Inspiring Writers in Lockdown by Della Galton
Three of my passions in life are dogs, writing, and being a creative writing tutor.
Dogs in lockdown
Dogs and writing are ideally suited for lock down. I currently have three doggie companions. There’s my lovely Ella, who hails from Crete originally, although I didn’t bring her to the UK and my partner’s terriers, Jackson and Mutley.
Ella is a black and white master manipulator, a real Staffie street dog. Jackson is a hyperactive Border Terrier mix. Mutley is a couch potato Jack Russell. Dogs are excellent company at the best of times and in lockdown they excel because they are great exercise companions too.
Writing in lockdown
On to my next passion, writing. In some ways writers are very prepared for lockdown. We spend long hours holed up inside, we work from home and we are never entirely alone because we have heads full of characters.
Lockdown was good timing for me. When it began I was just about to start my next novel, Sunshine Over Studland Bay, the sequel to Sunshine Over Bluebell Cliff (pub date 28th April).
I must admit at first there was so much going on in the outside world that it was very hard to concentrate. I kept getting side tracked by the news. What was going on in the real world was – for the first time that I could remember – much more unbelievable and a great deal sadder than any of the fiction that I write. My genre is feel good escapist fiction and boy did I want to escape. But it was hard to switch off from what was going on in real life.
Eventually I managed to do it by restricting my news viewing to once a day and immersing myself in my writing.
My romantic comedies are about quirky characters in beautiful settings – my stories are set in Dorset where I was born and have lived all my life. I can’t do any of my usual research trips in lockdown but I can paint all my settings from memory – and maybe a little help from Google!
Thank goodness for fiction. There is nothing quite so escapist as laughter and a happy ending.
Teaching Creative Writing in lockdown
Being a creative writing tutor is my ‘extra’ job. When I gave up my managerial job in 2000 in order to write full time, I needed a back up plan. A quirk of fate threw me towards being a creative writing tutor. I was offered the tutorship of 5 Adult Education writing classes. To take the job I needed to train and qualify as a tutor, which I did and I already knew a fair bit about creative writing. Joining a class in 1987 was how I’d got published myself.
I remember the first time I stood in front of a class of students. I felt sheer and utter terror.
But very quickly I discovered that I loved it. And I have loved it ever since. I love people. Especially quirky people. I am pretty quirky myself. These days I teach two weekly classes in Dorset and I’m also invited to teach at conferences around England and Wales. But of course in lockdown this had to end. My courses generally entailed meeting in actual rooms and being less than two metres apart.
Briefly I contemplated continuing using one of the online platforms like Zoom. I already offer online courses, but I knew that some of my students weren’t comfortable with this and I wanted my classes to do continue with all of my students present, not just 50 per cent of them.
However, I knew I would miss inspiring other writers. For me, teaching is primarily about inspiring people to write and get published if that is their dream.
So I began a daily writing prompt on Facebook.
My original idea was to give my students a little extra inspiration. Many of them used Facebook.
Each day I post a writing prompt on my Facebook timeline. It might be a theme, for example, revenge; or a quirky picture; or sometimes just three random words to incorporate into a story. For example, Friday’s three words were, banana, penny, owl.
The word limit is 250. The deadline is the following day. I read the stories and give a free 5-word critique. It’s hard to critique in 5 words, so my critiques are often longer. It’s the best fun.
I love reading the stories that people post. People often critique each other’s work too. And I’ve had some lovely messages saying I am helping people forget about lockdown. What could be more satisfying than that?
Find Della’s daily Facebook Writing Prompt on Facebook – Della Galton.
Della’s novel Sunshine Over Bluebell Cliff, is a romantic comedy set on the beautiful Dorset coast of Della’s home town. It is available in ebook, audiobook and paperback from 28 April 2020 – click on the cover below to get your copy.