Creative Writing: Ways into Writing Lives Part 2

Sue Gee
Gosling Room
Thursdays 10.30am – 12:30pm

Spring term 2023: 12 January 2023 - 30 March 2023 (11 weeks)
(Half term Thursday 16 February)

Members: £146 Non-members: £183 Spring term
Concessions: £10 (call the office 020 8340 3343)

Spring Term 2023
The course is primarily for students who have completed the first term, but new students with work in progress are also welcome.

Building on Ways into Writing Lives, run in the autumn term, this is an informal workshop in which students further develop their writing of memoir or biography. There are no exercises and only minimal reading: the focus is entirely on work in progress.

We will look at how to organise research, and how to develop a strong narrative line; at shaping scenes, and engaging and sustaining the readers’ interest over a long piece of writing.  Through presentation and discussion with the tutor and the group, students will  receive a great deal of attention, with the opportunity to revise, start again or try things out. There will also be the opportunity to write in class, while ideas are fresh. By the end of the course students should have completed a substantial piece of work and be ready to develop it independently.

Autumn Term 2022
This twelve-week course is for those with an interest in biographical literature who have long wanted to write about their own life or the life of someone important to them, but have not yet found the way to do it. We will read and discuss inspiring examples of mem§oir, biography, letters, diaries, travel and nature writing, autofiction and blogs, looking at the techniques the authors deploy to shape their material and bring their work alive.  From this, through workshop exercises and class presentations, students will develop and refine their own writing skills in whatever form they choose.

By the end of the course it is hoped that each student will have completed a sustained piece of writing of between 2500-5000 words: a springboard, perhaps, to something lasting and substantial.

Week 1     15 Sept
Memoir: The power of objects
Edmund de Waal: The Hare with Amber Eyes
Horatio Clare: Heavy Light: A Journey through Madness, Mania & Healing
Patricia Hampl: ‘The Dark Art of Description’

Week 2     22 Sept
Memoir: The power of childhood
Eva Hoffman: Lost in Translation
Rosemary Sutcliffe: Blue Remembered Hills
Paula Rego (Painting)) Time – Past and Present

Week 3     29 Sept
Memoir: Coming of age
Howard: All the World and Paddocks Full
Ferdinand Dennis: ‘Journey without Maps’ from Voices of the Crossing

 Week 4     06 Oct
Biography: Getting to know you
Rebecca Stott: In the Days of Rain
Sue Gee: ‘The Dramatist’ from Just You and the Page
Craig Brown: ‘The slippery art of biography’

Week 5     13 Oct
Biography: Who were you?
Diana Athill: After a Funeral
Penelope Fitzgerald: The Knox Brothers

 Week 6     20 Oct
Diary writing: ‘Tonight it is very wild.’
John Middleton Murry, ed: The Journal of Katherine Mansfield
Roy Strong: Splendours and Miseries: Diaries 1967-1987
Shaun Bythell: Diary of a Bookseller


Week 7     03 Nov
Blogging and Tweeting
Guest tutor: Tom Pink, HLSI Librarian

Week 8     10 Nov
Letter writing: ‘A bit of a rush to get this finished’
Philip Larkin: Letters to Monica
John Sutherland: Monica Jones, Philip Larkin and Me
Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Letters and Papers from Prison

 Week 9     17 Nov
Travel writing: ‘We drank tea from china cups packed in sawdust’
Rory MacLean: Stalin’s Nose
Binyavanga Wainana: One Day I Will Write About This Place
Rosemary Tonks: ‘On being down, but not quite out, in Paris’

Week 10     24 Nov
Nature writing: ‘Slow waters, eels, reeds, church towers, quiet’
 Ruth Pavey: A Wood of One’s Own
Roger Deakin: Wildwood

 Week 11     01 Dec
Autofiction: ‘My mother and I are a percentage of ourselves’
Sybille Bedford: Jigsaw
Jean Rhys: Smile Please and Voyage in the Dark

Week 12     08 Dec
The best of me
Student presentations



Life Writing: Writing Biography, Autobiography and Memoir, Sally Cline and Carole Angier
On Life Writing, ed Zachary Leader
Just You and the Page: Encounters with twelve writers, Sue Gee
Diana Athill: Alive, Alive Oh!
Juliet Gardiner: Joining the Dots: A woman in her time
Selina Hastings: Sybille Bedford: A Life
Anne Karpf: The War After: Living with the Holocaust
Paula Rego: Catalogue Tate Britain exhibition 2021
D.H. Lawrence: D. H. Lawrence in Italy
Penelope Lively: A House Unlocked, Ammonites and Leaping Fish, Oleander, Jacaranda
Vladimir Nabokov: Speak, Memory
Priscilla Napier: A Late Beginner
Amos Oz: A Tale of Love and Darkness
Ruth Pavey: Deeper into the Wood
Christina Patterson: Outside the Sky is Blue
Roy Strong: Self-portrait as a Young Man
Rosemary Tonks: Bedouin of the London Evening: Collected Poems
Claire Wilcox:  Patchwork: A Life Amongst Clothes