In a few short weeks I will be offering a workshop at LFest, which takes place at Uttoxeter racecourse on 18th to 21 July. My workshop was born out of my own desire. I always knew, you see, that there was a story I always wanted to write, and I am lucky enough to be writing it now, for my second novel. But so many women I meet say, Oh, I would love to write, I’d love to write my story, but I can’t. Too many women see the act of writing as something beyond their reach.
There is no reason why anyone can’t write the story they really want to write. Inside all of us, I think, is at least one story we’ve always wanted to tell, to give shape to. To share. Most of human conversation is in the form of stories – what did you do today, how was your day? You’ll never guess what happened to me/my sister/my friend . . .
Deep inside us is the story we always wanted to write. We tell small stories every day – in texts, in social media, in conversation with others. But sometimes we just want to tell the story, the one about our first love maybe, or about coming out to family, or travelling to an amazing place. Such stories can seem inconsequential, or they can be life-changing events that signpost a point where we took a new direction, gained a new understanding, made a decision. Stories can be funny, sad, happy, poignant, bitter, angry, uplifting – but most importantly, they are about US, about women whose lives matter.
Women’s lives matter. The tiny details of a woman’s life are the essence of the best stories, the very stuff of life. All that matters is how we tell those stories. I spent six years of a PhD studying women’s writing and women’s life writing, and was able to conclude that fiction or non-fiction, the stories women tell matter. I have found my identity over and over again through reading books, whether it be literary fiction (Jane Austen has a lot to answer for) or lesbian romances (oh yes, my guilty secret, I have hundreds of them). I have identified strong characters I admire and would like to emulate, characters that resonate with me, characters that remind me of women I know. I spent too many years judging myself against these other writers and feeling that I could never compare. Then I decided that comparison is a waste of time. Every story matters, and everyone can write their story if they give themselves the time, the tools, and the permission to write. This is a lesson I have to tell myself day after day, because I live in a world where that message is lost in the overwhelming cacophony of other voices constantly trying to persuade me that I am not thin/clever/good/beautiful/clever/successful enough. In the wider world, the image of the woman writer is not always positive. Still I persevere, I continue to write, and to read. I know there are still books out there, and stories, that will change my life in the future, and I know that there are still stories waiting to be written that will change others’ lives too.
So that’s why I decided to run this workshop. I’m not sure how many people will show up, but I hope that at least a few will, and we can explore the things that help make the story what you want it to be. From my perspective, it involves finding your voice, overcoming the fear of the blank page, and making the characters work. The other part, of course, is keeping the reader interested – and that’s where the plotting comes in. But whichever way you look at it, this is a chance for me to work with others to explore how to get that story written, and then what to do with it once you have given it shape.
I’m really looking forward to it.
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