My work at Hastings Library started out as a three-month project, but later extended to six.
In fact, I wrote a similar blog post to this one when the project initially ended. There I gave my thanks to the libraries and communities where I found welcome. In this one, now the project really has come to an end, I thought I'd expand a bit more on some things I've observed as writer in residence at Hastings Library.
Firstly, though, I'd like to draw your attention to the image in the top of this page, which shows the two booklets to have emerged from this residency. I wrote introductions for both, but the contents come from participants. Filled to Bursting with Disco is a booklet of participant work from creative writing workshops held at Hastings Library and the surrounding area. My Hair is Just My Hair emerged from creative storytelling workshops I held at Eastbourne Library for teenagers who had struggled with their mental health.
Filled to Bursting with Disco is available to pick up for free from Hastings Library, and My Hair is Just My Hair is now included in Wellbeing Bags available for loan to teenagers across East Sussex.
Now you've made a note of where to go to get hold of those, let's move on to a few brief observations about my work as a writer in Hastings.
I've been buoyed by the enthusiasm of participants. Not just their willingness to turn up (because sometimes there has been initial reluctance or uncertainty), but the way that once they get started, they get going. I can't count the times I've heard things like "I've come up with this just now" – a confident response from someone who was initially unsure. In fact, there have been lots of very confident creative responses, and people talking assuredly about their writing.
In recent group work, when I returned to work with participants I'd met previously, I witnessed participants connecting to the stories others had created, and sharing supportive comments without being prompted. Participants were there for the sake other people's writing, not just their own, whether they knew that or not, and that was lovely to witness.
An achievement for one participant is not the same as an achievement for another. Filling a page with text might come easily to one writer, and with more difficulty to another. Through the workshop process participants have come up with just one great sentence, or one exciting idea, or incredible, fully-formed stories. Everyone works at their own scale, particularly in the intergenerational workshop format I've trialled recently. Coming to the realisation that an idea needs to be rewritten in order to improve it is a milestone for one writer, talking confidently about their own writing is a milestone for others.
Writing has the power to help people come out of their shells. It can give confidence to the quiet. It can connect people who might otherwise have thought, or made the mistake of thinking, they had nothing in common.
Here's a brief video of participants talking about the experience of taking part in my creative writing workshops: