Day Three on the CHASE writing residency dawned bright and blue. We began the day with dedicated writing time, where people were free to take up position on the lawns or the garden table or the sofas or the dining table, or the many benches scattered around Great Barn Farm. This time is so essential, because that’s when all the conversations that we have had together, all the critique given during workshops, and all the ideas and thoughts developed during our masterclass the day before can percolate.
During lunch in the blazing sunshine, we caught up on each others’ progress. Conversations at the residency seem as if they began with a bang on the first night, and then didn’t end; instead continuing through meals and swims and walks and workshops – blending, meandering, shrinking and morphing between groups of various sizes. These animated discussions with other writers have so far been the most vital experience of the residency for me.
During our masterclass we opened up ideas surrounding cultural appropriation and put them to intensive discussion. As writers it is important to consider matters of narrative positioning; whether there is space for everybody; whether the intention is to create a realistic image of a place; whether there are dangerous ‘inherited’ tropes being replicated. These questions were a good grounding for our discussions during the workshop in the evening.
I was leading the workshop, to a structure that allowed time for two writers’ work to be workshopped. Having a good balance between writerly disciplines within the group helps us to approach a work both from the macro and the micro level; trying to see a work as a structured and plotted whole, but also as carefully constructed sentences and word choices. We first explored the shifting between critical and creative work; where you draw the line between rigour and playfulness, what counts as academic work and what is poetry. Within the context of fiction, we investigated narrative voice, and how writing can push at the boundaries of the expected. Altogether some fascinating questions were raised, and were folded back into our dinner table conversation. I’m looking forward to tomorrow, to see how we can further challenge our thinking and practice.