Creative Writing for Autumn

September is upon us! Anyone else got that excited, optimistic, new-pencil-case feeling? September always feels like a New Year for me. While, during the actual New Year I am generally sluggish and lacklustre (due to eating my own bodyweight in Quality Street) this time of year has everything going for it – the start of a beautiful season, a chance to get new plans and projects underway, and the excuse to buy new stationery. Hurrah!

And with the ‘new year’ come the new classes for Autumn.

If you are new to writing and new to my sessions then come along to a BEGINNERS PRACTICE class on September 7th or October 19th.  You’ll all be new starters, and the class is very supportive and relaxed, so there’s no danger of feeling out of your depth. Classes take place from 7pm-9pm at The Lloyds function room in Chorlton. Just click the dates for more info and to book.

Looking for a daytime class? My Tuesday afternoon PRACTICE class is open to newbies and regulars and will take place at 1.30pm-3.30pm on September 5thOctober 3rd andNovember 7th in the beautifully relaxing surroundings of the World Peace Cafe on High Lane.

Been to a class before? Then come along to the regular Thursday night PRACTICE classes, also taking place at The Lloyds on September 14 and November 2nd 

And for those who want to sharpen their writing skills and develop their technique with a view to getting published, Autumn’s first FOCUS class will be on Thursday October 5 and will explore POV and Tense while on November 9th we’ll look at the perennial problem for writers and aspiring writers alike –  how the hell to find the time to write in our increasingly busy lives.

For all of the above just click the dates to get more info and book, or you can email me at if you have any questions.

Or sign up to my Creative Writing Newsletter for class dates and writing tips straight to your inbox

10 Writing Prompts You Can Use Right Now

1. Write down the words: I want. It can be one huge thing, or many little things, or many huge things, or something you don’t want, or anything at all. See where it takes you. Write for five minutes. If you get stuck, just return to the prompt: I want.

2.  Write down the words: I remember. It can be something from childhood, something that happened this morning, one big memory, or lots of memories. See where it takes you. Write for ten minutes.

3. Pick up the nearest poetry book or novel. Flick to a random page. Close your eyes and point at the page. The line you land on is your writing prompt. Start a story from there. If it doesn’t make any sense, that’s fine. Make it dialogue. Have your character frustrated and confused. Write for ten minutes.

4. Find the nearest newspaper or magazine. Flick at random and choose an image. Flick at random again and choose maximum four words of text from a headline. Write a story that uses the image as a setting/character and the text as a title/theme/piece of dialogue. Write for ten minutes.

5. Picture yourself in twenty years time. You’ve achieved everything you wanted to. Write a letter to your current self telling you how you did it.  Write for five minutes.

6. Write about your memories of childhood food. Write for ten minutes.

7. Describe yourself as you are right now, how you look, where you are, how you sit, what your body feels like, what’s going on emotionally  – but do it all in the third person. Write for five minutes.

8. Think about something you hate. Why do you hate it? How does it make you feel? Persuade us how bad it is. Write for five minutes.

9. Take that thing that you hate, and write about it like you love it. Persuade us that you really do love it. Write for five minutes.

10. Write about a first. It can be a first anything. First job, first kiss, first great loss, first day at school. Write for five minutes.

For more writing tips and support, sign up to my Creative Writing Newsletter. 

Favourite female heroes in fiction: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

There will be many people destined never to discover the unique charms of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, purely because of the daftness of the name.

I, too, was once guilty of such rash discrimination. I used to work in a bookshop and when young guys would come in and buy the Buffy books I’d snigger, thinking it was trashy, corny nonsense. Then a long time later I got around to actually seeing an episode of the TV series and I quickly realised that it was, in fact, smart, hilarious and emotionally gripping stuff.  The show set the bar with its depiction of a female hero, and even 20 years on, it is still some of the best writing on TV. (Though you might want to squint through the special effects.)

For those unfamiliar with the show, Buffy is a supernatural drama created by the unfailingly brilliant Joss Whedon (Avengers). The titular character, played by Sarah Michelle Gellar, is a small blonde peppy teenager who also happens to be the Slayer – a young woman chosen to protect the world from vampires and demons.

Much loved for its unique humour, pop culture references, and the astute emotional story running under every plot, the real gift of the series is in how Whedon balances Buffy’s superhero abilities as a Slayer with the challenges of her life as a teenager.

One the one hand, Buffy’s physical abilities are surely every right-thinking woman’s fantasy. I often find myself angry that I don’t feel safe walking alone, and I would dearly love to be able, not only to sufficiently defend myself, but to make potential attackers flee me, shrieking in terror.  (I know, I should take kick-boxing lessons. It’s on my To Do list). That Buffy looks so vulnerable but is possessed of such power just adds to the satisfaction I feel when watching her turn a would-be-attacker into so much dust (or, occasionally, slime)..

On the other hand as well as being a Slayer Buffy is a young woman only just learning about life. She starts the series as a sixteen year old and by the final seventh season she’s twenty two. During that time the emotional demons she faces – in her friendships, her family, her relationships and her livelihood  – prove to be just as important and just as compelling as any gnarly monster-of-the-week or latest season-dominating Big Bad.

Whedon is particularly adept at depicting the high drama of heartbreak. Buffy’s boyfriend, Angel, is a Vampire with a soul who  ***SPOILER ALERT***  loses it the first time they have sex – as good a metaphor for getting your heart broken as any I’ve ever seen. And don’t even get me started on Willow and Tara. *SOB!* (Willow will get her own Favourite Female Hero blog post in due course).

Sure, the Slayer might be able to stake a horde of Vamps, come back from the dead and impale her re-souled ex on a gigantic sword in order to plug up a portal to hell, but, in the other areas of her life, she’s just as clueless as the rest of us.

In Season 4, Buffy goes off to Sunnydale University. Here, she has to grapple with unwelcome change in everything, except, alas, her relationship prospects. Buffy falls for a blue-eyed, pseudo-deep romeo called Parker, who rapidly cools his affections after one night together. She’s shell-shocked. She thought they had a connection. Maybe he’s just scared of intimacy? Did she do something wrong?

Even when Buffy understands that she’s been romantically conned by the one thing worse than a cursed vampire – a charming narcissist –  she can’t let go: “He’s manipulative and shallow” she laments to best friend Willow. “Why doesn’t he want me?”

This is what I love most about Buffy the character and Buffy the series. Sure, the Slayer might be able to stake a horde of Vamps, come back from the dead and impale her re-souled ex on a gigantic sword in order to plug up a portal to hell, but, in the other areas of her life, she’s just as clueless as the rest of us.

As the seasons progress, we’ll watch Buffy and her friends go through much, much worse. At no point will the demons stop coming, and at no point will this tough life stuff stop hurting, either. But, still, she’ll never give up.

This is the sort of female hero I want to see – a young woman who gets knocked around by life, and who makes mistakes, but who, with tenacity and the love of her trusted friends, will learn from what she experiences and come back stronger.

And if she can kick some evil ass and save the world into the bargain? So much the better.