Five Days To Write A Life

Improving | Non-fiction
How to write a life? I have no particular theories as to how a life story should be structured and presented, but I am interested in understanding the nature of the stories you wish to tell and I will do my best to facilitate the telling of them.
This stimulating, intensive five-day course is intended to be used as part of your own process of writing. If you are already well into producing a finished manuscript then I would hope that with the exercises and discussions I can to steer you forward towards completion. If you have an idea of the subject matter that you want to explore but not much else then by the end of the course I would hope to have helped you find the writing voice that best suits you, the form your book might take and perhaps an opening page and some short chapters that will hold things steady after we have all gone our separate ways.

'The whole experience was fabulous and exceeded my expectations. Julia was amazing... I will never forget it. Thank you!
Student, August 2018

We'll start each session with a talk about what aspects of writing we are going to cover and after a short group discussion of the scope of the subject, I'll set a series of ten or fifteen minute 'quick sketches'. The morning will end with a longer task which you can complete later in the day. We will work together every morning and you have free writing time in the afternoon, but on Day One I will arrange a schedule so that I have time to talk to all of you individually for half an hour or so: a short tutorial. From Day II, we'll have a brief discussion on what you have discovered during the writing afternoon and then we steam on as before, with the next theme. By the way, you don't have to read all the books on the list, but do try as many as you can.
24th - 28th February 2020

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This course runs for five days, 10am–1.30pm each day. You will also have access to the room for writing till 4pm.



Julia Blackburn, Threads; Helen Macdonald, H is For Hawk

This is about defining the scope and content of your subject.



Jackie Kay, Red Dust Road, The Adoption Papers; Simon Gray,Coda

Jackie Kay is utterly honest without being confessional. It's interesting to read her poems (which are almost prose) alongside her memoir. Simon Gray turns his erratic interior thought processes into a wonderful narrative. We'll experiment with the impact of using different voices: child or adult; first, second or third person.



Stephen Bernard, Paper Cuts ; Julia Blackburn, The Three of Us; Penelope Lively, Amonites and Leaping Fish

Family stories which use very different structure to suit very different sorts of parents and childhoods. We'll discuss how to be personal without getting in too deep and how to balance the need for honesty with the wish to not hurt anyone.



Helen Jukes, A Honeybee Heart Has Five Openings; Primo Levi, The Periodic Table; Giles Waterford, The Long Afternoon

A memoir/ life story does not have to be a continuous narrative, nor does it have to be an orthodox narrative. The books mentioned here can give you an idea of alternative ways of approaching your subject. There are many more possibilities to think about and to explore.



On Thursday we'll have worked out what you want to discuss and have help with during the final session, setting you up for completing the work once the group has dispersed. We'll end with readings from your best pieces.

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Julia Blackburn was born in London in 1948, the daughter of the poet Thomas Blackburn and the painter Rosalie de Meric. Her first book,&...

The whole experience was fabulous and exceeded my expectations. Julia was amazing and my one-to-one session with her opened my eyes and my book came to life.
  • Five Days To Write A Life Student
I was in some doubt as to whether good writers can also teach, but Julia put paid to the misconception. It was excellent [...] nothing short of a miracle.
  • Five Days To Write A Life Student



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