Writing and Shit – Part 1 – What Type of Writer Are You?

Either/Or/Or I am guessing you are one of three sorts of writer. Does this sound like you? You have hundreds of ideas. You have dozens of opening sentences. You have lots and lots of half-stories. You have a few stories that have even reached what you once hoped was the end, but which turned out merely […]

How to Tell a Story to Save the World

Normally, when people come along to a creative writing class, they are hoping to learn how to write better, not how to save the planet. A couple of years ago, I was teaching a Guardian Masterclass on ‘Storytelling Secrets’. Among those attending were three representatives of an international environmental activist network. They were young, casually stylish, energetic […]

STARTING TO WRITE – Lesson 8: Exposition and how to avoid it

You may have heard that common piece of advice from Creative Writing workshops ‘Show, don’t tell’, and you have have wondered what it meant. Or you may know. Here is an example of telling – Sara was born in May 1996. Ten years later her mother published her first novel. It was called Jumping Jumping. There […]

At The Playground You Meet Someone Amazing – A new short story

My mother had a stroke. Luckily, it was quite minor. She was still able to read, though more slowly. There was a gap in her vision – an absence where sight simply didn’t take place. Because of this, she wasn’t able to drive. My mother’s stroke changed our family. None of her children had started […]

Receipt: Poem

Receipt ‘Would you like the sea?’ I say yes, puzzled. Tamp, and another afternoon’s second coffee – she is Russian, or Ukrainian, and so I realise she said receipt. ‘I gave you a hard time earlier today,’ her Indian boss says, alongside the machine where she’s making my milk bluff. And she, ‘Not so much,’ […]

Junot Díaz – ‘My Full Account of Cruelties Towards People’

Last year, I gave a lecture on ‘Success!!!’ and how to cope with it. I quoted Junot Díaz extensively, and approvingly. (I also used some words from him as the epigraph of my non-fiction book, Wrestliana: ‘You wrestle with your family your entire life.’) In the midst of the dismaying, appalling accusations against him, I […]

Against “Show, Don’t Tell” (With Walter Scott)

‘Show, Don’t Tell’ (like ‘Less is More’) has become a cliché of creative writing teaching. It’s usually associated – to my mind at least – with American minimalist writing. Not just the more recent instances, such as Lydia Davis and Mary Robison. And not the middle distance of Ann Beattie, Raymond Carver and Tobias Wolff. […]

Sport – or, What Can Writers Learn From Athletes and Coaches?

This talk was first delivered to students of the Creative Writing MA at Birkbeck on May 3rd 2016. Leicester City won the Premier League, and since then a great deal of the national conversation – online, in newspapers, in corridors – has been, ‘How did they do it?’ The next thing after that, of course, is, […]