Harston Village Hall

Spilling the Ink

spilling the ink red border Spilling the Ink is my starting point. I don't get anything written without spilling some ink first. Once it's on the page, blots and all, I'm on my way; I have something to work from, work with.  Want to join me?  How about giving yourself time and space to write down those all those stories, memories, vignettes that you've been meaning to capture?  How about embracing a playful practice with the pen and page?  Come on, come spill some ink. You might be surprised at the creative cats you let out of the bag. 

About Spilling the Ink

We'll meet weekly for eight weeks. Each meeting will have a theme and we'll use a variety of methods to jumpstart new pieces of writing.  During the course, we will explore various genres including memoir, personal essay and short fiction. We'll also delve into the creative process, taking pieces from rough ideas to polished versions.

In addition to writing our own pieces, we will respond to others' work.  There is great value in hearing how our writing affects our readers.  Learning to respond sensitively and substantially is a skill we practice and refine together throughout Spilling the Ink.

At the conclusion of the course, we'll have a celebration with a read-around. Participants will also be invited to include a piece of their writing in an online group anthology to be published later in 2016. Curious to see what has been written?  Have a look at our previous anthologies, Circumference I (Autumn 2015), and Circumference II (Spring/Summer 2015).

Spilling the Ink is one of the Writing Circles programmes I offer. For more information about Writing Circles in general, read here.

Course Fee

  • £150.00. Full payment is required to confirm your registration, which includes a 25% non-refundable deposit. After the first session, if you feel that the programme is not a good match for you, you may request a refund minus the deposit.
  • Partial bursaries available, please inquire.

What if you've already participated in Spilling the Ink?

Previous participants are welcome to join again. Although we may be using some of the same materials, you may find new directions to take your writing.  Alternatively, consider joining me in Continuing the Craft, a Writing Circle for writers who seek community and support on specific projects.

Registration

I keep my Writing Circles small - a maximum of 8 participants - so we get a genuine sense of each others' voices and intentions. This also allows me to spend time focusing on substantial feedback for each writer. If you're looking for a writing course that offers inspiration, community, and personalised feedback, Spilling the Ink is for you!

Spilling the Ink - in person, at Harston Village Hall, Tuesday mornings, 10.00-12.00, from 24 Jan - 21 Mar (no session 14 Feb).

Spilling the Ink - online, content delivered via email to work on at your own pace, a private forum for sharing, and live video workshops on alternate Sundays, from 29 Jan - 26 Mar, 16.00-17.30 UK time.

If you'd like to get an email when registration opens and a discount code, add your name to the Early Notice List here.

One year later

It was a year ago today that I opened the doors and called out for writers to come together in my first Writing Circles.  Although I had been imagining how it might work since the previous April and although I had spent a lot of time planning the format and layout, when I finally put up my signs and made the website live, I didn’t know who (if anyone) would come, how it would feel to bring together people from different walks of life to write, and if it would be a one-off experiment or something that I could sustain. Originally I thought I would run two circles: one in Cambridge and one in Harlton (a village just down the road from mine).  The Cambridge one didn’t quite attract enough interest to run. But slowly and surely, the Harlton one filled: an acquaintance from my village, an artist with an incredibly beautiful website with haunting imagery and delicate haikus, someone who had written a children’s novel, a somatics and yoga teacher, people with whom I had crossed paths in our other roles, people who saw my signs in their villages.

I believe that just the right combination of writers came forward to form that first group.  The whole experience was one of exhilaration and terror. Each week I stretched and pushed myself to create something that would support our writing and thinking.  Each week they came back (they came back!) and whole-heartedly tried out my ideas, taking us in directions further and deeper than I had expected, bringing their own voices and perspectives. I loved it! And when the first round came to a close, several of them decided to carry on with a second six-week course.  It was a privilege and a challenge to continue, and I learned so very much.  In my experience of teaching, there has always been something special about the first group I’ve taught in a new setting – whether the 6th graders at the Salk School of Science in Manhattan from my student teaching days, or the 9th graders from the inner city of Columbus, Ohio, or the adults at Bellevue Community College in Washington – and this group was no different. There is something about going through a process together for the first time that marks the experience with a certain vibrancy.

After the initial Writing Circles concluded in the autumn, I knew that I had found something that I wanted to continue. With a bit more polish and focus, I conducted two more Writing Circles this spring and summer in Harston (another village down another road from mine), bringing together both new and familiar faces. As with the first group, I think the people who come forward each time are just the right combination to make us all grow. I count myself lucky to meet people whom I would have otherwise never met, to witness stories and poetry evolve from shadowy ideas to actual words on the page, and to spend my time and attention building unlikely communities.

I still get nervous before each session; preparing and imagining how it will go, whilst knowing that the unexpected is inevitable and something will come up that will take us in a different, but essential, direction.  For me, this is what teaching has become: I strive to have a solid structure to hold the space, yet I want to leave doors and windows open so that inspiration might fly in and take us away.

And after each session, as I pack up my supplies, turn off the lights, and lock the door, I leave with a buoyancy and gratitude that, once again, we have come together to write, listen, and be a little more present with all the richness of our shared and individual experiences.  This is work I love.

Registration for the Autumn 2015 Writing Circles will open soon.  See more details here and sign up for early notification and a discount code here.

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Summertime Spilling the Ink - Fully Booked

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UPDATE (15 May) - The Summertime Spilling the Ink workshop is fully booked!  Check back for updates and announcement of autumn courses ( schedule to be finalised in July )

UPDATE (10 May) - Only 2 spots 1spot remains!! Is it yours? Claim it soon.  If you're on the fence, you can see what past participants have to say here.

Spilling the Ink is my starting point. I don't get anything written without spilling some ink first. Once it's on the page, blots and all, I'm on my way; I have something to work from, work with.  Want to join me?  How about making 2015 the summer you start to write down those all those stories, memories, vignettes that you've been meaning to capture?  How about embracing a playful practice with the pen and page?  Come on, come spill some ink. You might be surprised at the creative cats you let out of the bag. Details for Summertime Spilling the Ink:

  • Thursdays, 10.00 - 12.00, 4 June - 16 July
  • Harston Village Hall, Harston (map to Harston Village Hall, accessible via Stagecoach Bus 26)
  • Open to writers of all abilities with an interest in sharing their work and responding to others' work.  Beginners welcome! (Ages 18+)

About Spilling the Ink

We'll meet weekly for seven weeks. Each meeting will have a theme and we'll use a variety of methods to jumpstart new pieces of writing.  During the course, we will explore various genres including memoir, personal essay and short fiction. We'll also delve into the creative process, taking pieces from rough ideas to polished versions.

In addition to writing our own pieces, we will respond to others' work.  There is great value in hearing how our writing affects our readers.  Learning to respond sensitively and substantially is a skill we practice and refine together throughout Spilling the Ink.

At the conclusion of the course, we'll have a celebration lunch with a read-around. Participants will also be invited to include a piece of their writing in an online group anthology to be published later in 2015. Browse the first anthology, Circumference, here.

Spilling the Ink is one of the Writing Circles programmes I offer. For more information about Writing Circles in general, read here.

Course Fee

  • Register and pay by 21 May for early bird fee of £90.00.  Registrations after 21 May are £105.
  • Partial bursaries available, please inquire if needed.

What if you've already participated in Spilling the Ink?

Previous participants are welcome to join again. Although we may be using some of the same materials, you may find new directions to take your writing.  Alternatively, consider joining me in September 2015 for Continuing the Connection, a Writing Circle for continuers or for individual writing coaching sessions. Details to come soon!

Registration

I keep my Writing Circles small - a maximum of 8 participants - so we get a genuine sense of each others' voices and intentions. This also allows me to spend time focusing on substantial feedback for each writer. If you're looking for a writing course that offers inspiration, community, and personalised feedback, Spilling the Ink is for you!  Register early to avoid disappointment, as spaces are limited.

Click here to register now.

logo by Ophelia Redpath

Curating a sense of time and space. ALSO - Early bird registration ends tomorrow (9 Jan)

DSC07497cbb I spent some time today going through writing from the autumn Writing Circles. We are compiling an anthology with contributions from each writer. As I thought about each piece, I tried putting it in the larger context of the collected body of work we’ll soon share. Would the poetry balance well with the stories and the personal essays? Would the voices of different writers standing next to one another create a harmony richer than the solo strains of the pieces alone? How might I best present this work?

More than just collecting a writing sample from everyone, I felt I was trying to curate a sense of our time together.  I wrote each participant a short email with suggestions or questions about their work, looking for one more way to connect before we all move on with a new year and new writing groups. My hope is that the combination of all those voices and styles will reflect the depth and breadth of the space we created in our Writing Circles last autumn.

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The anthology will be ready in about a week!   I’m so looking forward to sharing it here. Please come back and see what we wrote.

A few updates:

  • The next Writing Circle, Spilling the Ink, starts on 6 Feb at Harston Village Hall. Note: this is one week later than originally planned.  
  • We will meet for 7 weeks on Friday mornings from 10.00 – 12.00, from 6 Feb – 27 Mar, except 20 Feb.
  • The course is filling, but a few spaces remain. Tomorrow (9 Jan) is the last day to register at the discounted rate of £87.50. After tomorrow, the fee is £105. However, if you register with a friend/writing buddy, I’ll discount both your fees by £15 (fee will be £90 for each).
  • The Melbourne programme, on Thursday mornings, has been postponed.
  • After the Harston programme, the next Writing Circle will be in June or September 2015.  This is the last one until summer - why not sign up and make 2015 the year you started to write?

Want to join us and let your creative cats out of the bag this winter? Register here.


And before I sign off, some words from one of the participants:

For anyone considering joining a writing circle…

Melissa creates a warm, encouraging and non-judgemental space to explore any genre of writing of interest to you. Every week Melissa leads the group to explore different aspects and approaches to writing using a series of prompts and resources. There were eight of us in the initial group, each of us with a different agenda, from articles, poetry and fiction to historical research and teaching. I came to the group with an interest in haiku and left wanting to combine my artwork with my interest in folklore and fairy tale.

Melissa spreads her hand woven cloth at a table that she lays with love and consideration, pulls out a chair for you take your place, creates a space for you to discover what you really want to say and takes great delight in accompanying you on the journey…    

- Nicole Hague-Andrews

Getting Ready

The year is just 4 days old.  A newborn, really.  Bald with a little bit of soft fuzz.  Eyes full of wonder at the offerings of the morning.  I like January; I like the chance to reset, pull out an empty notebook.  The relief of a blank page after the fullness of December merrymaking is as welcome as the lengthening days. This morning I began planning out the sessions for my next Writing Circle - Spilling the Ink.  When I book rooms, start putting up posters and open registration for these programmes, I never know who I'll reach and if enough people will come forward to write together.  Last fall I had two successful circles meeting for several weeks.  It was such a dream and I loved the challenge, the participants, the process, and the result. I felt incredibly lucky to work with these writers and I'm looking forward to sharing their anthology with you later this month. Part of me is still pinching myself that this all happened.

This isn't to say that every workshop I offered last autumn filled completely and easily. Although two programmes filled, I had offered five.  The other three didn't quite have enough people to take flight. I figure these are decent odds for starting a new venture.  It takes time to grow roots. Just as not every rough draft becomes a finished piece, not every offering will be taken up. The silver lining was that since I had just one group of writers at a time, I could tend the programme deeply.

Because I want to keep my groups small, the margin between 'not enough to run' and 'all spots are filled' is slim. A minimum of four participants gives us enough breadth to create community, a maximum of eight participants ensures that everyone is heard.  So it was with a whoop and a holler that I reached enough people this week to confirm that the Harston Writing Circle will definitely run on Friday mornings, 10.00 - 12.00, starting on 6 February.  We'll meet for 7 sessions at Harston Village Hall.*

As I mentioned above, I've started planning.  Full steam ahead, no holds barred, we're going to write!!

Planning for Spilling the Ink

Along with tracing out some new ideas, I enjoyed going back over my notes from the autumn, looking at photos, reflecting on what worked, making changes for this time around.  The planning piece is one of my favourite parts of creating these circles. (Truthfully, I like every single part - it's just the waiting on tenterhooks to get enough participants that keeps me in a bit of limbo).  Here's a little photo essay showcasing some of what we did last fall:

Writing from art

Creating our personal universe decks.

Listening

Teas, coffees, and snacks keep us going.

Sharing a space for weaving words into story.

If you're considering joining us, sign up soon!  For more details about Spilling the Ink, read here. Registrations received and paid for by 9 January get a early-bird rate of £87.50 for the programme. After that, the fee is £105 for the seven sessions.  Register or ask for more information here.

If you're on the fence, feel free to get in touch and ask any questions. Or look around the website to get a fuller picture of what we do.  You might find some of these links helpful:

*The Thursday morning Melbourn Writing Circle is looking less likely at this point.  I'll make a decision on that one in about a week.  If you're interested in that one, please contact me soon.