Killer Writing Event: a kwest for seamonsters

When my freaky teenaged friends and I got too old to go on kids’ writing courses we started organising our own. At first we hired youth hostels and dragged in authors to teach us stuff, with limited success. This culminated in the year we spent an entire week watching Doctor Horrible’s sing-along blog on repeat and the lead organiser had a breakdown halfway down the stairs. No one did any writing.

We had a rethink. We decided in future we’d teach ourselves.


Awesome things about KWE 2012!

1. Five participants, five totally different sessions.

Self-teaching works for a few reasons: it’s cheaper than hiring someone, it means everyone is terrified of delivering their own session so they actually listen to everyone else, and as everyone knows different stuff you get LOADS of variety.

Here is this year’s selection:

(i) Surrealism and cut up poetry
(ii) Reimagining Shakespeare – as a Disney movie! or a rap song!
(iii) Fractals – putting texts through sets of rules until they become meaningless
(iv) Characterisation – creating characters based on superficial objects then imagining they are totally different people from how they appear
(v) Exploring the Cumbrian countryside and totally experiencing Wordsworth’s Romantic Sublime.

2. Cumbria!

You know when you look at a huge mountain or vast, ancient lake and feel a sense of your own transitory insignificance? That’s the sublime. Cumbria is sublime. Here is what we got up to in Cumbria:

…bracing exercise

(i) We rowed on a lake
(ii) We swam in a lake
(iii) We climbed up waterfalls
(iv) We fell into waterfalls


The Penguin book of 100 Artists’ Manifestos is probably about 50% Dadaism, but since the Dadaists came up with great quotes like:

all of you who are serious, you smell worse than cow shit
dada doesn’t smell anything, it is nothing, nothing, nothing.
it is like your hopes: nothing -
like your paradise: nothing -
like your political men: nothing -
like your heroes: nothing -
like your artists: nothing -
like your religions: nothing -
whistle, cry, smash my mouth and then, and then? I will tell you again that
you are all pears.


what are you doing here, parked like serious oysters…?

this seems like a fair shout.

You know what’s nice to do in the morning? Wake up in a conservatory, stroll out onto the patio with a cup of coffee, and recite early-20th century artists’ manifestos from atop a plastic garden chair. Obviously, this happened.

4. Exquisite corpse (as described by Sarah…).

So many bodies. OH GOD THE BODIES.
(In fact, we created more corpses every spare minute we had. Poetic murder is SO addictive.)

5. Exquisite corpse manifestos:

Convincing, right?

…and the sublime?

6. It’s cheap.

It only cost about £50 ($77) each including travel, food, accommodation, ice cream, fish and chips, booze and a boat trip.

If you want to see more photos/corpses/and manifesto quotes we recorded it all on tumblr. If you want to know more about how to organise a writing course like this for you and like-minded friends, ask me! We evaluate every year and each year we learn more. With the right people and decent organisation, these retreat/course hybrids are the Most Fun you can have wielding a pen.