Small is beautiful: Writing Workshops with Kathrine Sowerby

Category: Reading

My Favourite Place has been going strong this past few months, with submissions flooding in and workshops taking place up and down the country. We caught up with My Favourite Place Community Volunteer and poet, Kathrine Sowerby, to see how her workshops have been going. 

Westerton is a Glasgow suburb on the train line between Anniesland and Bearsden. It’s a small but thriving community and I was curious to see what interest there would be in coming along to a creative writing workshop. On a wet, mid-Olympics Monday night I was very happy to have a keen group gather between the shelves of Westerton Library.

I took along part of my large collection of postcards; my step-dad works all over the world and sends cards to each of my three children every trip, which prompted good discussion about places both in Scotland and further afield. In contrast to some of the sweeping landscapes before us we talked about the calming effects of John Lewis, the comfort of cinema 2 at the GFT and the security of islands when the ferries stop running for the day.

Keen to leave time for writing we moved onto a selection of extracts I’d prepared from books whose settings had stayed with me long after reading. It was interesting to hear responses to the different extracts and the emotions they evoked. We talked about the language writers use to set up a backdrop for a story, to lead readers into a character’s personality and the drama and tension that can be created by location.

Some participants were nervous about putting pen to paper and the writing exercise I had prepared gently led us into building up the sense of a place, thinking about what happened there and who was or wasn’t there at the time. After deciding on an overall mood for our places we wrote for ten minutes to the beat of the Zumba class in the hall next door.

With just ten minutes before the library closed we fed back on what we’d written and I think everyone was surprised that despite having a place as a starting point what they had written had ‘zoomed in’ on something more personal, something sensory or even something witnessed like a wedding in Luss on the banks of Loch Lomond. We talked again about the extracts we’d looked at earlier and how we could go away and turn what we had into finished pieces of writing.

Turfing out time at the library and the rain had stopped so the conversation continued outside. As the lycra clad Zumba ladies filed out around us we agreed we had worked hard and that our writing minds were well exercised.