I have recently completed my first round of WRITE STUFF Writing Workshops and am massively delighted to say that people – the writers attending – seemed to love them. ‘Inspiring!’ ‘Brilliantly facilitated by Barbara!’ ‘Highly creative and reminded me why I wanted to write!’ were just a few of the enthused reactions. I have been a University Lecturer in Screen writing and TV Drama, but now I have my Masters (why not ‘Mistress’?) in ‘Creative Writing’, I am now able to teach prose – and improve my own prose at the same time. We are all learning as we teach. That’s my mantra!
The seaside town of Ryde lends itself perfectly to Festivals and Workshops, with great cafes and venues dotted around and a bohemian feeling that goes back to the late, great Virginia Woolf who used to come down and promenade along the Pier – the oldest in the country – and talk of the ‘poets and writers’ she would trip over. We have a great literary tradition here!
I have been living in Ryde ever since I returned from my two year ‘Gap Year’ with my family in the South West of France, a small market town in the Charente region called Chalez. My husband, Tony, is a Lecturer and Head of Television at Southampton Solent University, and wanting a mix of Brighton Beach – where we used to live – and the chill-out factor of the French countryside, we chose this beautiful town on the north coast of the island. Ryde? Why here you may ask? This town has everything this particular writer needs: great walks; beaches and headland cafes; quirky hotels and bars and – important for novelists! – great, idiosyncratic characters all around. I am the ‘mad writer’ who walks around with her Dictaphone, muttering to herself, or taking notes, sitting in the darkened cafes. People research! And this is exactly how I work.
I consider myself to be an organic writer, one who draws in ‘organically’ from everything around her and writes from that very point. ‘Write what you know’ is my mantra and one which I always spread around to other writers. I tend to live things first, write about them after.
I have just finished ‘Eat the View’, a comedy that has taken me around 18 months to complete. It’s based on my crazed two years in France where myself and Tony, and our two kids, Max and Izzy, went out to France to take time out of our busy careers and take a side-ways step into a very different world … and how different that world was in France! I had some French, a lot of slang from my time spent there as a teenage girl, but absolutely no experience of running a ‘Chambres D’hotes’ a Bed and Breakfast!
What fun it was for this errant Writer and her Documentary-maker husband to play the role of ‘hosts’ at a rural Gite! We had done hardly any research but it was fantastically liberating to hurl ourselves head-first into a real adventure – and moving into the near-18th Century world of rural France was a much of an adventure as one could get!
All the scrapes and jolly japes we got up to were written down and synthesised into the essence of this my first novel, ‘Eat the View’, a tale of a writer (me!) writing a novel about a writer who can’t write (me again!)
Life imitating Art imitating Life. Over and Out!
Barbara Jane Mackie.