CREATIVE WRITING MASTERCLASS WITH DR ALICE LITTLE
WHEN: 9pm (BST) / 8 APRIL
Alice (St Edmund Hall, 2003) is a music historian and author of fiction. Her academic work focuses on music collecting, particularly the eighteenth-century folk tune collection of John Malchair. She is a Research Fellow in the Music Faculty where she recently published a biographical catalogue of the Anthony Baines Archive. She is Administrator for the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing and runs Didcot Writers. Alice has had five anthologies of short fiction published, and is the current Writer in Residence at Wytham Woods, the research woodland of the University of Oxford.
What’s your area of expertise and why does it motivate you?
As an academic my area is music history, particularly the history of collecting. I'm interested in why people collect things and how they make their way into museum collections. Most of my research is about collections of music or musical instruments. Oddly, I hardly ever write fiction about music or museums! In my fiction writing I love telling stories of dilemmas, and considering how people see things from different points of view. At the moment I'm writing a collection of stories that interlink and overlap and am having a lot of fun playing with structures.
Give us the elevator pitch for your session of why people should come to your talk
You might also ask - what is nature writing, or what is climate writing?
Name a story set in a wood. From Snow White to Hansel and Gretel, from The Lord of the Rings to Winnie-the-Pooh, woodlands and forests have inspired storytellers for centuries. But, these days, I don't think it's possible to write about nature without addressing the issue of climate change. As a writer, I think it's necessary to think carefully about how the books we read and the stories we tell - and how we tell them - might help us learn about nature, connect us to it, and even encourage people to take action that might help mitigate the climate emergency. In this workshop we will discuss books where nature or climate play a significant role, and ask to what extent fiction can change the world. We will also put our pens to paper and try writing something of our own.
How has Oxford inspired your short stories?
I write a lot of stories set in Oxfordshire, and like to use familiar places as my setting. It's great being Writer in Residence at Wytham Woods, because there are so many different parts of the wood to use - from the woods themselves to the meadows, from the labs and workshop spaces at the chalet to the canopy walkway used by researchers to get a bird's-eye view of the woods. All of these feature in the anthology I'm writing as part of my residency.
What are your top 3 tips for budding fiction writers?
- Keep writing - set time aside for it, and keep going. It's amazing how much you can get written in short bursts once you're in the habit. And don't put it off until you've got a full day - it'll never come!
- Find writing friends: writing can be a lonely pastime so it's important to have people around you. I run a 'Shut Up and Write' session for Didcot Writers, and an Oxfordshire network for the Society of Authors, both of which help writers find each other: you don't have to do it all yourself!
- Get feedback, and offer feedback (from people other than your family!). As writers we often compare our work to what we read in books - but this isn't a fair comparison as these books will have been through rounds of edits before ending up in print. I run a life-writing feedback group for Oxford Writing Mentors, where we share work for constructive comments - it's a really supportive way to get feedback. In a group like this you learns as much by reading others' work as from having others look at yours.