A few weeks ago, I went to my local library in Cheddar on an innocent mission of research. I emerged having foolishly promised an enthusiastic volunteer that I would get involved with the upcoming Cheddar Arts Fringe Festival (CHAFF), taking place 29 April to 2 May in my part of Somerset, UK.
Nothing at all wrong with CHAFF, of course, which promises to be a cornucopia of visual talent and delights. On display will be everything from ceramics, to oil paintings, through to handmade jewellery. All shown in local artists’ studios, to be launched at a fun party in a charming farmhouse hidden away in the picturesque old heart of Cheddar.
And my fellow-artists are an equally charming, eclectic mix of talent and relaxed insouciance. To a woman/man, they’re a million miles away from my writerly anxieties and pre-occupations with publishing deadlines, punctuation and profile-raising.
No. The problem, I quickly realised, is in being the sole writer in a group of twenty-odd visual artists. I have no bijou artistic studio to welcome browsers into. I have no beautiful objects for visitors to admire, handle, covet, buy, take away and display in their own homes. I cannot seduce people into the world of my artistic imagination by simply opening the door to my gallery. Bitterly did I rue being swallowed up by the excitement of the librarian, once I was faced with the reality of producing an ‘event’ in their rather bare upstairs room, competing with a noisy children’s poetry session downstairs.
I realised quickly that my credentials as a writer are thin: six published stories, only two of which I can present in tangible paperback so far; and one partially-drafted novel, not yet to be shared with anyone. It’s not much of a story, and I can’t drop any famous names or riveting backgrounds about why I write science fiction, fantasy and historical fiction.
Then my years of adult teaching came to my rescue. After all, the whole point of the festival is for local people to come along and have fun enjoying the arts. So I’ve put together a modest creative writing workshop. It will be all about creating, sharing and enjoying our own short stories. All I have to do is read a couple of my flash stories as exemplars, provide some fun materials and accessories to jog creativity into action, help attendees share and enjoy, and watch the writing pour forth.
And everyone gets to go home with their very own short story. Result.
Well, that’s the plan, anyway. I’ll let you know how it pans out in reality!