EVENT REVIEW: Ali Tait: The Big Read Writing Groups

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Writing groups in East Durham have been busy sharing our Big Read book Half a Creature from the Sea this Autumn. Taking the spirit of the book as a point of inspiration, they have been sharing and writing stories inspired by their own formative years. Working with writer Anna Woodford and film maker Julie Ballands, they are also putting together some short films based on their stories. Ali Tait from Eastington Writers group tells us about her experiences so far.

On speaking with my pen fellows from Easington Writers, we are all in agreement that the recent writing workshops we’d attended were enjoyable, productive and inspirational. David Almond’s Half a Creature From The Sea provided our starting point for the writing sessions with Anna Woodford; she encouraged us to reflect on our own childhood, with exercises such as automatic writing and tuning in to our senses. Often when I write, I get bound up in grammar and choice of words, forgetting that imagery and texture are equally important, so I found Anna’s prompts useful. It’s always interesting to hear how other writers hone their craft and as a group, we were happy to share tips and ideas. It was lovely to hear the different stories that came out of the sessions; certainly at Peterlee library, which I attended, the writing grew out of a diverse range of backgrounds. One of the members had grown up in South Africa, which added political and historical intrigue to her stories. I heard that other venues also had participants from different walks of life. The sessions had a ‘tales around the campfire’ atmosphere which was great, but sadly the time passed too quickly!

Some of us were lucky enough to have our stories taken into the filming stage with Julie Ballands. I was delighted when I received the email to say mine had been chosen and (cancelling all plans in the run up) I eagerly awaited the day ‘on set’. Other stories from Easington Writers have also gone on to the next stage; hence, there’s been a flurry of “What can I wear? How shall I read? What will the whole thing involve?” Julie chose to film me reading Jackanory style. I was nervous but really excited as my kitchen began filling up with lighting effects, camera equipment and props. I can’t wait to see the final cut! All in all, the event has given me focus and drive. We feel this is a great way to showcase local writing, keeping the business of story-telling very much alive.