Tagged / creative writing

A Group Postcard: “Marvellous time. Wish you were here”.

Reflections on a Creative Writing Workshop for Academics at BU, led by Kip Jones

By Susanne Clarke

(with Trevor Hearing, Caroline Jackson, Mark Readman, Carly Stewart & Peter Wolfensberger)

I am sitting here on a Saturday morning, daunted by the task ahead of me.  I am in charge of writing a blog on behalf of a wonderful group of people who I spent a couple of days with at the beginning of January, (oops, I am already overselling myself, I am actually bringing together a blog using material they have given me).  The group, as promised has sent me their “postcards”, snippets revealing their inner most reflections of the experience we shared.

Perhaps I’d better reveal more of our journey and tell you a bit about the group. We came together having booked our place at the auspiciously titled “Creative Writing Workshop for Academics” led by the legend that is Kip Jones.  I would say it was a journey that we would all do again in a heartbeat.

Kip invited us, compelled us, to discard the shackles of academic or more formal forms of writing; we breathed in deeply and sought to find our inner selves, the child unconstrained by conventions that have both helped and hindered our writing over the years.

So, applying all that I learned from Kip, I am not going to over-analyse my writing and I will go with what feels right.   Studying the ‘postcards’ from the group – Peter’s  postcard will come first, just because it feels right, he sums up the experience for us all really.

From Peter Wolfensberger:

postcard to myself or

everything matters and nothing really does unless the moment you belong and love – exercise one

Struggling with my thesis I considered the creative writing workshop as a source for inspiration. So, I travelled long distance just to be confronted with myself and who I am and writing the story of my life on a postcard! Really?! Yes, – and no, there is more: Watching two boys on a crowded beach in the twenties has as much to do with me as trying to make sense of dreams that I can never remember. Writing a poem, a script treatment, a story, my story? In the end, it’s all just a tagline away from my thesis… But hey, I belonged to this wonderful group of people who kind of tried to do the same or something very different. Love you all! ‘

A bit more to reveal here with Mark’s postcard:

From: Mark Readman

Dear Group

‘Taglines, poems, life stories on postcards, writing, sharing, reading aloud and, ultimately, bringing my academic work to life through the art of storytelling – what a great way to start the new year!’

Now back to me. The writing is now getting more difficult.  I can’t really complete with the beauty of the words conveyed in the postcards.  Kip did promise that our first attempts will be quite bad and will need plenty of re-write. So, I walk away, I head off to make a cup of tea and read The Guardian. Nothing much to learn about me from my reading choice, nor, did I expect to learn much from it.  I read it because I enjoy a few of the Saturday regulars and primarily because it’s still free on line.  I click on one of my favourite columns, “Blind date” and this week’s column looks promisingly uplifting, entitled; “We parted with a kiss”.  It was a good read, and I wondered if the format could be borrowed for the blog.  And so I try below:

Reflections on our ‘Blind Date’ with Kip

From: Susanne Clarke

The scene: The Group meets each other and Kip for our first “Blind Date”.

What were we hoping for:

Improvement, enlightenment, and perhaps a cry from the heart to help with the struggle that is a life centered around writing, at the very least, some basic hints and tips and a creative start to the year.

What we weren’t expecting, but I think we were all secretly hoping for as Caroline put so well in her postcard, “…one thing that I did take away from the creative writing workshop was passion and confidence in creative writing.”

Our First Impressions:

Positive, the group were warmly welcomed, Kip was laid back, relaxed and we got a sense it was all going to be ok.  Kip set us some homework – to recall our night time dreams. I think we were all slightly scared.

What did we talk about:

Everything and anything, somehow Kip got us to reflect deeply, perhaps share things we wouldn’t normally be so bold with.   Kip shared intimate reflections with us and made it ok to share back. 

Any awkward moments:

There really should have been, we were stretched, we cried, we laughed, however, I don’t recall anything being awkward and I can’t find a hint of this in the postcards.

Although, if I am honest there was a moment for me.   When Kip set us the task to create poems from our recollection of recent dreams, as a lifelong fan of Pam Ayres, my poem had to rhyme, consequently, my attempt lacked the depth of feeling conveyed by the poems written and read out loud by others in the group.  But it did rhyme.  I did feel slightly awkward, mine was rather light, however, in the end it was alright.

Good table manners?

We did lunch as a group, it was a great ending to our adventure, and our table manners were impeccable, as far as I could tell.

Would we introduce Kip to our friends?

A resounding yes, why wouldn’t anyone be less than delighted to meet Kip, and I would happily introduce Kip and the whole group to all my friends.

Describe Kip in three words:

Charismatic, warm and unconventional

What do we think Kip made of us?

He told us we were the best group he had ever taught, he was probably lying. He made us feel special though.

Did you go on somewhere?

This is where I will leave the ‘Blind Date’ format and head to something slightly more hypothetical, we are all now continuing somewhere, we are improved from our experience, but taking different paths.   Let’s now share some more postcards from the group.  I guess where we go next in our journey remains to be seen.

From: Trevor Hearing

Dear Group

….‘Kip’s Tree of Performative Social Science is a rare species that grows over ground and underground with each workshop I attend, sending hidden signals around the world through its mycelium that it is OK to write about yourself as a source of knowledge because in doing so we are feeding others with the compost of our imaginations. I learned the value of metaphor at this workshop’….

Love Trevor xxx

From: Caroline Jackson

Dear friends,

“…. The interventions offered by Kip and my workshop colleagues were productive in many ways. I came away with the following: ​

  1. I like writing.
  2. I can let go and write something not directly related to an academic output and it be worthwhile.
  3. Some questions and techniques to use in future writing activities, academic or not.
  4. Some ideas for my own students on their creative thinking and work.

Wish you were here, love Caroline xxx

From: Carly Stewart

Dear group

…” It opened up my thinking and reconnected me to the heart-felt reason I enjoy academia in the first place. I had time and space to think deeply about ideas and new ways to express them, not for outcome or in the surface skimming tone so often required of us. And the epiphany for me was that dedicating time for creative space did not send me spinning off on a tangent from academia but instead loosened my thoughts and reconfigured them in a way that inspired me to pick up the reins of academic writing once again.”

Love Carly xxx

And finally, from me (Susanne).  I spent time with a colleague this week writing with a deadline to submit an abstract. I approached this with more confidence and my biggest lesson from Kip – I could hear his voice, “work on a catchy title” he said this a few times.   Our title begins with “Shrek and the Onion…. “ It wouldn’t have done before Kip entered my life and thoughts.   Will our abstract take us to the conference in the sun, who knows?

PS We would also like to thank others in the group who are not represented here but who contributed towards the experience.

Creative Writing for Academics with Kip Jones

A two-day FREE workshop in creative writing with Kip Jones for Bournemouth University staff and students only.

Writing week: Wednesday 3 Jan and Thursday 4 Jan.

Wed: 9:30 – 3:30

Thurs 9:30 – 12:30 (followed by lunch at La Piccola Italia)

Executive Business Centre, 7th Floor

Places are limited, but the workshop is free. Please express your interest by emailing Kip asap. You will be expected to attend for both days, and attend the lunches. You are asked to buy your own refreshments and lunches, but we will eat together at a restaurant each day. The first day we will go to the International Centre next to EBC for lunch. The second day, we will have a concluding longer lunch at La Piccola Italia Restaurant, near EBC. Writing is a very solitary endeavor. Sharing of experiences and conviviality are important components of a balanced approach.

Summary: The Creative Writing workshop will be a unique event in that it will not be a typical ‘writing retreat’ (with trees to hug and lots of time to ruminate), but rather a very active experience with lots of exercises, suggestions and supportive feedback on participants’ work from Kip Jones and other participants.  The point is to encourage both students and academics who would like to include more creative writing in their outputs, particularly those whose writing includes reporting on narrative and other qualitative methods of research.  It also helps immensely in the move to publishing in the wider world of blogs and online outlets, moving work to media and film, auto-ethnography and even fiction.
Justification: The important point of Creative Writing for Academics is to help academics and students achieve the goal of seeing more of their work read by wider audiences; in other words, impact. By providing an intense two-day experience for participants to engage in developing writing skills, the playing field is levelled and opportunities for facilitated learning developed. By engaging in creative writing, it becomes possible for all to write more clearly, more simply, even more creatively, when writing not only for academic publications, but also for outlets previously unimagined.

Methods: The workshop will present opportunities to work with academic material and expand its means of production and dissemination to new and creative levels through interfaces with techniques from the arts and humanities, including blog and magazine writing, film treatments and scripts, and poetry and fictional exercises. These intellectual exchanges encourage joint exploration of how researchers can engage with principles and tools from the arts in order to expand and extend the possibilities of dissemination of research data. Concepts of creativity itself will evolve and be transformed by participants’ outlooks and willingness to engage with unfamiliar territory. These processes comprise ‘facilitated learning’—in that knowledge will be gained as a secondary goal through a process of developing new relationships through small group problem-solving and self examination, grounded in personal past experience and knowledge.

“Flip it!” –Kip Jones’ most frequent workshop advice

Attendants at the Creative Writing for Academics Workshop at Bournemouth University.  Some hold copies of the photograph from which they created a story.

Attendants at the Creative Writing for Academics Workshop at Bournemouth University. Some hold copies of the photograph from which they created a story.

The most frequent advice from Kip Jones to participants was “Flip it!”

“Flip it!” –Kip Jones’ most frequent workshop advice.

 

Recently, 27 academics, some from as far away as upstate New York and Dublin, gathered for the Creative Writing for Academics with Kip Jones at Bournemouth University (BU). Their goal was two days of experimentation with writing techniques to engender more creative outputs in their academic writing.

The conclusion of one participant reflected the sentiments of many: “The Creative Writing for Academics workshop turned out to be a great experience, more than expected!!”

The two-day workshop was organised by BU’s Centre for Qualitative Research, and was promoted thusly:

“This unique event isn’t a typical writing retreat (with trees to hug and lots of time to ruminate), but a very active experience with exercises, suggestions and supportive feedback on participants’ work…”

KimballFrontCover-216x300Instead of taking 30 minutes or more to go round the room and let everyone make an introduction (listing job titles, universities, theses topics, etc. ad infinitum), Jones asked attendees to take 15 minutes and write their life story on a postcard instead. This is an exercise that comes directly from Michael Kimball’s work, Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story (on a postcard). Kimball is an American novelist whose writing Jones admires. A few examples from Kimball’s postcard book were shared with the group. Each participant then wrote her/his own life story on a postcard; afterwards, some of the attendants then shared their stories with the group.

Jones then explained tags, log lines and treatments—copywriting techniques used in advertising and filmmaking.

The Workshop as a Logline: Participants were challenged to write their “Life on a postcard”, they were introduced to creating tags and log lines; homework was to write a poem based on a dream. Next, they created a story from a photograph. Finally, they shared their stories with others who had used the same photo. (50 words)

Tag: “Artistic types take their time … in an Italian trattoria.”

Participants then had a go at creating tags and loglines for academic articles that they brought with them. This was an exercise in using simple sentences, reducing content to its essence and creating copy that could be used in titles and the body of articles, in blogs and on Twitter.

Jones used a relaxed and open-ended process throughout the workshop. Francesca Cavallerio’s extended feedback report captures the essence of the responses of many to this approach to the workshop:

I enjoyed the freedom that came from writing creatively, without prescriptions. Having no other goal than the story/poem itself was intimidating initially, but then turned into an amazing experience. I think (the workshop) allowed me to discover a few things about myself and the way I write. Also, by listening to what others wrote, and realizing how many different ways of writing exist, and how much I enjoyed each of them, gave me an increased sense of freedom and possibility.

I was expecting more “directions”, tips on “how to use creative writing in academia”. But now that we are at the end of the workshop, I think I can see why it was organised in this way. Yesterday, I would have said, “Yes, I wanted to be guided more”. Today, I am actually very happy of the structure and everything I learned, felt and experienced here. –Francesca Cavallerio, St. Mary’s University, Twickenham.

P1020052

The last morning of the workshop consisted of reading some of the poems that were written overnight. Attendants then chose from amongst 11 black and white photographs. The brief was to write a story about what the photograph was about. The only instruction was that often a photograph could represent the moment between what led up to the event captured and what might happen next. The group took the rest of the morning to write the photo-based 1,000 word stories. After lunch, they assembled in groups of three (each group having chosen the same photo) and compared stories and outcomes.

Creative Writing Photo exercise

“I feel a sense of satisfaction in having written a life-story postcard, a poem and a short story—all very personal.” –Anne Quinney, Bournemouth University

The workshop was envisaged as a way to help academics with publishing in the wider world of blogs and online outlets, moving work to mixed media, auto-ethnography, and even fiction, radio and film. Jones gave ideas of the kinds of blogs and even journals that are receptive to creative academic work. He shared experiences with his own outputs and finding like-minded editors with whom to work.

The intellectual exchanges encouraged joint exploration on how academics can engage with principles and tools from the arts in order to expand and extend their possibilities of dissemination of their work. Concepts of creativity itself evolved and were transformed by participants’ outlooks and willingness to engage with unfamiliar territory. These processes comprised a ‘facilitated learning’—in that knowledge was gained as a secondary goal through a process of developing new relationships. This was achieved through individual and small group problem-solving and self-examination, grounded in personal past experience and knowledge.

 

 

Fran Biley’s research project featured in the Dorset Echo today

HSC’s Associate Professor Fran Biley’s recent research project has been recognised by the Dorset Echo today.

Working with Hannah Walker of the Dorset Mental Health Forum the project funded by a Big Lottery Fund, ‘Writing for Recovery’ aims to help mental health service users develop their creative writing skills. BU Occupational Therapist Lecturer Kirsty Stanley is also involved in the project which has 8 sessions over 8 weeks from May and is fully subsidised, so is completely free for the participants.

The project also has a branch in Eastbourne run by Dr Alec Grant of Brighton University and looks to make a real impact on participants lives as Fran is quoted “Creative writing has been shown to be very therapeutic and we are sure that this important initiative will be very enjoyable and it will also contribute to the health and wellbeing of course participants”.