By Casey Bottono
For our October workshop, some of the young people expressed an interest in exploring travel writing further. It was a pleasure to see both regulars and some new faces amongst the attendees.
We began by talking about the reasons why we write and travel. One participant summed it up beautifully, saying that ‘When you write, you aren’t limited to your own perspective.’
Our first exercise was flash fiction, 100-word stories about a memorable journey you’ve taken.
In planning the workshop, I was partly inspired by my experience of learning Danish. This led me to introduce the writers to my favourite Danish landmark – Tingstedet in the town of Valby. Although it resembles a simple seating area now, in times gone by it was a meeting place for Vikings to hold important discussions. When we invited the writers to imagine a conversation that might have taken place there, an entertaining argument over which order to put jam and cream in a cream tea ensued, with the closing assertion that the observer didn’t care…’He just liked cake.’
We then introduced the writers to the ancient pilgrimage known as the Camino de Santiago, a 500-mile walk between St Jean-Pied-de-Port in northern France to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, northern Spain. A couple of the traditions synonymous with such a walk inspired the direction of our next exercises.
Participants learned about the scallop shell which is traditionally stitched to the backpack of those who have finished the route, as a marker of their having completed this feat. Then they had to imagine what their symbol would be if they were to take on a momentous journey.
Having finished the route, pilgrims have the option to continue to Finisterre, where they write and burn a letter, and then leave something that has accompanied them on their journey behind.
We told the writers that these pieces did not have to be shared, but some students chose to share their work with us. One of the pieces was a poem entitled ‘Dear Life’, which gave us all plenty to think about.
Inspired by Jon Krakauer’s book Into Thin Air, we then did an exercise where the students imagined what their favourite landmarks might say if they could talk.
It appears that the stage is set for a slightly spooky workshop next month, as we explore ghost stories with the Young Writers. Booking information can be found here.