But my main aim was to develop a creative writing habit, or at least get some words down on paper, and in that respect the course was helpful. It focused on creating characters, which is something I struggle with: I’d happily write atmosphere and scenery all day, which is probably why I’m always writing about walking. We were prompted to use a journal to take notes on a daily basis and there were short exercises drawn from these observations each week. I found it invigorating to be forced to create new characters and scenarios to a tight deadline and I’m leaving the course with half a dozen ideas I’d like to develop.
The highlight, for me, was getting feedback and workshopping ideas with fellow students. I loved doing this in my undergrad years and I have really missed it. There were three points in the course for structured feedback, when each of us submitted a scene, character sketch or story we’d created and then gave feedback on other pieces. The feedback was based on specific questions and there were helpful feedback guidelines for first timers. It’s always interesting to see your writing through new eyes and to find out where your reviewers agree and disagree. I also enjoyed giving feedback, but there you go - I am an editor!
I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed the course so much if my partner hadn’t been doing it, too. We were able to discuss things verbally instead of typing up all our responses, we nudged each other into using our journals more, we encouraged each other when we hit stumbling blocks and of course we got to give each other extra feedback. If you’re planning on doing a MOOC, I would really recommend doing it alongside someone else if you can.
- I notice her voice: she sounds mushy, the way old men sound mushy, as though she’s moving her mouth around a spoonful of memory porridge.
- Mrs Baxter, the village shopkeeper and postmistress, was a busybody.
- The rope of their conversation is fraying.
- Fans beat furiously at the dampness, a metallic hum you can block from your ears but not from the base of your skull.
- She holds her knife like a pencil, scribbling furiously into her eggs and toast.
- Ze remembers staring at a hole in the wrangled tin, where a nail or screw had once been, where the rusty weeds hung down.
- Emma said that the best way to a man’s stomach was through his navel, though even she had to admit that sometimes opening up the whole front was easier and more effective.
- I spent the morning inside, sewing, as the weather was atrocious.
- She walks beside me, sometimes, and reminds me how to see that of God in everyone.
- Dorothy had set herself three tasks that day.
- They talk like a weekend newspaper, like a dinner dance, stepping with friendly formality from one subject to the next.
- The ridge road tipped downhill and became a suburban street, lined with pebbledash houses.
- I needn’t have run for the bus.
- Adam remembered outside with skin that thrilled at the smack of rain, a mouth that savoured salt in the heavy heat of summer and lungs that sang when the gates were finally pushed back.
- There are memories that cut Gally’s life into now and before.