I’ve been teaching Creative Writing at the college for sixteen years now – frightening thought – and I am still amazed at the wonderful range of creativity displayed by the students in the three weekly classes (Monday evening Creative Writing for All, Wednesday afternoon A Step Further into Creative Writing, Friday afternoon Get Writing). The work they produce is remarkable in its variety. They can charm you, chill you, make you laugh and make you cry. They write everything from warm family stories to horror and sci-fi, from radio playlets to special forms of poetry like sonnets and haikus. I’ve never found any exercise or form that they’re not prepared to have a go at.
Some of this work is showcased in the termly magazine that they produce as a group. It’s called Write and it’s entirely written, edited and produced by the students themselves. Collectively, members and ex-members of the classes also make up Peterborough Writers’ Circle. This enables them to belong to a country-wide association called the National Association of Writers’ Groups (or NAWG). As well as an annual festival at the University of Warwick, NAWG run various writing competitions. The most prestigious of these is the National Anthology Competition. Every year the most high-flying and committed writers’ groups around the country put together an anthology of their best work and submit it, in printed and bound form, for this highly competitive contest. Well, our own Peterborough Writers’ Circle have entered four times in the past, and I’m proud to say that as well as being twice runners-up they won the competition in 2010. I was at the NAWG (The National Association of Writers’ Groups) Festival doing a teaching stint that year and so was lucky enough to be there when Denise Robertson announced the winner – complete with slow opening of gold envelope. It was a lovely moment when it was announced that Peterborough Writers’ Circle were the winners – the best in the country – and a tribute to the hard work, flair and imagination of all the students who contributed.
So what about 2016? Yes, they’re going for it again. Long-time class members Pam Fish and Gerry Watson, along with fellow PWC committee members Catherine Barr, Lesley Modi, John Moseley and Tony Smith, are putting together another anthology of work to be entered in the national competition after Easter. The title we’ve chosen this time is Temperaments, and the pieces in the book are arranged under the umbrella headings of the old ‘four temperaments’ – choleric, melancholy, sanguine and phlegmatic – which were thought to make up the human personality. Hopefully this lets us explore a wide range of moods, emotions and styles, and gives the collection unity as well as variety.
My role in this is simple – I choose the pieces to go in, from the work the students have produced over the year. It’s a difficult task, and sometimes great pieces of writing have to be put aside because, for example, they’re too long, or part of a larger work, and so not suitable for an anthology of ‘bite-sized’ writing. But I’m really proud of the standard of work they’ve produced again.
So will it be Peterborough Writers’ Circle whose name will be in the gold envelope this time? We’ll have to wait until September to find out. But no matter what the outcome, the writers of City College Peterborough are winners in my eyes.
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