I hope the title of this post isn’t misleading: I’m not presenting a tutorial, nor giving feedback on one. Instead, I’m sharing something which has delighted me, following a Creative Writing tutorial last Saturday.
I received some wonderful feedback from my Open University tutor, who is also an author, playwright, and poet.
This will be monumentally unexciting to most people, I know, but I’m sharing it anyway; only you can decide whether or not to continue reading.
During the tutorial, our tutor asked us to choose from a selection of images and then she directed us to write down our answers to eight questions. We were then invited to write something based on the photo and our answers.
I’d selected a black and white photo of a small child, and this is what I submitted:
Notes (my answers to the eight questions):
Curly hair, small hands, glass bottle, bowed head.
Daytime (noon? Sunlight directly overhead)
Black & white = past times.
Birdsong, child softly crying and/or sucking on the bottle, dog barking, adults’ voices.
Child is drinking but doesn’t want to be seen – not her drink? Forbidden?
Siblings fighting over an apple or piece of bread
Mother takes child onto her lap
Edith smoothed down her apron as she emerged from the kitchen, feeling the residue of butter and crumbs move from skin to cotton. She tucked a strand of hair behind one ear, then shaded her eyes to watch Bert slowly mount his tractor at the far end of the field beyond the garden. Her concern for him was interrupted by a shrill shriek to her left, and she quickly turned to investigate then sighed when she saw that Tom and Bobby were fighting again. Tom held an apple aloft, grinning triumphantly, while Bobby stretched to reach it with one hand and thumped her brother’s chest with the other.
“Share, Tom,” Edith said firmly.
Tom rolled his eyes, took a large bite from the apple, and handed it to his pouting sister. The two children muttered to each other while passing the apple back and forth between bites. Satisfied, Edith’s attention turned to her youngest child.
Just beyond the still squabbling siblings, crouched over the tarpaulin-laden bench that had earlier served as their father’s lunch table, Lily was unusually still. Her mop of curly hair hid her face, but Edith could see that the child had her bottle, held hesitantly in grubby hands. A quiet sob alerted Edith, who hurried to sit at the bench and lifted the toddler onto her knee.
“What’s the matter, pet?”
Lily’s tear-stained face held no answer.
“She poo’d her pants!” Bobby giggled behind them.
Knowing instinctively that this was not so, Edith bent her head to hold Lily’s attention.
“Why’s Lily sad?” she asked quietly.
With a sniff, Lily pointed towards the field, where a crowd of crows circled her father’s rumbling tractor.
“Dada gone,” the child said, just as another tear slid down her cheek. “Dada gone.”
Suddenly cold in the mid-summer heat, Edith looked again at Bert’s tractor. She could hear the engine running, but the machine hadn’t moved.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
My tutor’s feedback, received today, has quite overwhelmed me:
I was very moved by this, it’s beautiful and unexpected. What you capture well are the small moments – the way Edith ignores everything else and takes the child on her knee, and the way her intuition is reflected in the images around her, the circling crows, the precise detail of Lily and her bottle and the way there seems to be silence and stillness in spite of the noise of the rumbling tractor and the children fighting over the apple. Edith and Lily are very still at the centre of it. The only thing I can suggest by way of ‘editing’ is to concentrate on obvious images which are weakened in their effect by being too obvious eg. the tear sliding down the child’s cheek. Because your images are so strong, this kind of thing stands out. And if you are already conveying what you mean in the image then don’t feel the need to explain it eg. Knowing instinctively that this was not so, Edith bent her head to hold Lily’s attention, I would lose the red bit here and just have the image which suggests that Edith knows this is so without you actually having to say it. The way she inclines her head towards the child, gentle, focusing only on her, this suggests the intuition…there are a couple of other places like this but..it’s lovely. I’d work on this, see what you come up with.
I’m so thrilled, I just had to share!