Past workshops

January-March 2020

We kicked of the new year with a set of five workshops with Deborah Bosley, who returned to Didcot by popular demand.

The course, Sharpen up your Writing, saw participants fleshing out characters, beefing up plots, and mastering effective dialogue. This boot camp for books took our writing to new levels through informal, collaborative and fun classes.

Our final workshop was interrupted by the coronavirus lockdown, so was replaced by detailed feedback on a piece of writing sent by email.

Thank you for the great classes. Really fun and encouraging as well as learning lots of great writing tips and insights. The group was really warming up as the weeks went by.
- Penny


November 2019: Historical Fiction
For three weeks in November we welcomed Anna-Marie Crowhurst, author of The Illumination of Ursula Flight, who led us on a rollicking ride into the heady world of historical fiction, taking in Georgian brothels and Tudor palaces, 18th century Bristol and 1950s New York.


September-October 2019
Our autumn term's workshops covered a range of topics and styles of writing, including fiction, journalism and poetry. The series offered writers the chance to try out new genres, or to develop a piece of work they already had in mind.

Because of the range of topics we met a new tutor (or welcomed back a face we knew) every week this term - so we designed our November 2019 and Jan-April 2020 courses to let us work with one tutor at a time over a number of weeks. Let us know which style you prefer, and we can invite some of the tutors below back for longer next time!

  • Nicki Thornton: Thinking about your Readers
  • Alex Larman: How to Write Articles for Money
  • Annabel Banks: Dialogue in Fiction
  • Rowena Cooper: Growing a Poem
  • Michael Wheatley: Writing Fear


    May-July 2019: Getting Published

    These three workshops gave participants all the information they needed to start thinking about having their work published, whether it's a novel, an anthology, or a blog or set of articles.

    On Wednesday 8th May we heard from award-winning children's author, Nicki Thornton, on The Joys of Getting Published; then on Wednesdays 5th June and 3rd July we welcomed award-winning novelist Lucy Atkins, on What an Agent Wants, and Working with Publishers and Editors.

    The course helped participants to answer questions including what publishing success might look like to them, what the barriers might be to achieving it, how to find and work with an agent, and what to expect when working with a publishing house or independent editor.


    Saturday 15th June 2019: Writing On-Location
    This special one-off workshop, led by experienced writing tutor Sharon Norris, was designed to help writers think about how to write about a place - particularly the Railway Inn, around which our next anthology is themed.

    The workshop started with about 45 minutes of discussion and one or two exercises, then moved outside (a 5-minute walk down the hill towards the railway line) for on-location writing.

    (We scheduled the event for the same day as the Didcot to Oxford railway line 175th anniversary celebrations, so there were lots of other things going on: didcotoxfordgwr175.org.)

    Resources assembled for the workshop can be found here.


    Wednesday 1st May 2019: Poetry Open Mic, on the theme of Springtime
    Not a workshop, but a special one-off event! This was chance for participants to read either their own poetry or that which inspires them, hear others' work, and to meet poets from around Oxfordshire. Our MC for the evening was local nature poet, Katie Meehan.


    March-April 2019: auto/biography and life writing
    This term participants worked with novelist Deborah Bosley to work on biographical writing, whether of ourselves, a family member, or a historical figure. Over four tutored workshops and a Read and Review night (facilitated by Alice Little), participants worked on describing a character, placing them in time and space, and structuring a life narrative.

    One of our participants said:

    Because of this workshop series I have written two stories, although I was at a standstill previously. Deborah's style of workshop leadership is very encouraging and inspiring. I had a thoroughly enjoyable and productive few weeks.
    - Rose


    January-February 2019: an introduction to creative writing
    In 2019 we moved to a new venue, All Saints Hall. Our first series of workshops in 2019 featured the following 5 workshops:

  • Mark Lewis: New year, new ideas! - whether you're a beginner or more experienced, these writing games will get you thinking.
  • Debrah Martin: Writing a book - how do you start a novel and what happens next? An introduction to long-form fiction.
  • Alice Little: What's your story? - introducing flash fiction and short stories, writing to a theme without being predictable.
  • Rowena Cooper: Writing poetry - whether you're into limericks or sonnets, all you need to know to try your hand at writing poems.
  • Mark Lewis: Review night - read out your work, with guidance on giving and receiving feedback. Wine and other refreshments provided.


    In September and October 2018 Debrah Martin delivered four workshops on the themes of inspiration, plotting, setting, and character. These were suitable for beginners as well as those with an existing work in progress.

    In July and August 2018 Mark Lewis returned to Cornerstone for two workshops: on sci-fi and fantasy. In these workshops participants were encouraged to contemplate unfamiliar worlds as a powerful way of exploring the present.

    In June 2018 we teamed up with Oxford Continuing Education and Cornerstone Arts Centre to run three free creative writing workshops with Lorna Fergusson, on the theme Making Memorable Scenes.



    Wednesday 30th May 2018

    Ideas Generator!
    With the opening of submissions for Didcot Writers’ second anthology of short stories, ‘The Most Normal Town in England’, at this workshop we will discuss the themes raised by the anthology’s title, explore the basics of setting, character and plot, and complete several writing exercises to help inspire new ideas - whether or not you want to submit your work for publication.

    Alice Little is an experienced workshop leader; she writes short and long fiction as well as historical non-fiction. She has had several short stories published - see alicelittle.co.uk/fiction to find out more.

    I find cultivating ideas for short stories quite difficult in general and the workshop not only had useful exercises for brainstorming but it also broke down all the important features of the form in order to use those ideas to the best effect.
    - Sarah



    Wednesday 31st January 2018

    The Plot Thickens
    In this workshop Debrah will show you how to use the Three Act Structure to take your novel from intriguing opening to stunning conclusion, including the subtle arts of positioning hooks and developing multi-layered plotting to create depth and tension.

    Debrah is a ten times published author of literary fiction and psychological thrillers. She also teaches creative writing and publishing, edits and mentors – when she’s not fiendishly plotting, that is…

    I really enjoyed the workshop last night and thought it excellent value for money. Well done on putting together a hugely informative workshop.
    - Jeremy




    Wednesday 13th December

    Get Inspired!
    Do you need a fresh start in your writing? This workshop will introduce several techniques to inspire you to create something new, and help you breathe new life into existing work.

    Mark has had over twenty pieces of short fiction published, three scripts performed and several poems. He has run workshops at Cornerstone Arts Centre since 2008.

    Mark's summary of the workshop is available here.

    A really great and interactive workshop, I really enjoyed the writing tasks and we had a chance to explore writing outside of our comfort zones.
    - Abbeh




    Wednesday 15th November 2017

    Behind the mask (2): character development in creative writing
    Building on October’s workshop, this session will help you uncover your protagonist’s hidden depths, build unlikely connections between friends and enemies, and bring blurry fringe characters into focus. Through guided writing exercises we will explore opportunities for flaw, failure, friction and frailty in character development.

    Zoe is a physics teacher by day, and enjoys exploring young perspectives in her writing. She likes writing about twisted timelines, poetic turns of phrase and Matilda-esque superpowers that are birthed from deep suffering.

    This workshop was really helpful, offering numerous ways to create and flesh out characters. There was a great variety of exercises which I found worked really well at helping this process along. And I shan't forget the Dish of Disaster!
    - Mike


    Wednesday 18th October 2017

    Behind the Mask (1): what makes a character tick?
    This unusual session will include writing exercises and a fascinating look at creating a character for your story from an unexpected starting point. One or two mystery figures will make an appearance to set you thinking. Lively discussion guaranteed!

    Linda Francis has been writing for three years and enjoys character study. A recent project involved a short-run publication about a local hero written in verse, in collaboration with two primary schools.

    You can download the class notes here, and if you want more information about handwriting study (graphology) please find Linda's notes here.

    It was a fantastic workshop, exploring what makes great characters great, through informative discussions and interactive exercises.
    - Luke


    Wednesday 20th September 2017

    "Based on a True Story" — using real life in fiction
    Taking examples from modern and classic literature, this workshop will suggest ways to balance truth with creativity in your writing. Whether you use real people as inspiration for your characters, or base your plot or setting on real-life examples, this is your chance to explore how best to make use of your own experiences when writing good fiction.

    Alice Little is an experienced workshop leader; she writes short and long fiction, as well as historical non-fiction. She has had several short stories published: see alicelittle.co.uk/fiction to find out more.

    Read the notes from the workshop here.

    My first workshop and I‘ll be back. Alice led it in a thought-provoking way – reading extracts, playing videos and providing several writing exercises to challenge us. I came away informed and inspired – having done the most writing I’d done in months. Just the kick-start I needed!
    - Nicola


    Wednesday 16th August 2017

    "But is it Art?" - An introduction to fanfiction:
    In this workshop we will be taking a peek into the often misunderstood and much maligned world of fanfiction. From Star Trek to Pride and Prejudice, learn how to create new stories for your favourite characters. Through group discussion and practical exercises in a supportive environment, we will explore the appeal of fanfiction and the benefits it can bring to our writing.

    Fiona Clegg has a long history of writing both fanfiction and original fiction, her short story ‘Sunday’s Child’ was published by an award-winning independent publisher in 2016.

    Read the handout Fiona provided, and the notes from the workshop itself.

    I had not realized there were thousands of people online all sharing the further adventures of their heroes and I am seriously considering joining them.
    - Rose


    Wednesday 26th July 2017

    Rewriting Fairy Tales:
    Discover what makes fairy tales so enthralling. Beginning with a group discussion about the stories and characters that form the foundations of a classic fairy tale, this workshop will provide a supportive space in which creative writers can explore the tradition and experiment with new ways to tell your favourite stories.

    Lucas Smith has a Masters in Journalism and has been writing short fiction for 3 years. He had two short stories published in 2016 in the Cornerstone Mystery Anthology.

    Read the notes from the workshop here.

    I've had these characters floating around my head and I've been searching for a meaty story to write them into but struggling for ideas - the fairy tale workshop gave me the inspiration I needed!
    - Zoe



    14th June 2017

    Getting your writing ready for publication:
    Join us for a friendly and supportive workshop to help you edit and polish your creative writing for publication. We will discuss ways to improve our writing and how to best prepare work to send out to publishers and for competition entries. Please bring along a paragraph of your own work that you want to improve.

    Mike Evis has had 7 short stories published (so far) and is currently working on a longer piece of fiction.

    Read the notes from the workshop here.

    Some really practical advice: I'm looking forward to taking my writing to the next stage. - Thanks, Mike!
    - Alice


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