Decentring Classics: Bringing Minor Characters to the Foreground with Alison Case

Good morning book fans.

Just thought I’d take a moment to tell you about a really fun day I had a few weeks ago. A small group of writers gathered together at Ponden Hall, the house that inspired Emily Bronte to create Thrushcross Grange in her beloved novel, Wuthering Heights. This was part of a range of events celebrating the Bronte Festival of Women’s Writing.

Workshop

Led by Alison Case, author of Nelly Dean, we delved into the lives of some minor characters of classic novels. Most people chose to write about Bronte characters. We talked about Bertha Mason, Mrs. Reed, Helen Burns, Adele Varens in Jane Eyre; Isabella Linton, Zillah in Wuthering Heights among others.

Being in the inspirational home of the Lintons, I felt drawn to Isabella and wrote a short piece for her. During our discussions about Isabella, we explored her motivations with a strong emphasis on her childish idealism. We also talked about Emily Bronte’s opinion of Isabella and came to conclusion that she probably didn’t like her very much. I was interested in the influence on Isabella of the gender norms and values in her society. She had very limited options as a woman living in a rural location. She would have felt all sorts of social pressures from her family and while she is portrayed by Bronte as being a heady cocktail of downtrodden, masochistic and selfish, I like to think that there’s a little bit of self-assured control in there as well. Yes, she made some unusual choices and reveled in the torture of young dogs, but she was moulded into the creature she became by societal pressures. I wanted to give her a voice that cut through all the incidental evidence we have about her through the eyes of Lockwood and Nelly Dean.

Here is Isabella at Thrushcross Grange, a few weeks into Cathy’s lengthy sojourn, following being caught by the dogs as she spied on the Lintons with Heathcliff. Isabella is writing in her journal.

Mrs Phillips is bringing tea and cake into the room. Again. I am busying my mind and hand in this activity so that I will not be tempted to indulge her fancy that I love her cooking or that I shall remain so petite with such richness in my belly. There Edgar goes taking his fill. He is feigning a deep interest in a small volume of Shakespeare. I know not who he is trying to impress. That wild child will no more step inside the house than I would step out of it today. Unlike my deluded older brother, I see very clearly where Miss Cathy’s heart belongs and it most assuredly is not with poor Edgar. Do not mistake me; I do not sympathise with the fool. Pity, perhaps, but pity cannot survive where the seeds of triumph take root and flourish. All in time. There is no malice, no real harm. We are siblings and therefore share a healthy rivalry. But all rivalries must one day declare a victor, only in our case perhaps a “Victoria” is more apt a term? My! How clever I am. One day, perhaps I will share this tome with H. What fun we shall have as we pore over these pages and find new ways to ridicule our respective siblings and their pretentious marriage. Of course we will likely stay away from the Grange for many months. While I am while sure my H will be as devoted to me as he is devilishly charming, I cannot trust Cathy, for what hold can my poor insipid brother have on her affections when such a man as H is present. Of course I plan to trust H implicityliy but care must be taken. C is wild and uncouth. I must not expose H to that. And of course, once the marriages are made and homes established I shall be declared winner. For I will have H, who is wanted by C who is wanted by E, all the while being adored by Heathcliff. It is such a plan. And now I think I will eat some cake after all.

Alicia Bruce, September 2015

I was largely influenced by the amazing array of homemade cakes that were brought out for us, mid-session. I think I heard every single participant say that this was the most beautiful writing workshop they had ever been on. I concur. Look …

stairsmoorsPonden HallAlisonFireplaceCakeBox bedBedroomView

Can’t wait for next year’s Bronte Festival of Women’s Writing! 

While we’re on the subject, I believe there will be a celebration of all things Bronte at the Huddersfield Literature Festival 2016 which runs from 3rd to 13th March 2016, so keep an eye out for that.

Talking Statues Competition Runner Up!!

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Hi everybody!

Just a quick post to let you know some exciting news. I entered the Talking Statues writing competition in October and guess what? I’m a runner up!!

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I found out about Talking Statues via fellow blogger Gina on her blog Playwright’s Competition Calendar. (You should follow her. She shares lots of interesting news).  The competition was to write a 400 word monologue for one of eight statues, four in London and four in Manchester. I chose to write for the handsome chap pictured above, Stan the T-Rex. Stan lives in Manchester Museum. He is a bit scary looking at first but don’t let that put you off. He is very lovely really, plus he’s been through quite a lot so y’know, give him a chance.

I found it quite tricky to write just 400 words. After visiting the museum and sitting with Stan for an hour or so, I had many many notes to wade through. I began by absorbing as much information as I could from the displays around Stan. The brief was to be educational and informative as well as entertaining, so I wanted to be as factually correct as possible. I then just sat with Stan for a little while.  My initial draft was 1500 words, so trimming that down was very strange. I much prefer the longer version to my final 400 word piece. I might publish the full thing on here soon for your perusal, you lucky things you.

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The competition winner is BJ Edwards. His monologue has been recorded by an actor, which you can hear if you visit Stan at the museum. I haven’t made it yet but will hopefully pop in and visit him soon.

You can read all the runner up monologues, including mine (!) on the Manchester Museum website.

Enjoy

NaNoWriMo 2014

The year is getting on, leaves are changing colour before plummeting to their mossy ends, and I’m getting a real hankering for mulled wine. This can mean only one thing. It’s NaNoWriMo time! November is National Novel Writing Month. 30 days, 50, 000 words, 1.2 million coffee beans.

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Why should you do NaNoWriMo? You shouldn’t. Not if you don’t want to. Its very damaging socially. Your intermittent ideas will force you to keep very unreasonable hours. Plus all those dehydrating coffees do nothing for your skin. But here’s why I’m doing it anyway.

When new acquaintances ask me what I do, I veritably lie and loudly pronounce “I’M A WRITER DONCHA KNOW!”  I then realise that I haven’t said this at all but only thought it quite loudly to myself whilst emitting a low giggle. Consequently, my almost acquaintance unfairly concludes that I am quite insane and immediately moves on with their life, in a less deranged direction.

Sadly this is not made up and is loosely based on at least two real life experiences.

While my authoring claims may be considered to be incorrect, my means of employment having never involved the assemblage of words, I am a writer. Sort of. I write all the time. At home, when no-one’s alooking, but I’m still a writer.

However, because monies must be earned away from my writing desk, my writing time has slowly been squeezed out over the past few years (blogging and inane twitterings aside). NaNoWriMo is just brilliant because it allows you, nay commands you to focus solely on one idea. It gives you permission and the time to release that story that’s been jumping up and down on your imagination box, tapping away at your neurological pathways and invading all available orifices.

There’s nothing like a goal and a looming deadline to get stuff done. 30 days to write 50,000 words can be quite overwhelming. But broken down into daily chunks, it really is manageable. It helps if you have a plan. E.g. knowing beforehand what you want to write about and some idea of character and/ or plot is always a bonus. Some people draw up a schedule for each day, so that they don’t have to think too much. They can just write one scene and move on.

From what I’ve seen on twitter and the interwebs, real writers don’t wallow around in dozens of half formed ideas and self pity. They have one book. They talk about it, they promote it, they give talks based on the themes from that book. So, that is what I’m going to do this November. Just write. One book.For this reason, I’ll be taking a break from reviewing and blogging. Cue loud sobbing and despair from my hoards of readers. Calm down dear ones! A break will be occurring apart from one book blog tour that I’m involved with for this book on 12th November. I also have a couple of reviews in the pipeline for the end of October. But after that, no more! Until December when I have a very exciting post coming up. I’ll be reviewing Matt Gerrard’s novel Shadow and Shade. But I digress.

So, that’s why I will be NaNoWriMo-ing in November. Anybody else getting involved? Its very easy to sign up. Let me know. Maybe we can be writing buddies and bully each other into achieving that 1, 667 word count every day. I can be found on the NaNoWriMo website under the imaginative name of Alicia Simone. Look me up. What fun we’ll have.

Happy writing x

 

 

Write Now

Hello lovely readers

Hope your week has been fun thus far.  Today, I’m going to do a slight sales pitch for your eyeballs.  So, simultaneous apologies and allure-isms coming your way (this is a real word.  I know this cos I’m a writerer).

If you are a writerly type who enjoys a jaunt to the theatre, and you are located in the West Yorkshire area, then you should really know about Write Now.  Its a writing group specifically focused on writing for theatre.

A writer friend recently asked me, What actually happens in writing groups?  So for he, and anyone else who wants to know, here is a brief summary of what  actually happens in our writing group.

WHAT

Our main focus is writing for the stage but we do sometimes discuss screenplays too.  We talk about writing techniques including developing character, relationships between characters, place, purpose, motives, backstories.  We share reading recommendations, play recommendations, competition deadlines.  Sometimes we go watch a play together.  We talk about our goals and how to achieve them.  We read plays of established playwrights and some that we have written ourselves.  Oh, and we do some writing too.

All of this stuff might seem pretty obvious to any seasoned writer but talking about it really helps to hone our existing ideas and often create whole new ideas.  I always leave a Write Now sesh with at least five brand new characters and/or stories germinating in my head.

WHERE

Large Meeting Room, In the Attic, Up the Spiral Staircase, Through the Bar, Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, England, Planet Earth.

LBT

WHEN

Every other Tuesday, 7-9pm term time only.  (email letscreate@thelbt.org for Autumn dates)

WHO

Unlike a lot of other writing groups, we have the advantage of having a real life, published, working, human playwright to lead the way.  Emma Hill is our resident expert in all things theatre.  The rest of us are theatre and writing enthusiasts.  Apart from Emma, there are no professional writers among us (yet) but we are all really good and brilliant and funny.

WHY

Traditionally, writing is a solitary activity.   But writing for theatre definitely lends itself to writing groups.  We are able to bring our works in progress to the group and hear our characters come to life, through group readings.  This is where we discover if our ideas actually work and whether our characters are believable.  Yeah, you can always ask friends and family to read your scripts but there’s something quite delicious about sharing your work with peers.  We give each other honest and constructive feedback. Everyone has the opportunity to discuss any issues / ideas that they have about their own stuff.

MISCELLANEOUS

There are usually about 6 sessions per term. Each session is £8 and paid upfront at the beginning of term.  I think the cost is slightly less for students but I am not a student so I don’t take note of such things.

I originally joined Write Now following an active search for writing groups and stumbling across it on the LBT website.  I have always been a writer in secret but I wanted to meet other writers.  I was also interested in developing my somewhat non-existent dialogue writing skills within the stories I was scribbling.  What better way to do this than to dive into a writing medium that deals almost solely in dialogue!?

If you are a writer in West Yorkshire, wanting to develop your scriptwriting skills (or even if you just find yourself at a loss for what to do of a Tuesday evening, we’re not picky) Write Now is the place for you!  So, do pop along, wielding the writing implement of your choice, a sprinkling of theatre lovin’ enthusiasm, a big wodge of lined paper and join the fun!

Check out the Lawrence Batley Theatre website here

Email letscreate@thelbt.org or call 01484 430528 for more information