Learn How To Write Your Own Blog
With another of my Spitalfields Life Blog Writing Courses coming up on May 13th & 14th, it is my pleasure to publish recent despatches below from two favourite blogs spawned by the course – A London Inheritance & Bug Woman London. Click here for more information about the Course
COMMENTS BY STUDENTS FROM PAST COURSES TUTORED BY THE GENTLE AUTHOR
“I highly recommend this creative, challenging and most inspiring course. The Gentle Author gave me the confidence to find my voice and just go for it!”
“Do join The Gentle Author on this Blogging Course in Spitalfields. It’s as much about learning/ appreciating Storytelling as Blogging. About developing how to write or talk to your readers in your own unique way. It’s also an opportunity to “test” your ideas in an encouraging and inspirational environment. Go and enjoy – I’d happily do it all again!”
“The Gentle Author’s writing course strikes the right balance between addressing the creative act of blogging and the practical tips needed to turn a concept into reality. During the course the participants are encouraged to share and develop their ideas in a safe yet stimulating environment. A great course for those who need that final (gentle) push!”
“I haven’t enjoyed a weekend so much for a long time. The disparate participants with different experiences and aspirations rapidly became a coherent group under The Gentle Author’s direction in a gorgeous house in Spitalfields. There was lots of encouragement, constructive criticism, laughter and very good lunches. With not a computer in sight, I found it really enjoyable to draft pieces of written work using pen and paper. Having gone with a very vague idea about what I might do I came away with a clear plan which I think will be achievable and worthwhile.”
“The Gentle Author is a master blogger and, happily for us, prepared to pass on skills. This “How to write a blog” course goes well beyond offering information about how to start blogging – it helps you to see the world in a different light, and inspires you to blog about it. You won’t find a better way to spend your time or money if you’re considering starting a blog.”
“I gladly traveled from the States to Spitalfields for the How to Write a Blog Course. The unique setting and quality of the Gentle Author’s own writing persuaded me and I was not disappointed. The weekend provided ample inspiration, like-minded fellowship, and practical steps to immediately launch a blog that one could be proud of. I’m so thankful to have attended.”
“I took part in The Gentle Author’s blogging course for a variety of reasons: I’ve followed Spitalfields Life for a long time now, and find it one of the most engaging blogs that I know; I also wanted to develop my own personal blog in a way that people will actually read, and that genuinely represents my own voice. The course was wonderful. Challenging, certainly, but I came away with new confidence that I can write in an engaging way, and to a self-imposed schedule. The setting in Fournier St was both lovely and sympathetic to the purpose of the course. A further unexpected pleasure was the variety of other bloggers who attended: each one had a very personal take on where they wanted their blogs to go, and brought with them an amazing range and depth of personal experience. “
“I found this bloggers course was a true revelation as it helped me find my own voice and gave me the courage to express my thoughts without restriction. As a result I launched my professional blog and improved my photography blog. I would highly recommend it.”
“An excellent and enjoyable weekend: informative, encouraging and challenging. The Gentle Author was generous throughout in sharing knowledge, ideas and experience and sensitively ensured we each felt equipped to start out. Thanks again for the weekend. I keep quoting you to myself.”
“My immediate impression was that I wasn’t going to feel intimidated – always a good sign on these occasions. The Gentle Author worked hard to help us to find our true voice, and the contributions from other students were useful too. Importantly, it didn’t feel like a ‘workshop’ and I left looking forward to writing my blog.”
“The Spitafields writing course was a wonderful experience all round. A truly creative teacher as informed and interesting as the blogs would suggest. An added bonus was the eclectic mix of eager students from all walks of life willing to share their passion and life stories. Bloomin’ marvellous grub too boot.”
BUG WOMAN, ADVENTURES IN LONDON, Because a Community is More Than Just People
DEAR READERS, Just when I think that I have spotted every species of bird who is likely to visit the bird table, someone new drops by. And so it was on a sunny evening this week, when I glanced out of my upstairs window to see a Jackdaw pecking up the suet pellets. This is the first time I have ever seen a Jackdaw in the garden: they are rare birds in London, though when I visit my parents in Dorset they are everywhere, chuckling away and playing above the roofs.
I have always been fond of Jackdaws: they are intelligent and adaptable birds, the smallest of the crows, and they would have been a familiar sight in central London at the end of the nineteenth century. They have often been described as ‘ecclesiastical birds’ because of their habit of nesting in church towers. Until 1889, they bred at St Paul’s Cathedral and they were also nesting in St Michael’s Church near the Bank of England.
Alas, these days, they avoid most of London. There have been various theories as to why, but the unavailability of both habitat and food is probably to blame. Once, Jackdaws would have eaten grain that was meant for the horses which were once prevalent in the city and lined their nests with hair and wool from animals driven down to Smithfield.
I find the Jackdaw a most handsome bird. I love the frosty cape around his neck and the bouncy way that he jogs around. While Crows always remind me of Prince Charles as they walk around with their metaphorical hands clasped behind their backs, Jackdaws have more of Tigger about them.
Most of all, I love their ice-blue eyes. The naturalist W.H.Hudson described them as ‘small malicious serpent-like grey eyes’ but I can only think that he looked with a jaundiced view. To me, the eyes of a Jackdaw show sharp intelligence and clarity of intention.
This one had just noticed me standing at the window with my camera and was trying to decide if I was a threat or not. Evidently the suet pellets won over immediate flight, since this was a hungry bird and most of the contents of the bird table ended up on the patio where the Starlings and squirrel made short work of them.
Jackdaws are very chatty birds and will imitate human speech if they are in the mood or sufficiently well rewarded. ‘Swans will sing when Jackdaws are silent’ is an ancient adage, meaning that well-informed people will have their say once the foolish folk cease gabbling. A Jackdaw on the roof can mean either a new arrival or a death, depending on where you are in the country. In short, superstition follows this bird.
Although Jackdaws live in flocks, they pair for life within the group and a couple will stay together even after multiple cases of breeding failure. Single Jackdaws are at the absolute bottom of the pecking order so, if one finds a new mate, his or her status derives from that of the partner. As I watched the Jackdaw in my garden, I was feeling a little sorry that they were on their own until a second Jackdaw emerged from under the bird table and they flew off together. Call me a tired old romantic but it warmed my heart.
There is something special about witnessing a new visitor to the garden, especially when I have been feeding the birds for years and think I have seen everything. Hah! Nature has a way of puncturing my complacency. Sometimes, I think that I have not even begun to notice the secret life of my garden, let alone understand it. There is enough in this little spot of earth to keep me busy for the rest of my life.
A LONDON INHERITANCE, A Private History of a Public City
This week I walked from Southwark Cathedral to Southwark Bridge to look back along Bankside towards the Cathedral and survey the view my father photographed in 1953.
This short stretch of Bankside is completely different now. I could not take a photo in the same position as my father, as I would be looking from the bridge straight into the Financial Times building. The river wall has been pushed further out into the river and new buildings now cover the original Bankside roadway. In my father’s picture, it is possible to look straight along Bankside and see the tower of Southwark Cathedral from the bridge. Today, this is not possible as new buildings obscure the view and Southwark Cathedral is harder to see due to the taller buildings directly behind.
As I could not take a photo from the same position as my father, I took a picture standing further onto Southwark Bridge, showing this part of Bankside as it is now. A straight length of river wall and walkway now lines the bank between Southwark Bridge and the railway bridge across to Cannon St station. The warehouses have been replaced by two office buildings and the cranes along the river have long since disappeared.
The 1895 Ordnance Survey map shows this stretch of Bankside which had not changed much in the sixty years before my father’s photograph. It reveals Bankside lined with warehouses, wharves and cranes along the river’s edge.
There are a couple of features that interest me in my father’s photo. There is a solitary lamp mounted on the river wall and to the right is a large entrance on the ground floor of a building. What was this single lamp doing in this position, I wonder?
On the 1895 map, the large entrance on the right is the entrance to Horseshoe Alley. Opposite Horseshoe Alley at the water’s edge is an opening in the river wall down to the river, which can also be seen in my father’s photograph to the left of the lamp. Then I checked John Rocque’s map from 1746 – Horseshoe Alley is there but also, leading down to the river, is Horseshoe Alley Stairs. Perhaps this lamp was there to guide those walking up and down what would have been rather slippery steps leading down to the Thames?
The South London Press of 4th March 1882 reports on an inquiry by St Saviour’s Board of Works into flooding along Bankside. “All the dam-boards were at once put up so as to prevent the overflow of the water, but the Clerk of Works found that at one important point, Horseshoe-Alley, the barricade had been removed. The water could not therefore be prevented from coming in there and it came up with such rapidity – more rapid, in fact, than on any previous occasion of which he had experience – that it washed away all the clay at Bank End.”
Whilst some of the dams did hold, much of the Bankside and Lambeth flooded. There was a heavy rush of water through Blackfriars Bridge Wharf with two feet of water flooding the surrounding streets. Men, women and children were reported to be “seen rushing about in all directions to find means of keeping out of the muddy water.”
This flooding happened on Sunday 19th February 1882. By 2:30 pm the Trinity high-water mark at London Bridge had been reached but the tide continued to rise for another thirty minutes, so that by 3pm it was now two feet higher than the Trinity mark. On the river wall underneath Southwark Bridge, I found the Trinity high-water mark – still legible more than a century later.
Bankside from Southwark Bridge, looking east
Ordinance Survey map of 1895, showing Bankside and Horseshoe Alley
John Roque’s map, showing Bankside and Horseshoe Alley
Trinity High Water mark under Southwark Bridge
HOW TO WRITE A BLOG THAT PEOPLE WILL WANT TO READ - 13th & 14th MAY
Spend a weekend in an eighteenth century weaver’s house in Spitalfields and learn how to write a blog with The Gentle Author.
This course will examine the essential questions which need to be addressed if you wish to write a blog that people will want to read.
“Like those writers in fourteenth century Florence who discovered the sonnet but did not quite know what to do with it, we are presented with the new literary medium of the blog – which has quickly become omnipresent, with many millions writing online. For my own part, I respect this nascent literary form by seeking to explore its own unique qualities and potential.” - The Gentle Author
1. How to find a voice – When you write, who are you writing to and what is your relationship with the reader?
2. How to find a subject – Why is it necessary to write and what do you have to tell?
3. How to find the form – What is the ideal manifestation of your material and how can a good structure give you momentum?
4. The relationship of pictures and words – Which comes first, the pictures or the words? Creating a dynamic relationship between your text and images.
5. How to write a pen portrait – Drawing on The Gentle Author’s experience, different strategies in transforming a conversation into an effective written evocation of a personality.
6. What a blog can do – A consideration of how telling stories on the internet can affect the temporal world.
The course will be held at 5 Fournier St, Spitalfields on 13th & 14th May from 10am -5pm on Saturday and 11am-5pm on Sunday. Lunch will be catered by Leila’s Cafe of Arnold Circus and tea, coffee & cakes by the Townhouse are included within the course fee of £300.
Accommodation at 5 Fournier St is available upon enquiry to Fiona Atkins email@example.com
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to book a place on the course.