York Workshop, Sept 20, 2018


I can’t believe it’s been a week since our writing workshop in York.

Where has the time gone? (Or as the Dundee dialect has it, Where has the time went? It’s our own version of “was sat”.)

We had a smashing day. Eighteen enthusiastic aspiring writers joined Kate Blackadder and I to hear what it takes to be a successful “Friend” short story writer.

It was good to meet David Kippen, an Aussie writer who’s just beginning to find that success with us.

As usual I talked from the “Friend” perspective: what works for us, what doesn’t. How to think differently. I was keen to encourage them to think outside the old “Friend” reader stereotype of old ladies in care homes. It does our readers such a disservice, and mature ladies as a whole.

Kate delivered a fund of invaluable advice from the writer’s perspective. Of course as a regular short story and serial writer for us, she really knows what she’s talking about. There’s no substitute for that, and it’s why I always have a writer with me to co-present.

Our venue was somewhere new – but very old. Our first time there, but the Bar Convent has been in existence since 1686; the current building is eighteenth-century and Grade 1 Listed.

Kate and I did take the opportunity to explore while our students were working on an exercise.

It was a fascinating place, not least because of the door that kept opening no matter how firmly I shut it. Oh, and there was the knock at the other door, but when I opened it there was no one there. Did I say haunted….?

One of our ladies wrote us a poem about that, and I’ve given it to our letters page editor for a future issue in November.

Getting there was interesting. My Wednesday train from Dundee to York was cancelled due to Storm Ali. In fact, all trains anywhere. Talk about panic. Finally I got one as far as Edinburgh, then shared a black cab with five strangers to Newcastle, then a midnight train to York. In bed by 2am. Apologies for any fatigue-induced gibbering on the day!

I’ll be organising more workshops come Spring 2019.

Shirley Blair

Fiction Ed Shirley’s been with the “Friend” since 2007 and calls it her dream job because she gets to read fiction all day every day. Hobbies? Well, that would be reading! She also enjoys writing fiction when she has time, long walks, travel, and watching Scandi thrillers on TV.

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