Have you heard about the Leeds Trinity Writers' Festival? One of our favourite events on the Leeds Trinity calendar, the Writers' Festival brings together students, staff and members of the local community for an inspirational day of workshops with professional writers. But what happens in these workshops? Intrigued, we asked Lynn Bauman-Milner - one of the many inspired attendees of the 2016 festival which took place on Wednesday 6 April. Lynn is one of our MA Creative Writing success stories, having had her debut short story collection, Dark Doors, published months before her graduation in December 2015. Lynn tells us more:
Lurking way back, somewhere in my lizard brain, was an indistinct sensation, more of an instinct of an event, as certain as spring, and just as glorious. A quick check of my calendar cued joyous dancing: the date for Leeds Trinity's 12th annual Writers' Festival was fast approaching. Last year's festival was so inspiring – meeting other writers, trying new approaches to writing – that I was determined to get to this one. And I was not disappointed.
It was a different experience for me this year – instead of meeting all new people all day long and generally be overwhelmed, I was able to greet friends not seen since last year, and was sought out by newcomers to answer questions about the MA in Creative Writing in particular, and Leeds Trinity in general.
The day began with a warm welcome from Leeds Trinity's Dr Amina Alyal
, which included a summary of Leeds Trinity's involvement with the wider creative writing community, highlighted by the involvement of several alumni, tutors and students with the upcoming Writing On Air festival with Chapel FM. Swiftly organised into our morning workshop groups, we were dispatched to various locations around campus.
For my morning workshop, I chose Bob Beagrie's 'Tai Chi, Poetry and Mindfulness Workshop' which incorporated exercises, movement and mindful breathing based on Tai Chi and Chi Gung disciplines. Taking inspiration from the movement and from ancient poetry, we were encouraged to write our thoughts or feelings on post-it notes. From there, Bob challenged us to write Cheuh-Chu poetry – four lines, 20 syllables total – using our experiences to explore imagery, as well as the constraint of the genre. As a self-professed 'scribbler of doggerel', I usually shy away from writing poetry; but after experiencing the clear serenity of breathing and movement that Bob's workshop created, poetry came forth from my pen and was not entirely crap. (Probably best that I leave the poetry writing to the likes of Amina and Oz Hardwick
For the afternoon, I attended Debjani Chatterjee's 'Postcard Voices' workshop – a little closer to my writing strengths, but I still found this to be a challenge. Though there was no real word limit, there was a space limit – fit your flash fiction or poem onto a postcard. (Difficult to judge for certain, for though we had postcards for examples, no postcards on which to write.) Debjani was very clear in the restrictions of Postcard Writing – there must be a voice, a recipient and a place where the writing occurs. Discussing the possible variations in interpreting these features allowed us to see that though the space of Postcard Writing is very limited, the possibilities for what to write – what voice, place, recipient, topic – was unlimited. We were then given loads of time to write – draft, read, edit, redraft, until the time was up. With every editing pass, I read to make sure that I wasn't just repeating myself; the Postcard demands that each word works hard for its position on the page, and superfluous flourishes were not welcome. Even the title carries more than its own weight in meaning. Finding the right word – one that carries extra weight with its connotation – was the paramount exercise in this workshop. (I finally understand why some writers recommend keeping a thesaurus next to your writing – not to replace plain words with fancy, embroidered ones, but to ensure that you have chosen just the right emotion to keep your word company.)
After four (and a half!) hours of workshops, I was stuffed full of words and ideas and new approaches to my own writing. (I must admit, I skipped the afternoon readings because I just had so many things crammed into my head by this point. I feared an imminent cranial explosion if I stayed to the very end.) Once again, the Leeds Trinity Writers' Festival proved itself to be brilliant day for celebrating writing. I'll be back again next year, if I can kick that triskaidekaphobia before then.