It's time for A Date With Kate on the Pink Heart Society, as Kate Walker remembers the lighter side of the writing courses she loves to teach...
Some years ago, my eldest sister- who lives in Tasmania – came to stay with us for a some weeks. Her husband, who didn’t know either me or the Babe Magnet very well, said as he saw her off at the airport, ‘I’ll bet you’ll have some wonderful talks together – with your sister being a writer and her husband being a lecturer and a writer too.
Hmm – well, yes – we did have some wonderful conversations, but perhaps not as he meant. The thing is that both the Babe Magnet and I are writers, so we have a love of words but most of all we have a love of word games, puns and the like. If there is a double entrendre in anything one of us can say, then the others will find it – and more. We also have this crazy game that we used to play on family holidays. This is based around the often weird and wonderful names that are given to UK villages – Nether Poppleton or Hellions Bumstead being prize examples.
When my sister and I were kids, we used to spot road signs and if possible create characters from a story who had the name given to those villages – so (and these are genuine) there was a young lady named Mavis Enderby (Lincolnshire) who met up with a poor but honourable farm hand called Barnby Dun (Doncaster) who had a friend called Kirk Sandall (also Doncaster) but the love between Mavis and Barnby was ruined by the evil (Sir) Boothby Graffoe (Lincolnshire). Oh yes, and Mavis had a friend called Cherry Willingham (again Lincolnshire) who was sweet on Mr Kirk Sandall.
I never thought of it at the time but by making up these stories - aimed at keeping us from getting bored and difficult on long car journeys, I was actually training myself as a plotter and creating stories and characters. When my sister comes to visit we still play this game and the stories get ever more elaborate and complicated as we travel further afield.
This is one of the greatest delights of meeting up with fellow wordsmiths, fellow writers. You can share stories, plots, names, events that are purely imaginary and use a sort of shorthand that no one else quite understands. But sometimes when the conversation is overheard, you realise that it can be totally misinterpreted and when people only get half the dialogue it gives them a very different impression from what is meant.
|Fishguard Bay Hotel - where I teach ion February|
So I tend to end up saying something that is really innocent when the person I’m talking to knows exactly what I mean, but a passer-by might not. I was thinking of this when I was running one
of my courses in Leeds two weekends ago. After the teaching was done, we all gathered in the lounge, sharing a bottle of wine – and of course the conversation was about books, characters, plots – but no one else knew that. You could tell that some people wondered just who we were and what was going on as they wandered by and heard mention of a sheikh throwing himself off his horse, or a maiden doing the dance of the seven veils. Or a discussion on ‘how to get his clothes off when he’s still in handcuffs’. On my courses I’ve even been in the Ladies and heard someone who was visiting the hotel for lunch ask one of my students :
‘Are you from the writing group?’ And getting the answer yes, ‘So are you enjoying yourself?’
‘Oh yes,’ was the reply. ‘We’re just going to have a session on sex and chocolate.’
And more than once I have discussed the next writing session and said ‘I haven’t decided whether to have sex with you all before or after coffee.’ This happened once in the queue for breakfast and the man in front of us turned and said ‘I think I’m on the wrong course.’
This is one – one of the many – reasons why I love teaching courses. The weekends might start off slightly formally, but by the second night, when we all know each other better, and the conversation is more relaxed, we can talk freely – sometimes very freely - knowing it’s our characters and their lives we’re discussing, not real people. The looks on the faces of other people in the bar are wonderful to see – and you know they are fascinated to know if what we’re saying is true.
So yes, as my brother-in-law thought, writers can have some wonderful discussions, but perhaps not quite on the topics most people would expect. And of course it’s not just the romance writers who cause shockwaves as they talk in the bar – I once shared a wonderful evening with a friend of mine who writes murder mysteries and she completely silenced the room when she told me ‘I got her to knife her husband instead – rather less mess than blowing his brains out.'
I'm taking a break from teaching courses for the rest of the year - there's a dark and devastating sheikh who is demanding his happy ever after. He says he's been waiting ten years for her to write his story (that's on his life - not mine) and he wants to meet his bride now.
But if you're interested in the upcoming courses - check out Writers' Holidays or Relax and Write events - or the details over on the events page of my website
In fiction, she has the reprint of Kept for Her Baby out in the current By Request 3 in 1.