Focus on fiction: A series of workshops with Cambridge University’s creative writing tutors
Sat Jan 12 2019 at 10:00 am to Sat Apr 13 2019 at 04:00 pm
The Guardian, Kings Place, London, United Kingdom
The Guardian, Kings Place, London, United Kingdom
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Hone your storytelling skills and energise your writing with Professor Jem Poster and Dr Sarah Burton of the University of Cambridge creative writing programme
Whether you are a beginner when it comes to writing fiction, or you’d simply like to sharpen and energise your practice, this four-part series with Professor Jem Poster and Dr Sarah Burton, will boost your confidence and help you develop key skills. Currently leading the master’s degree course in creative writing at the University of Cambridge, between them Jem and Sarah have over 30 years’ experience and have published fiction, non-fiction and poetry.
This comprehensive creative writing series will start with a look at memory and imagination, helping you to unlock your creative resources. The subsequent sessions will see you delve into character and plot development, finding your narrative voice and the right point of view for your story, as well as creating a convincing setting.
You will work in a supportive and relaxed environment, participate in practical exercises and be able to receive feedback and ask any questions you may have during the sessions. Although you are encouraged to sign up for the entire series to best develop your writing, you also have the option to attend individual sessions, bookable via links below.
If you book the series, you will save £59.
Memory and imagination - Saturday 12 January 2019
Aspiring writers are often told: “Write what you know.” But how do we really know what we know? When Shakespeare created compelling characters, such as Othello and Shylock, he didn’t know what it was to be black or Jewish – but he did know what it was to be an outsider, and he found in his own remembered experience the basis for an understanding of his characters’ imagined lives.
Working in a supportive and relaxed environment, you will participate in practical exercises and be able to receive feedback and ask any questions you may have during the sessions. You will leave with the knowledge and confidence to use your own experiences and observations as springboards to writing imaginative fiction.
Character and plot - Saturday 15 February 2019
Which comes first, a great plot idea or a brilliant character? Ideally the two feed into each other, but it’s often difficult to know where to begin. Whether you have great ideas for stories and struggle with characterisation, or invent wonderful characters but are daunted by plot – or, indeed, if you find both challenging – this session will help you create believable three-dimensional characters and convincing stories for them to inhabit and influence.
With the tutors, you will discuss how characters reveal themselves through speech and action, how plot may determine character and how character may influence plot.
Point of view and narrative voice - Saturday 9 March 2019
When you have your story and your characters, how do you decide the point of entry for your reader? First person or third person? Reliable or unreliable narrator? One point of view or several? Whose voice do you want the reader to “hear”? All stories pivot on the question of which character knows what and – crucially – what your reader knows and when you let them know it.
This session engages with the narrative issues facing the fiction writer in relation to voice and viewpoint, exploring the advantages and limitations of various approaches. You will discover the importance of narrative voice and viewpoint to the establishment and development of your stories, and leave feeling more confident about cultivating your own voice and those of your characters.
Time and place - Saturday 13 April 2019
How do you create atmosphere and make your readers feel as though they are “really there”? How do you inspire a strong sense of time and place without holding up the narrative? This session will explore the ways in which you can evoke environment, from the intimate and domestic to the epic landscape, and make context work for your story.
You will observe the treatment of time and place in storytelling, paying attention to both landscapes and interiors. You will leave the day with an understanding of how time operates in fiction and how you can create a sense of place through concrete cues and sensory stimuli in your writing.
Jem Poster is the author of two novels – Courting Shadows and Rifling Paradise – as well as a collection of poetry, Brought to Light. He has also recently completed Volume 3 of the six-volume series, Edward Thomas: Prose Writings. He has won major prizes in the Cardiff International Poetry and the Peterloo Poets Open Poetry competitions. He is emeritus professor of creative writing at Aberystwyth University and has been chair of the editorial board of New Welsh Review and programme advisor to the Cambridge Institute of Continuing Education's MSt in creative writing. He is currently director of the institute's international summer programme in creative writing and is an affliated lecturer of the institute. He is director of academic programmes for the Financial Times Oxford Literary Festival and in 2014 was writer in residence at Arizona State University.
Sarah Burton was founder of the creative writing MSt at Cambridge University’s Institute of Continuing Education and was its director from 2013 to 2017. Her publications include two critically acclaimed biographies, Impostors: Six Kinds of Liar and A Double Life: A Biography of Charles and Mary Lamb, which was shortlisted for the Mind Book of the Year award; a children’s book, The Miracle in Bethlehem: A Storyteller’s Tale; a page-to-stage guide, How to Put on a Community Play, and the humorous Complete and Utter History of the World By Samuel Stewart, Aged 9.
All Guardian Masterclasses are fully accessible - but please contact us if you have any queries or concerns.
Full course and returns information on the Masterclasses website