As a freelance tutor, Polly Tuckett, SF’s director, teaches workshops which differ from the standard Creative Writing blueprint. The workshops tend to be planned around a theme and run over several weeks. The first 10-week series was called ‘Trouble Writing’ and sought to address specific difficulties with writing as experienced by individual writers whilst at the same time challenging those writers to ‘cause trouble’ in their writing by tackling taboo or contentious subject matter. This ‘trouble-making’ also involved formal experimentation.
The ‘Through the Looking Glass’ workshop series looked at the role of the visual in writing, focusing on questions of gaze, subjectivity and perspective. The course, ‘Romancing the Stone’ explored the idea of haunting within writing and tied in closely with the Séance night staged in October.
The courses seek to develop a strong group dynamic. The atmosphere is warm and supportive and feedback is offered in honest, constructive ways. A huge part of what people take away from courses is a sense of confidence, not just in the ‘objective’ quality of the work produced, but in the importance of daring to share work with others in the first place.
One of the key differences from other creative writing courses is the importance given to reading. Week-to-week we read poems and prose extracts, short stories, novellas and theory ready to start the next session with in-depth discussion of what we’ve read, how it impacted on us as both readers and writers, how and in which ways the set text relates to the wider theme of the course and how it works as writing / what stylistic techniques are being used, how convincing it is. This encourages a more self-aware approach to one’s own writing. Because the space of the workshops is playful above all, no one is afraid to try out new styles of writing. Rather than drown out the influence of other writers’ work when beginning to write, it is beneficial to immerse yourself in reading rather than worry about producing an original piece of writing in your own distinctive voice before you’ve had the chance to find this.
Another key difference with other writing courses is that ours are not about priming people to submit work to agents or publishers, primarily because this can have a stifling effect on work produced. Although the courses don’t dispense advice about how to get work published, writers are always encouraged to take their work further and this can involve an invitation to read at Short Fuse.