Monday, 6 April 2015

Leeds Trinity University Writers' Festival Bob Beagrie workshop review

On Wednesday 25 March I attended the Leeds Trinity Writers' Festival and here us a review of the Bob Beagrie Hotseating Heteroglossia workshop:

Bob Beagrie, poet and community playwright, has recently published Yoik (Cinnamon Press 2008), The Seer Sung Husband (Smokestack Books 2010), Glass Characters (Red Squirrel Press 2011), KIDS (Mudfog Press 2012) and SAMPO: Heading Further North (Red Squirrel Press 2015).  His work has appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines and has been translated into Finnish, Urdu, Swedish, Dutch, Spanish, Estonian and Karelian.  He lives in Middlesbrough in the North East of England and is a senior lecturer in creative writing at Teesside University.

Bob gave the group triggers for automatic writing, to visualise a public place you know well:

1)  What is the entrance like?
2)  Pick out 2 colours and a texture.
3)  How should you move once on the other side of the entrance?
4)  What do people do here?
5)  What sounds can be heard, near and distant?
6)  What should you not do here?
7)  What is the light like?
8)  What is in the distance?
9)  What is above/below?
10) Pick out a smell or taste you can connect to this place?
11) What is changing in this place?
12) What is hiding here?
13) Pick out a movement and describe it.
14) What words can you find here?
15) What sings of animal life are there?
16) What happened here in the past?
17) What might you find or lose here?
18) Think of a question that a child might ask about this place.
19) Think of a response (not necessarily an answer) to the question.
20) How do you leave the place?

Then we were given an emotion or state of mind and an occupation, and this is the piece I came up with:

The sun hits the wood just right and I can see it even in its purest form, see how it will change, how I can mould it into something new.  I try not to think of the animals that may live there, the shelter I will be taking.  It is just a thing now, not for them but for others to see its beauty in another way.

I run my hand across the smooth surface, feeling for the small scars of experience past, checking it for damage, problems I might not be able to fix.  It is strong, established in its corner of paradise, here among the deer and rabbits. 

A pheasant rustles in the leaves, making his way from the stream to the shade of the tree and I smile, remembering the first time I came here.  I asked my Mum if I could take one home, but she told me he would be sad to leave his family behind and now I knew what she meant, could understand what taking this would break.

The dog barking in the distance gave me the nudge I needed.  The pheasant runs and I move forward to the task.


The emotion I was given was reflective and the occupation I was given was carpenter.  I was pleased with the backstory that I managed to weave into the short piece.

Bob explained that heteroglossia is different tongues and polyphony, multiple voices.  He gave us The Ballad Of The Landlord by Langston Hughes, The 42nd parallel a 1930s USA trilogy (an extreme version of heteroglossic text, that was an important modernist text in the US, which was a collage of a place at a certain point in time that is written like jazz, patterning in it like in music) and Bleak House by Charles Dickens (Chapter 1).

We were then asked to consider what other voices that you cold hear in that environment?  Who else has a story connected to your character?

I added the following that I interspersed into the first piece:

You must keep your dog on a lead at all times.

Roger Leighton, Park Approved Visitor.  The grim face trying hard to not look like a passport photo.

"Come away from that man Teddy, he doesn't want to say hello to you."

How can she know that?  Is it the uniform or a small thing, implicit in my manner?  I look up.

"He's too busy, got a job to do," she mutters as she drags away the small dog, its tail wagging even now in anticipation of attention she will not allow him to have.

Is it a happy bark?  Has he got the attention he deserves now.  Is it the warmth of human contact or something for him to chase, play with?  As though it feels the threat.


Anything can be used to add to the text, statistics, media, songs etc. but there is a danger it could be too disruptive and the reader won't be able to understand/follow it or a disintegration of the characters' sense of self.  It can be used to give each character/voice a different function of language to differentiate between them to make them more distinct.

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