Spreading the word

Sometimes I have too many words in my life – in fact, recently I’ve written two poems, when I’ve set exercises in workshops and done them myself, about being tyrannised by words. But, really, spreading the word and the joy of words is what I do. And I’ve done a lot of it this week.

It was a great start with a course in Lichfield to help library staff in working with young people. 23 library staff attended the course, and it’s a full-on day, but I love running this course, and everyone gives good feedback (except of course there was one who said “nothing new” – obviously totally unaware of the reactions of the other 22, who all said that they learned a lot). One person there told me that I had inspired her to start writing poetry after a little workshop I ran as part of a conference; she’s read out the poem she wrote in the workshop and has done some more since. This word stuff is a bit contagious, I think. When I came home I wrote up all the feedback so it could be, er, fed back, and I worked on a bid for funding to support my hospital work from 2012 onwards.

I finished the bid on Tuesday; now it has to have a bit more input from other people before it can go before the funding body. And I finished typing up my new play, Terry Doyle. That’s gone out to some other people for comment; I know it needs a bit of work, but it’s always helpful to have other people’s comments before I set about the next draft. I hope they like it! Also I worked with my great group in Ross, who this week all tried something new, and did lots of prep. In the evening we went to see Skyline. Don’t bother. The script is appalling, the plot (even discounting the fact that it involves an alien invasion of earth) completely unbelievable; the special effects aren’t bad, but really, I want a bit more than that from a film.

On Wednesday I prepared two little talks for a conference on Saturday and did lots of prison stuff, and in the evening went to see a play in Stroud, which is one to be adjudicated, so I can’t say anything about it here. Except to mention that I always get lost in Stroud.

Thursday was the prison. I had asked my group to write either a 7-word story and a 70-word story, or a 700-word story, on the theme of soldiers (we’re going through the seven ages of man). Nearly all of them wrote several 7-word, one or two 70-word and a 700-word piece. They are amazing. Some of the pieces were really powerful; I’m lucky to have such fine writers in my group. In the afternoon my newsletter journalist and editor and I went to interview the catering manager, who has to provide three meals a day for each prisoner on £2.10 per person. She does an amazing job, but next time you hear anyone say how wonderful it is to be in prison, just remember that figure. What was terrific about this lady is that she loves her job, despite all the handicaps she has to work under, and if anyone tells her that they enjoyed a meal, it makes her week. Fortunately, they do.

In the evening I did lots of prep for Friday and Saturday. On Friday morning I was in the hospital, helping a lady with terminal cancer to write a poem to be read at her funeral. This I see as one the most important things I do for the patients in the hospital; I take huge care over these pieces, because these are the last words families and friends will hear from the person concerned, and they are so, so important. She wanted to make people laugh, too, and I think we succeeded in writing a poem that will do this and show everyone how much she cared about them. Wow. Many people can’t find words to do this on their own, and it’s one of the situations where only words will do. What a privilege I have. This is why, to my mind, it’s so important that the funding for this work continues.

At lunchtime I worked with the palliative care nurses in the hospital. It’s an hour just for them to be creative and not worry about anything else, and they always rise to it with some excellent pieces of writing.

And in the afternoon, more words with the patients at the doctors’ surgery. The Bloke has done a grand job in putting together a little video with some illustrating shots and some poems by the patients; I can’t wait to show it to them next week. This week, again, they all tried something they hadn’t done before; I make it harder and harder and they just get on with it as if they’ve been writing all their lives.

It was a busy day on Friday – in the evening I went to another play for adjudication, this time in Nailsworth.

And on Saturday I went to the Writers’ Toolkit conference in Birmingham. Jim Crace was the keynote speaker, and he was really inspiring. I was a panel member for two sessions, and it was lovely when people came up to me to say that they had found my talks inspiring; one woman said she would like me to come in and work at her school, so that was a good result – but the warmth and comments from the people there was more important.

And yesterday I went shopping. I forgot all about words, except to say Thank you to the shop assistants, and got some nice Christmas presents. And had a production meeting for the next big TADS thing.

But now I have loads of writing up to do, and lots of prep, and, as usual, I don’t know how I’m going to get it all done. So many words, so little time…

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