Psychologies Writing Workshop at the Bloomsbury Institute
Last night I went to a writing workshop held at the Bloomsbury Institute in London’s Bedford Square. The event was run by Psychologies magazine and jointly led by two writers – Jane Rusbridge and Vanessa Gebbie, both established authors and veterans of teaching creative writing. I admire them both but particularly wanted to hear what Jane Rusbridge had to say, having recently read The Devil’s Music which I really adored and had a couple of friendly exchanges with on Twitter.
There were drinks beforehand in a book-lined room with stuccoed ceilings and a particular shade of turquoise green that I have spent all morning trying to colour match for my own Georgian house. It is a tranquil setting – all fanlights and curved staircases with beautiful proportions. Instead of some events I have been to where they seem to keep the authors backstage and whisk them out the back door the moment it finishes, Jane and Vanessa circulated and were really approachable.
The workshop itself was held in a packed conservatory (the event was sold out and there was about 60 people there), festooned with fairy lights, and both writers were immediately warm and funny and engaging. I’m not going to go into the details of the workshop because it is obviously their material and a lot of it was quite personal, but they created a safe environment where you felt valued. We had actual practical exercises to do but there was nothing that made you feel exposed or intimidated. The exercises were things you can really utilise in your writing. At one point we teamed up in pairs and swapped what we had been working on. It was so good to chat to like minded people and to be able to talk in a form of writer’s shorthand. I’ve missed that over the summer.
There were some really useful insights including the nitty gritty of practical things to try if you feel one of your characters is just not working; how to root things in a particular place and whether it’s a good idea to actually name that place; whether it’s a good idea to share your work online and the value of author platforms.
There was a lively Q&A session afterwards and, again, it was so reassuring to hear the very things you’re struggling with voiced.
Psychologies magazine are planning on running more events like this in the future. If you get a chance to go, I’d really recommend it.