#BathKidsLitFest Recap #2: Creative Writing Masterclass with Emily Barr ft. my writing!

Sunday was an extremely hectic day but probably one of the best days of my life! 
I had YA book events from 11am to 5:15pm.

It was hectic, it was inspiring and I loved every single second of it.

To kick off my jam-packed YA Sunday, I attended the Emily Barr Creative Writing Masterclass which was incredible and that's the event I'll be talking about in this post! I really loved The One Memory of Flora Banks, so as you can imagine, I was ecstatic to meet Emily and listen to her writing advice. I wrote several things I'm quite proud of during the 90 minute workshop, I discovered some new books I'm desperate to read and I got to meet Emily Barr, which was awesome. Sunday was a pretty good day.

On Sunday morning I arrived at the area where the event was held which is near to where I attend church. So I spent twenty minutes in church singing some worship songs and then at 10:50 I walked to the class. When I arrived at the door, one of the ladies said she loved the colour of my nail varnish and that made me super happy (not that that's relevant to this post but anyway). It is a really nice colour – Barry M's Coconut Infusion Laguna, if you were wondering. No, this isn't a paid advertisement for Barry M, I just really love their nail varnishes. 

I then walked up the stairs and I giggled, as taped to one of the steps was a paper that said “No stilettos, please!” and I thought to myself “Good thing you didn't wear your stilettos today, Kyra” (not that I have any but minor details, minor details). The room where the class was held was light and airy, with wooden floors and tables and chairs arranged in a U-shape. By every seating place was a Bath Literature Festival booklet listing all the events accompanied by several sheets of paper and a pen. My heart thumped with excitement as I sat down, ready to unleash the maelstrom of words swirling inside of me.

Once most of the seats were taken, Emily introduced herself and dove straight into teaching the class. She gave us a 10-minute warm-up exercise that sounded quite hard but very intriguing! We had to write a 26 word paragraph and it had to be in alphabetical order, so the first word had to start with A and the last word had to begin with Z etc. I was super excited to dive right in but simultaneously I cursed myself for not reading the dictionary and familiarising myself with more words that begin with an X and a Z. I knew that would've come in handy someday! Anyway, I managed to write something and something that I'm strangely proud of and something that I'd like to turn into a book one day. Maybe. Emily asked us if we were willing to read our writing out loud and I so badly wanted to but I'm super shy about reading things out loud to people so I kept my hand down. I had nearly mustered up the courage but then we were onto the next exercise and I was chiding myself for not putting my hand up, making an oath to myself that I would put up my hand after the next exercise and read out what I had written.

After we had done reading out (or not reading out our pieces) Emily Barr then presented her top writing advice to us which was...
  1. Don't make the characters perfect
  2. Show don't tell
  3. No cliches
  4. Work to make your reader sympathise
  5. Don't let the characters glimpse themselves in the mirror (I mentally giggled at that because guess who's guilty of doing that? Yes, me!)
  6. Motivation (what are they characters' motivation?)
  7. Minor characters are important (write them well enough that people would actually want to read a book about them)
  8. Character consistency
All brilliant pieces of advice and I'm definitely going to try to keep those in mind when I start writing my new book! Emily Barr then read us the first page of Northern Lights/The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman as she stated he superbly demonstrates the majority of those points in the first page of his novel. And wow, I'm questioning why I haven't read his books before? I was so intrigued by that first page alone...I'm dying to read the book for myself now!
I guess we know who's heading off to the library tomorrow. 
She then gave us an exercise where we had fifteen minutes to write about a character that is in a place they really shouldn't be in. I managed to write a lot in those fifteen minutes and I also got a book idea whilst doing the exercise! Emily Barr then asked us if we'd like to read what we'd written out loud and I DID. I'm literally so proud of myself. I blushed pretty much the whole way through but I did it. Go, me.

The talented authoress then went on to talk about writing characters with a darker side: accessing those darker parts of ourselves and putting it into the characters we write. She then read an excerpt of We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson which also sounds like a really interesting book to read! She then gave us another fifteen minutes to write about a character who was doing something bad; something that was against the law. I'm not so keen on what I wrote but as I was getting to the good part, the time was up. I might also continue that story as I really liked my protagonist!

The class then sadly came to an end (time flew by so quickly!) and we had some extra time to ask Emily some questions. It was so interesting hearing more about Flora Banks and Emily's writing process! I then met Emily and got my book signed which was lovely!

I absolutely adored the class. I feel liked I learned a lot, I walked away with several book ideas and I feel like I can write again. It sounds strange to say this but I haven't been writing a lot and before Sunday there was a part of me that was worried that I'd forgotten how to write (I know that sounds stupid but hey, who ever said I was logical?). I thought I'd include the things I wrote during the workshop as I don't usually put my writing on my blog, but it is something I'd like to start doing...so why not start now?

The alphabet warm-up piece:
A boy called Dog evidently faced ginormous, humiliating incidents, jokes, kids leering, mockery...name? Odd. Preposterously. Quiet, racing, stolen tears. Understanding? Viciously wished. Xenophobia, your zest. 

(I realised twenty minutes after the exercise had finished that I should probably have substituted “A” with a nationality foreign to the UK such as Arabic, Asian etc. Reading it now, I also think I'd change it to “preposterous” instead of “preposterously but I still quite like what I wrote!)

Character who shouldn't be where they are:
Josephine stole through the shadowed archways, skipping over the silver rays of moonlight pooling on the floor. She arched her back against the wall, weaving her body through the thicket of shadows languishing in the courtyard and tiptoed towards an overgrown, leafy shrub with veins running through it, veins as black as her heart, she supposed. She startled as she heard the signalling gong of the clock that stood tall; a dominant figure. If she stretched out her neck a couple of more centimetres, she'd be able to see it from here. But she wouldn't do that, someone might see her and the she wouldn't have a neck by the time the next full moon came around. Her breath stuck in her throat and she had to force herself to not choke on the passage of air bubbling in her throat. She could hear them. Their heavy footfalls, the clanging of armour and, strangely so, the deathly silence of unspoken words tearing through the air. Her eyes widened as one of the fighters came impossibly close to her. She gasped, crawling into a ball, hoping with a feverish passion that the plant would cover her. It must have. The footsteps continued past.

A shout rang out through the night, she heard the stamping of feet. 
All was silent.
And then it wasn't.

She peeked over the branch, viciously untangling her black hair from one of the shrub's branches but she quickly stopped. As, just like the last time, and every time before that, her eyes were enchanted. She watched them, their black clothes covering them like a second skin, the way they seemed to be carried on a gentle wind. The silence as they struck the killing blow. She watched as they stabbed and parried, danced a breath away from the edge of a sword and jumped into the air – high enough to touch the moon. They were training to dance with death and fight with grace and protect with terrifying silence.

Her destiny was to be married off to a rich man and sit on a jewel-encrusted throne. But she wanted to breathe fire and smoke and dance a merry dance with a sword in her hand and a war cry in her throat.

Protagonist breaking the law:
The night was on her side. The clouds huddled together and not a single beam of moonlight caught her quickening steps through the mostly deserted streets. She clutched her tool bag tightly to her chest, her eyes darting from left to right. There was no one about. Except a drunk man who was snoring on the pavement a few metres away, an empty brandy bottle clasped in his hand. She stared at him for a few minutes and a sadness seeped into her heart. She never thought she'd resemble someone like that. A growl from her stomach penetrated her thoughts. Now wasn't the time to lament all she had lost. She stole quietly through the night, avoiding the shockingly bright glow of the street lamp. She passed brick walls and stray cats, crumbling fences and untamed gardens until she turned into the palatial surroundings of Meadow street. 
Slightly wealthier than middle-class, but not wealthy enough to worry about security gates and alarm systems. 

Wealthy, but not wealthy enough, to worry about people like her.

They should have worried about people like her.

She forced down the sickening sensation of guilt that bubbled in her stomach. Mrs. Atkins had been good to her. Kind. But that was her fatal flaw: she trusted too easily. That was a lesson she had learned painfully: you couldn't trust anyone, not even yourself. With another chorus of hunger echoing throughout her stomach, she grabbed the crowbar from her bag and fitted it into the small window opening. She strained and pushed and pulled until finally the window opened. She paused to give herself a mental high-five and then placed her feet on the windowsill and slunk through, landing noiselessly on the other side. Her heartbeat kicked and hammered and tore in her chest. But she ignored it. She jumped lightly onto the floor off of the counter and headed towards the lounge. She took her cloth bag out of her pocket and inched forward, casting glances over her back. She removed the iPad from its charging station and the golden candelabra from the mantle of the fireplace. She swiped the China plates that were on display and as she was reaching for the crystal ornament that Mrs. Atkins had told her was worth a pretty penny....a light switched on behind her. She froze in her tracks. Her eyes widened as she dropped on the floor and crawled to hide behind the couch.
I knew she couldn't trust you and look, I was right.”
She peeked her eyes over the arm of the couch. Johnny. Mrs. Atkins son.
Nineteen, infuriating. And supposed to be at university.
He was leaning against the counter top and munching on a spoonful of coco-pops. Her mouth watered at the scent. He looked at from under his floppy brown fringe that was sticking up in all directions.
You could've chosen a less obvious time to ransack the place.”
She stood up, her vision going slightly black at the edges. She braced herself against the couch and gritted her teeth. She couldn't faint now, it would shred any last piece of dignity she had left.

Which wasn't a lot.  

I hope you guys enjoyed reading about the creative writing class and I hope you liked getting to see some of my writing! Did you like any of the pieces I wrote? Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? Let's talk!