Interview: Creative Word Shop
The Creative Word Shop is one of the latest hidden gems in Hunter Street Mall. A word of advice: don’t put your faith in Google to get you there or you’ll end up in the wrong street, phone in hand dialling Wendy’s number. But she is more than happy to come out and find lost souls. The studio is up a flight of stairs in an open space room with a kitchenette, small bookshelf and an easel with big pieces of white paper. The seating structure is similar to one you may find in a board room with all the chairs facing each other in a big rectangle but with a much more casual mood.
Sunshine fills the room and Wendy’s presence helps me feel comfortable as we take our seats. Wendy and Ed run classes for kids and adults with varying difficulties. Both Ed and Wendy have a passion for writing and education with impressive careers. The Creative Word Shop is a new concept to Newcastle, beginning in April. It is unique to the area,
“Ed and I met at a writing event, the Newcastle Writers Festival perhaps, and we had all these strange people in common so we stayed in contact. Then we started saying, ‘wouldn’t it be great teaching writing in Newcastle’. We really need something, there’s a few places in Sydney doing it like the Writers Centre. We’re modelling ourselves on the big writing centres in Sydney with established writers.”
Both Ed and Wendy are established writers with many published books to their names under companies such as Random House, Penguin and Harper Collins. They have varied interests, Ed is a poet and non-fiction writer, as well as a columnist for The Australian and lecturer at the University of Newcastle. Wendy writes historical fiction, domestic noir and short stories, not to mention also running a manuscript service. Both boast PhD’s and have years of experience teaching at a university level.
“We’re practitioners and teachers” Wendy says and it couldn’t be truer. She shows me a collection of Ed’s and her own work on the bookshelf. One of her novels, Out of Silence, has been published in Norwegian and was the recipient of a Ned Kelly award. Out of Silence was Wendy’s first published novel, her seventh novel has recently been accepted for publication. It falls under the category of historical fiction, based on the tales of suffragettes and class war in the 19th century.
What can you expect from classes? While Ed and Wendy have taught at university level, they want to run their classes in a more casual manner,
“We try to run these classes in the least painful way possible so it doesn’t feel like you’re back at school. It’s important to establish an intimate and friendly group, so people make friendships. Because the classes are ongoing we’ve got students now in third term. It will give you some support and somebody to crack the whip, which is sometimes what you really need in writing. Somebody to say, no you need to have this ready by next week. Deadlines are great. Nobody writes without deadlines, even if they are self-imposed.”
The classes available range from beginners to advanced for adults and persuasive writing, mentoring and workshops for children and teenagers. Each week will have a particular focus, such as form or character development. You will be required to bring in a piece of writing to show the class for development and critique. As these classes are developed to help nurture and encourage your writing while teaching discipline you don’t need to over think your work,
“You don’t have to have written a novel, it’s your go every couple of weeks so you only have to bring in four to five pages to be added to your work. So we all read it, and everybody gets to think about what’s working, what is not working and critique it in class. It helps your skills at seeing what works, as well as helping the person who has written it.”
With their years of experience, education and passion Ed and Wendy make great mentors. They’re dedicated to helping mould new writers. This is evident not just through talking to them but also through their courses; while they have the usual classes running throughout the term they also organise holiday workshops with special guests. So far they’ve had Jess Black, a children’s author, and Rosemary Wilson, a Newcastle Herald journalist and are looking to continue these special features.
The next semester will start in February. For any budding writer, click here to look at the classes offered Speaking with Wendy gave me a sense of purpose and excitement about my future, from our small interaction I left feeling determined. In the meantime, Wendy left me with some advice,
“Your assignment is just to write. I do hope that you are reading, that’s the most important thing about writing is to be reading. I think giving yourself some kind of self-imposed deadline is really, really important. In November are a lot of people do the National Novel Writing Month. They’ve given themselves a deadline and some people will do it, they will write 100,000 words in a month. Just a deadline is very useful. So saying I will write a 1000 words a week or I will try to write 200 words a day. Those little incremental bits will add up and you will get something done, which is the main thing.”
Interview by Jodie Millard on behalf of Culture Hunter.
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