Going out on a playdate….

Going out on a playdate….
Going out on a playdate….

Remember when you were six, and a friend would knock on your door to see if you wanted to play?

 

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That’s what Artists Dates should feel like! Although of course, it’s your own door you are knocking on. (And maybe sometimes slamming it shut? You are too busy, too important, too hard up, too scared, too….. Can you remember what that felt like? When you were told that little Jenny could NOT come out to play right now… Why on earth would you do that to yourself!)

Anyway, what’s exciting about this year’s artists dates is that my clever friend, Meg Sanders, has been joining me as part of a series she’s writing exploring creativity. You can find (and follow) it here. (and you can find Meg on twitter here, so you can be a real follower…)

Meg went right off the deep end, with a list of 100 things you fear (YAY, COME AND PLAY WITH ME, IT’S GOING TO BE FUN…) but I’ve been approaching it more gently. Well hell, it’s my list, I can do what I want.

So here’s the result of my first playdate – a vision board on Pinterest of the kind of 80 year old I want to be. It was a more surprising, more exciting and more inspiring exercise than I could ever have thought. I thoroughly recommend doing it yourself!

And do let me know if you decide to take your self on some playdates… the original list is here.

Below: for your amusement, please find a little snippet of my future self

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Some dates for your diary

Some dates for your diary

2nd February – Poetry Readling
I will be reading as part of a Cultured Llama gathering at the Camden and Lumen series, 7 – 9.30 at Trinity United Reform Church in London. Nearest tube station: Camden Town (Turn left out of the station and you’ll soon find us on the corner of Buck Street on your left)

I’m delighted to be reading alongside these amazing poets – David Cooke, Vanessa Gebbie, Mark Holihan, and Maria C. McCarthy and there will also be an open mic.

Entrance £5/£4

Wine and Soft Drinks Table

All proceeds go to support the homeless in the Cold Weather Shelters


3rd March – An introduction to Writing for Wellbeing

This is a day course looking at how journal writing can be helpful as part of your everyday life. There will be room for discussion and structured writing exercises in a safe group setting. It’s suitable for everyone who already keeps a journal and is looking for more inspiration, or those who are just curious!

Saturday: 10am – 4pm
Course code: 17TON340 – More information on the University of Kent website.
Course fee: £60

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And following demand and continuing the popular series, these on-going sessions are suitable for new and returning students.

More Writing for Wellbeing – Tonbridge
Using journal writing, research and examples, we will explore structured and free exercises that will help with all aspects of your life. Suitable for all levels of writers, from absolute beginners or those wanting a kick-start. There is no obligation to share your work. Warning – writing like this is addictive, life enhancing (and fun)!

What previous students have said:
* “I’ve loved this course! It’s been surprising, inspiring, emotional but above all enjoyable.”
* “I would attend another course by Sarah Salway in a blink of an eye.”
* “Sarah creates exactly the right supportive environment in which people can express themselves and surprise themselves. When’s the next course?”
* Sarah is fantastic. She is able to bring out the best in the student and at the same time make them feel relaxed and at ease!”

6 weeks: 19, 26 March; 9, 16, 23, 30 April
Mondays: 1-3pm
Course code: 17TON339 – more information and booking here.
Course fee:£120

An Inbetween Literary Quiz

An Inbetween Literary Quiz
An Inbetween Literary Quiz

It’s the inbetween week, I always think. Getting rid of most of the Christmas decorations but not quite ready for spring – where robins and tulips share mantlepieces.

inbetween

So if you have a few minutes spare, here are a few questions (book themed) from our New Year quiz… no prizes (the coveted bag of brussel sprout shaped chocolates has already been taken) but if you email me, I’ll send you the answers!

1.Top Ten Bestsellers for 2017??? PICK THE REAL FIVE….

  • The Miniaturist by Jesse Burton
  • How to Clean Up Your Life by Kirstie Allsop
  • 5 Ingredients – Quick & Easy Food by Jamie Oliver
  • Bad Dad by David Walliams
  • The Avocado Diet by Jane Kanes
  • The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena
  • Fashion Tips from the Handmaids Tale by Gloria Lines
  • Guinness World Records 2018
  • Urban Streetlight Bathing by Plum Lawrence
  • Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

 

2. Name the book that has this first line…

  1. “Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.”
  1. You don’t know about me, without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, but that ain’t no matter.”
  1. “It was the afternoon of my eighty-first birthday, and I was in bed with my catamite when Ali announced that the archbishop had come to see me.”
  1. “It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.”
  1. “Call me Ishmael. Some years ago – never mind how long precisely – having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world.”

3. Which author has had his/her name on franked envelopes this year?

4. What have these five books below got in common?

* “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” by Thomas Piketty
* “A Brief History of Time” by Stephen Hawking
* “Thinking Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman
* “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg
* “Flash Boys” by Michael Lewis

5. According to PLR figures, which of these three authors was NOT in the top ten most borrowed in UK libraries. Was it a) Harper Lee b) Lee Child or c) Jeffrey Archer?

ENJOY!

52 Artists Dates for 2018

52 Artists Dates for 2018

You are probably aware of the concept of the Artist Date. It was named and made famous by Julia Cameron in her book The Artists Way as a way creative people can fill up their well once a week.

The Artist Date is a once-weekly, festive, solo expedition to explore
something that interests you. The Artist Date need not be overtly
“artistic” — think mischief more than mastery. Artist Dates fire up the
imagination. They spark whimsy. They encourage play. Since art is about the
play of ideas, they feed our creative work by replenishing our inner well
of images and inspiration. When choosing an Artist Date, it is good to ask
yourself, “what sounds fun?” — and then allow yourself to try it.

The Artist is, of course, YOU and as it’s you and your artist self going out on a date, it’s a rather joyous way of spending time on your own. I do this regularly now, and have got over completely the indecision of what I should do. I’m completely selfish in not allowing anyone to come along with me – this is just for me and artist-me!

Here are my list of 52 possible weekly dates for this year ahead (plus a couple more for good luck). I’d love to know what has worked for you, and what you might add to my list.

1. Write a list of 100 things that would terrify me to do (eg do a stand up comedy act)
2. Have a fancy cocktail in a bar on my own. This one is good!
3. Pick a letter – any letter – and go for a walk to take photographs of things beginning with that letter.
4. Bake bread
5. Swim in a river
6. Swim in a lido – this one?
7. Make a herb garden
8. Take my yoga mat to a park and practise under a tree
9. Buy five books from a charity shop, write a note in each and leave them for others to find
10. Go to a new café and enjoy an excellent breakfast
11. Pack a yummy picnic and a good book to go to a new park, roll out a rug and enjoy
12. Visit the RFL poetry library and choose five books at random to read
13. Make a list of London libraries – go to one I’ve never visited
14. Join in on a life-drawing class
15. Make the kind of dressing up box I wanted as a child
16. Take a selfie dressed as the main character of a book I’m reading
17. Make biscuits and give to friends
18. Go to a public lecture about a subject I know nothing about (not hard!)
19. Visit a cemetery I haven’t been to before and make notes
20. Write a fan letter. Send
21. Enjoy an afternoon watching TED talks
22. Go to a concert of a completely new music to me
23. Take a boat trip
24. Paint or draw a self portrait
25. Write a letter to someone I haven’t seen for ten years
26. Make a playlist of music I haven’t listened to for ten years
27. Plan a road trip round childhood haunts
28. Make a list of 100 things that make me happy
29. Make a miniature garden
30. Go to a candlelit concert at St Martins
31. Learn a poem by heart
32. Record myself reading poetry
33. Go on a guided walk
34. Go to a café and plot out a novel I’ll never write
35. Dance
36. Go foraging
37. Make a list of at least five strangers I speak to today
38. Plant seeds
39. Buy seeds (or visit a seed swap) and make beautiful seed packets to send to friends
40. Got to a chocolate shop and spend a long time choosing just five chocolates to buy
41. Have my own indoor fireworks show
42. Make a photo book of the photographs that make me happy
43. Get a tattoo
44. Go to a matinee
45. Create a vision board on Pinterest for me when I’m 80
46. Create a playlist to give to a friend
47. Buy a second hand book and create a Blackout poem
48. Go to 5 Rhythms dance
49. Go to a park and identify five trees – make a zine
50. Try on an outfit I’d never be able to afford
51. Sit in on a jury trial
52. Go to the opera – research fully beforehand
53. Go to a lunchtime talk at the National Gallery
54. Go to the Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities
55. Find the perfect red lipstick
56. Go to Strawberry Hill
57. Take note of, and research, the statues I walk past every day
58. Go to a market – choose interesting looking items, make a still life. Photograph it.

Five things to do with freewrites…. or so you have done a ‘freewrite’, what next?

Five things to do with freewrites…. or so you have done a ‘freewrite’, what next?
Five things to do with freewrites…. or so you have done a ‘freewrite’, what next?

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I always use freewrites in my writing classes. They help at the beginning of a class to get us in the mood, to move from the everyday to the writing journal, to help settle us as writers in the energy of the group. Often, to be honest, I find that those six minutes of giving yourself over to the page and not trying to pre-empt or control your writing is valuable enough in itself, but I can also understand the interest in doing something, anything, with this writing.

So here are some of the things we have been working with recently in my regular group. I’d love to know what you do with your freewrites too? There are some recent prompts at the bottom of this post too. I normally set the timer for six minutes, pick one and let my pen move!

Five things to do with freewrites:

1. Go through your writing and underline or circle any phrases or words that have energy for you. Now write one at the top of a new page, and start another six minutes of writing with this as your prompt. The advantage is that this will take you far away from what you normally write about.

2. As above, but this time you’ll use one of your underlined phrases as a title for a new piece. Every time we have done this in my group, we have come up with extraordinary, surprising and often moving titles that we would never have found otherwise. Often the piece they inspire will be surprising too.

3. Read back and reflect on what you have written. Be interested, not judgemental. Kathleen Adams calls this the ‘reflective write’, and suggests taking the phrase ‘When I read this, I am interested in…’ or ‘When I read this, I am surprised by…’ as your starting prompt. The reason for doing this is that you start to mentor your own writing self, noticing what works for you and what doesn’t. It often helps you to pull out the centre, or the heart, of the piece too.

4. For this one you need someone else, but put your freewrite to one side, and in pairs, just talk to one another in turn about what came up from the original prompt. Take it in turns to listen, just that, no interrupting or affirming, while the other one talks. Then you have two options. You can write from what they have told you – a kind of writing/speaking Chinese Whispers, or go back to the page and look at what you originally wrote. It’s fascinating to see a) what sticks from our writing, and b) the differences in how we ‘speak something’ and how we write it.

5. If you are in the middle of a large piece of fiction, a novel or a short story, then use the prompt to freewrite as if you were one of your own fictional characters. Get into their heads and use first person and follow the freewrite rules – don’t let your pen stop, don’t censor yourself, don’t read back as you’re writing. It may be that you won’t use anything you’ve written, but you’ll get to know your characters so much better. It’s particularly useful for minor characters who still need to be three-dimensional, and helps in getting their voice correct but also mining those small details that bring your writing to life.
 

Twenty-Five Freewrite Prompts

*          A collection of…
*          In a year’s time…
*          My first home…
*          My favourite smell is…
*          I want…
*          Liar liar, pants on fire
*          When I was twelve…
*          I want to explore…
*          These things I have loved (Rupert Brooke)
*          The first time I…
*          I read because
*          My life in numbers…
*          It’s been along time since…
*          If I had longer, I would write about…
*          Shut your eyes and think of shapes, now pick the one that keeps
coming to you – oblong, square, round, and freewrite from that…
*          The language of home…
*          I hate it when…
*          Ten things I will not think about in my last seconds of life…
*          You don’t know me but we could be friends…
*          If I could change anything in the world, I would…
*          The last time I danced…
*          Things to do today
*          The things I carry (physical or beliefs)
* My brush with fame
* Ten snapshots from yesterday

So how do you organise your book shelves?

So how do you organise your book shelves?

Never let it be said we’re not exciting in Tunbridge Wells. Not only have we recently had our own sex festival, but our librarians have gone crazy…

redbooks

They’ve been arranging the books by colour instead of the normal (boring) categories.

blue books

I must admit I loved it. Particularly on a grey day. Look at the yellow suns here… I noticed I wasn’t the only one walking round the table stroking them.

sunshine books

What do you mean, you don’t stroke books? How else do you let them know that you’ll come back and read them one day?

colourful books

But aside from the joy of it – and shouldn’t libraries and books be about joy? – it felt like I’d walked into one of my own short stories, In Good Order, in which a man tries a bit too hard to distil order on his life/wife via their book shelves. It’s here if you want to read it …. In Good Order.

More books… #100Women100Books

More books… #100Women100Books
More books… #100Women100Books

Following on from this post collating the recommendations we’ve been getting through the #100Women100Books project, perhaps ONE HUNDRED books aren’t quite enough for you. So I’m going to keep putting up the choices we’ve been getting through our website, www.spreadsheetsandmoxie.wordpress.com. As I hope you know, we are still collecting book recommendations – please visit the website and add yours….

*
From: Jacqueline Kington
Book: Long time no see by Hannah Lowe
Why I chose this book: It just touched me very deeply. She is a wonderful writer…
*
From: Rachel Seeland Scott
Book: Only Every Yours by Louise O’Neill
Why I chose this book: I chose this book because of its controversial theme and captivating writing, which evokes vivid imagery. To me, it was fascinating, as it took everything girls did to each other in secret and turned it into a social normality which was encouraged as: ‘there is always room for improvement’. The writer also encourages us to review our ethical code, since the girls are made and not born, which is shown by their lower case names and treatment by the human males of this dystopian society.
*
From: Ali Jones
Book: Tale for a Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
Why I chose this book: I love the clever way this book creates a gripping narrative woven with Zen wisdom.
*
From: Alison Belfield
Book: Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood
Why I chose this book: This is the first book by Margaret Atwood I read. It was so brilliant that I went on to read all her others; my world is a better place for having her books in it.
*
From: Helen Jamieson
Book: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Why I chose this book: Because she could see into the mind of a tortured man. I think it is a great love story, powerful, sad and tragic and beautifully written. Heathcliffe is one of fictions greatest.
*
From: Jane Rogers
Book: THE GOLDEN NOTEBOOK by Doris Lessing
Why I chose this book: This is the most honest novel about relationships between men and women that I have ever read. It changed the way I thought about political involvement, feminism, and writing, and is as timely now as when it was published in 1962.

Creative writing course – 25th July

Creative writing course – 25th July

Just a quick note to confirm this is now sold out. Thanks for all the interest. Do let me know – sarah@sarahsalway.co.uk – if you would like to be on my mailing list for future courses though. 

 

There are just a few places left for my one day creative writing course on Tuesday 25th July, 11-4pm in Tunbridge Wells.

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Come and write with me in my home, with supportive like-minded people – both beginners and published writers. You may have come to one of my courses before, or just looking to try something different, but this is a day of brand new inspiration for both poetry and prose writers using journal techniques and external prompts. We’ll write together, reading out only if you want, and you’ll leave with new ideas in your notebook, some new writers to find out more about and some new exercises to try out on your own.

The cost is £60 including lunch. Do let me know if you’d like a place by emailing me at sarah@sarahsalway.co.uk.

Once I hear from you, I’ll send you venue details etc – we are a five minute walk from the train station in Tunbridge Wells, and close to all the shops, cafes etc if you need before or after inspiration!

If you can’t make it, don’t despair! I made a star chart (definitely not just for children) together with daily writing prompts for my regular writing group which finished last week. Email me to be put on my mailing list (sarah@sarahsalway.co.uk) and I’ll send you a copy to get some at-home inspiration!

 

Books and cake in Tunbridge Wells

Books and cake in Tunbridge Wells

I’m so enormously proud when I hear stories of how writers who’ve attended my courses have gone on to do good things. It’s not about taking the credit, anyone who has even tried to write will know you really do it all by yourself at the end of the day! But – maybe because of that – it’s a long solitary journey and it’s nice to have been along for a little of the ride! So meet Tanya Van Hasselt, and her two novels:

All Desires Known jpeg front coverOf Human Telling jpeg front cover (2)

Now, for people in Tunbridge Wells, you have the chance to get signed copies of Tanya’s books this weekend (Saturday 1st July) with the money going to West Kent Mind. Here’s what Tanya says:

“In recent years I’ve been involved in raising money for various mental health charities, mostly through King Charles the Martyr church monthly charities scheme.

We’ve got our church fete this coming weekend Saturday July 1st 12 noon until 3pm. The fun and games are all in the church hall in Warwick Park but in the main church building we have got a few charity stalls and homemade cakes – and me at a table selling copies of my two novels All Desires Known and Of Human Telling at cut price and 100% in aid of West Kent Mind, the local mental health charity. West Kent Mind is trying to expand its work in the area to fill in the gaps left by the overstretched NHS  – much needed, especially given today’s news about this area having to send more people out of the area for treatment than any other…”

Get your reading recommendations here…. more books added to the #100women100books library

Get your reading recommendations here…. more books added to the #100women100books library

Following yesterday’s post about our #100women100books library, I’m very pleased to list here some of the recommendations we’ve been getting via our website… ENJOY! And remember, we’ll be giving daily updates of our library on our Facebook page before revealing our whole library on 20th July when I’m off to the Compton Verney‘s Womens Library for our second writing residency there. Below’s a detail from one of the Compton Verney paintings!

Thank you so much to everyone who has contributed.

Book title: Geek Love

Author: Katherine Dunn

Why I chose this book (1-2 sentences): When I first read this book as a teenager I felt like I had discovered another planet. The Binewski family were so vivid, so fascinating and so real even when I read it again 20 years later. Just incredible.
Chosen by: Cait Morgan

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Book title: Good Behaviour

Author: Molly Keane

Why I chose this book (1-2 sentences): A novel from 1981 by the sharp and witty Irish writer Molly Keane – very funny, and also utterly agonising on family life, as well as wild socialising, and all its ‘glamour and malice’. A keenly intuitive and observant lover of people, food, creatures, mischief and life.
Chosen by: Katherine Pierpoint

*

Book title: Life After Life

Author: Kate Atkinson

Why I chose this book (1-2 sentences): Everyone’s life is the result of chance happenings and ‘roads not taken’ (after Robert Frost). This book brilliantly explores these many possibilities in the life of a woman called Ursula whose life spans much of the twentieth century.
Chosen by: Clare Dudman

 

*

Book title: Olive Kitteridge

Author: Elizabeth Strout

Why I chose this book (1-2 sentences): It’s a beautifully written, wonderfully insightful book that follows the life of central character Olive Kitteridge from adulthood through to old age. Olive is a woman as women are, not as she ought to be: she is flawed and fascinating and magnificently human.
Chosen by: A J Ashworth

 

*

Book title: To Kill a Mockinbird

Author: Harper Lee

Why I chose this book (1-2 sentences): I first read the book at 12 years of age when I was at my most ‘priggish’ about what was right or wrong. My moral compass has matured but still consider it most famous quote to ‘walk in another man’s shoes’ as a good guide. I wanted to be Scout

Chosen by: Cas Holmes

*

Book title: The Road Home

Author: Rose Tremain

Why I chose this book (1-2 sentences): I loved the way she turns predudice on its head, gifting us a wonderful character and illuminating his situation from the off.

Chosen by Zoe King

 

*

Book title: Devil’s Cub

Author: Georgette Heyer

Why I chose this book (1-2 sentences): Any of he comedies are beautifully crafted and represent the Regency era and the English upper class at its worst and best. She started the regency genre -underrated -writing for her money for her ungrateful family ( I think) she churned them out and surely she is worth a mention somewhere on the list.

Chosen by: Hazel Stewart

 

*

Book title: Himself

Author: Jess Kidd

Why I chose this book (1-2 sentences): This is a rollicking read, with rich language and amazing characterisation of both the living and the dead. It made me laugh and sometimes cry and I loved it.

Chosen by: Cath Barton

 

*

Book title: Voyage in the Dark

Author: Jean Rhys

Why I chose this book (1-2 sentences): Because Jean Rhys wrote about difficult subjects in a time that didn’t want to hear about it, including sexism, discrimination, and that one harrowing illegal abortion scene in Voyage in the Dark. She was incredibly intelligent and she used her own harrowing and bleak experiences as inspiration for her passionate, stylistic and hugely under-appreciated novels.

Chosen by: Holly Anderson

 

*

Book title: The Key (And The Name Of The Key Is Willingness)

Author: Cheri Huber

Why I chose this book (1-2 sentences): It is quite simply the best book on spiritual practice I’ve ever read; brief, clear, down-to-earth (if that doesn’t sound too incongruous for a spiritual book) – and requires no faith in anything unseen, only willingness face what is.

Chosen by: Tim Pieraccini

*

Book title: The Weather in the Streets

Author: Rosamond Lehmann

Why I chose this book (1-2 sentences): I read this book (published in 1936) many years ago but it still resonates. It’s about double standards, women’s vulnerability in general and the suffering of a woman after a backstreet abortion.

Chosen by: Patricia Borlenghi

*

Book title: The Left Hand of Darkness

Author: Ursula K. Le Guin

Why I chose this book (1-2 sentences): It’s science fiction, it’s queer and it’s about friendship … and such good storytelling. And it is journey … so many topics I dearly love.

 

Chosen by: Alice Puck

*

Book title: God of Small Things

Author: Arundhati Roy

Why I chose this book (1-2 sentences): Because it helped me understand the power and magic of words

 

Chosen by: Vipasha

 

*

Book title: The Red Tent

Author: Anita Diamant

Why I chose this book (1-2 sentences): No other book has stayed with me like this book. The strong sense of sisterhood mixed with the horror of what happens to the main character, Dinah, is both beautiful and haunting. It made me really appreciate the female friendships I have and realise how I couldn’t survive without the strong, intelligent and courageous women in my life.

Chosen by: Hester Mackay

 

*

Book title: Joan Makes History

Author: Kate Grenville

Why I chose this book (1-2 sentences): This writes women into history, eg when Captain Cook discovers Australia, the woman in the McCubbin painting, The Pioneers, and many more. Intertwined with the story of an ordinary family, with our own moments of history eg moving out of home for the first time,first day of school etc.
Beautifully constructed as usual Kate Grenville.

 

Chosen by: Joan Ryan