Saturday, 1 May 2010
TEACHING IN STOCKHOLM - WEEK 1
I am spending a fortnight teaching Creative Writing in the English Department of Stockholm University. I have two groups of students, mostly drawn from departments other than English - many of whom are not studying anything within the Humanities, and want to explore something creative out of sheer interest. I run The Fiction Workhouse, an online workspace for writers, and for a month before arriving here on 23rd April, those students who wished had a chance to write stories and flash, a chance to look at critiques done in an analytical way, a chance to discuss the craft of writing- an ice-breaker.
Stockholm is a gorgeous city - I am very lucky to have this opportunity. I am finding the teaching tiring, but when possible, I am out walking, soaking up the atmosphere. The Old Town is lovely - narrow streets packed with shops and restaurants, galleries and homes. The sea is everywhere - but there is no smell of the sea. Without looking at a map you'd think you were on an estuary, in a city built on a hundred islands. The Baltic Sea is very diffferent - and it has its advantages - the Vasa, flagship of the Swedish Navy, which sank in 1628 and was raised in the 1950s - is all but perfectly preserved. No sea worms to eat the timbers. The seven-floor Vasa museum has to be one of the very best I have visited.
I teach for two-hour seminars, given to two groups. So the outline is delivered twice in the same day - but each session ends up very very different, thanks to the different writers in each group, naturally. The reasons for writing, for reading, ways of creating vibrant characters, character voice and writer's voice, structure, the use of language in character - opening narratives and and closing narratives have filled this week. We've also talked at length about the pros and cons of 'writing other', with some hilarious results in the writing exercises that followed. It is hard to tease out one topic without referring to others - the vast net of craft that holds up a story. Each session begins with a fast writing exercise - an opportunity to stretch the creative muscles without planning - there have been some amazing results - it is a real joy to listen to the stories that rise up. Pic- Faris Mahmutovic playing in the Old Town