Ever since meeting Emma Beynon — workshop leader, organic farmer, general adventurer — I knew I wanted to know her better. In fact, I knew I wanted to work with her. Collaborating affords you one of those rare opportunities to look inside a person, learn their passions, admire their strengths, and understand their weaknesses. To my delight, Emma was also interested in all these things too. So, from a series of connections and chance encounters, a new partnership (and shameless writer-ly love) was born.
Over lots of tea and cake in Cardiff, Emma and I planned our first collaboration. Our initial idea was to host one half-day workshop set in the ramshackle, mid-Tudor gentry house she now calls home (see photos below). Take it slow, we thought. But, after many enthusiastic cafe meetings and phone conversations, this brainstorm transformed into a four-part series of full day workshops running throughout the summer. As optimists and generally excitable people we found it difficult to pare things down. We wanted everything — as much as we could (realistically) imagine — for our first collaboration. So, we dove in.
Together we agreed that each one of the four workshops would give writers a chance to examine, discuss, and practice something different — poetry, prose, and performance — using the unique home and stunning landscape as sources of inspiration. Once we had our ideas set we started marketing, secured funding from Literature Wales (thank you!), and held our first workshop, the Introduction, on April 20th. I could not have been more pleased.
We drank tea, read poetry, walked by the river, and stoked fires. Emma and I worked well together, me leading the morning and her the afternoon. We had a wonderful group of women who inspired both of us. One of them, Rachel, wrote a blog post about her experience which captures the day better than I can. At the moment, I am feeling too sentimental to do it justice.
That being said, I would love to share some of the wonderful writing that came out of this workshop. The first poem is by Rachel, a member of both my Roath Writers and MARGIN groups in Cardiff, and the second is by Suzie, a self-confessed ‘non-writer’ and Radnorshire Wildlife Trust worker. Enjoy:
by the side
of river, rushing
against stones stuck sideways
like an overfull
bookcase. Above her,
sky unfurls endlessly;
A twirling ribbon on a stick.
Pool waits for them to come back
and finish their stories.
inspired by a newly discovered wall painting at the Ciliau
I am the cat that died
Fed up with scraps and potato peelings
Nine lives or more
Nearly drown -dead once
In a water barrel
Maudie got me out
Saw me caterwaul when she was collecting eggs
Dropped the eggs to save poor puss
We had none dinner me and Maudie then
She loved me
Used to get feathers and play with puss
Using my paws to make her laugh
Died too- scarlet fever
Then I nearly got chopped in half
Sleeping in the log pile
Bad tempered loud lout
Then the gander got me
I hated that ganger
Roast Goose Day was good
And I got the scraps
Bye bye goosie
The bird wasn’t happy when fowls were ate.
Well, they never ate cat did they
Times you nearly had me cat – bad times
I cannot wait to see what other work comes from the rest of the series. There will be hill walks, picnics, tea lights, writing, and homemade cake. It’s going to be a lovely summer.
Emma and I are currently finalizing the plans for the second workshop of the series called ‘Writing by the River – Dipping into Poetry’. I’ll be sure to share the pieces that come from this. In the meantime, if you would like more information or are interested in joining us please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.