Friday, 19 April 2013


APRIL17TH  AND A WONDERFUL DAY AT THE ART WORKERS GUILD Queen Square, Bloomsbury, London, running a creative writing workshop for The Society of Medical Writers – you can find info on who they are here:

The website says:

Membership of the Society of Medical Writers is open to any healthcare practitioner, student or journalist who publishes or aspires to publish his or her written work of whatever nature – fact or fiction, prose or poetry. Membership of the Society is intended to be enjoyable, stimulating and educational, so that writing from (and about) medical practice is improved and encouraged.”

From my experience as competition judge and having run two creative writing workshops for them I find what they do to be exciting and reassuring. Exciting because of the energy, enthusiasm, humour and compassion I’ve experienced from the members and their writing and reassuring, because in these days we’re living through when medical workers, and the NHS in particular, take such a battering from the current government, it's refreshing to discover such passion and humanity.

To read the competition entries of this group, non-fiction and poems, demonstrates to me that there are ‘good people’ working in the medical profession dedicated to their work, capable of empathizing with their patients and, most importantly, put us, their patients, first.

I like their Aims:

"To encourage members to widen and improve their standards of writing, including the preparation, presentation and submission of material for publication in both scientific and creative genres.
To provide regular meetings and workshops for members for the exchange of views, skills and ideas, with opportunities to learn from the experience of other healthcare / writing professionals.
To encourage members to enter for the society’s Writing Competitions and   Awards and to submit items for publication in the Society’s twice-yearly journal ‘The Writer’."

I enjoyed the ride into London with my niece, her husband and twin girls – it was their fourth birthday, so a lively start to my day! Stepping off the tube at Russell Square and faced with a scrum of people crowding round the lift doors… I headed for the stairs. A sign said: “There are 175 steps, please ask if you need assistance” So, ignoring the advice, lugging my small case and heavy workbag, I headed off up the white tiled, Victorian stairs… almost spiral, I was left a tad panting at the top, and daylight!


Virginia Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, E.M. Forster. The Bloomsbury Set, whose ideas on Time and Free Will I discussed in the Introduction to my PhD Thesis:

“The lingering significance of childhood experiences is intimately related to the ways in which we imaginatively recapture these ‘singular revelatory moments’. My understanding of such moments has been given an additional dimension by reading about the Bergsonian idea of la durée. Natalyia Gudz observes, “Reality, as viewed by Virginia Woolf, includes the whole expanse of space and time. … The present moment is never isolated, because it is filled with every preceding moment, and is constantly in the process of change. Time flows with the stream, having neither beginning nor end. Reality is actually timeless and spaceless, because it contains all space and all time(Gudz 2005: 2).

The present moment can have an impact on psychological time which is different to that of historical time. “Bergson, In ‘Time and Free Will’ (1888) had dealt with two different concepts of time.  Historical time, which is external and linear, was measured in terms of the spatial distance travelled by a pendulum or the hands of a clock. And psychological time, which is internal and subjective, was measured by the relative emotional intensity of a moment” (Gudz 2005: 3).

And here was I out of breath and on the bright daylight street outside the Tube… which way? I headed off and found Brunswick Square, after asking a couple of people I went through an alleyway and into a refreshing oasis, calm after the panting stairs-climb and busyness of the streets of London… Queen Square was delightful, looking at the map I saw that Great Ormond Street Hospital was close by and on the Square itself were two hospitals: the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery (NHNN), and University College London.


The SOMW conference was held inside The Art Workers Guild, whose portals hung above me in black and gold lettering and a fanlight of windows… elegant and welcoming door… buzzer pressed, door opened, up the stairs and a seat just off the main conference room, I sat surrounded by old books and new on arts, crafts, design, a room permeated by the ideas of its members:

        “ … artists, craftsmen and designers with a common interest in the interaction, development and distribution of creative skills. It represents a variety of views on design and stands for authenticity (irrespective of political and stylistic ideology) in a world increasingly uncertain about what is real.”

After lunch and chats I ran the creative writing workshop, emphasizing the need to play, the natural instinct of the human animal and how, in the busyness of being adult, we sometimes forget this vital function. I caught the end of the last speaker’s talk on Sherlock Holmes and how observant he was of everyday people, their stories, actions, desires, hopes and worries.

So I threaded into my intro the idea that, like scientists and naturalists, poets, too, must be observant, aware of nuances, attentive to what’s going on, writing in response to human stories, their settings. But besides noting human animals we might like to consider other life forms, animate and non-animate with whom we share our earth-home.

The workshop consisted of a series of prompts and stimuli, starting with a simple warm-up exercise, “Today in this room I hear/smell/see/taste/touch/feel”, to get the group in touch with their physical bodies, reminding them that we’re not this nine pound head bobbling about on the stalk of our necks, consisting only of the intellect, but we are physical, we’re animals, too!

The group, all twenty one of them, responded wholeheartedly, producing delightful, sensitive, funny, earthy pieces of writing in a short space of time. Other exercises were writing in response to ‘Art Cards’; describing an object in the room without saying what the object was – and we all had to guess – ending with asking someone to read out ‘The Door’ by Miroslav Holub, then writing in response either by describing a door they knew, perhaps as a child, or describing an imaginary door, one they’d like to see, to open and step through… and what they'd like to find there...

This last exercise linked, coincidentally, with a talk on dementia by a previous guest who had produced a book called ‘Open the Door.’ Synchronicity is alive and well!

Whilst the group were writing I looked out of the window, onto Queen Square, the small oblong park in the centre, its iron railings, decorative gates, people in shorts, t-shirts, sprawled on the grass in the warm spring sun. Pigeons cooing and strutting their stuff, beckoning the females on… a man opening his car door, getting out his two small dogs. A youngish man with a walking stick and dogs on extending leads. His car black and shiny A taxi pulling up outside the hospital. Workers standing around puffing on ciggies… a private ambulance – don’t see many around here – pulled up outside the hospital door… I turn and say “a couple of more minutes” turn back to the window, gaze on the peaceful scene of grass growing its green self into the light.


I’m looking forward to judging the next poetry and non-fiction competition for the Society of Medical Writers, and presenting the prizes at the SOMW Autumn Conference and Writing Workshop, Friday 11th – Sunday 13th October at the Valley Hotel, Coalbrookdale, Ironbridge Gorge, Shropshire. 

The theme of the Conference is: “History and Natural History.”

Guest speakers (as well as myself) include: 
Paul Evans, nature writer for the Guardian and BBC Wildlife magazine, 
Jo Cannon author of ‘Insignificant Gestures’, 
Andrew Peters, Shropshire poet and member of ‘Wrekin Writers’ and 
Writing Workshops with Geraldine Green. 

The Door

Go and open the door.
   Maybe outside there's
   a tree, or a wood,
   a garden,
   or a magic city.

Go and open the door.
   Maybe a dog's running.
   Maybe you'll see a face,
or an eye
or the picture
               of a picture.

Go and open the door.
   If there's a fog
   it will clear.

Go and open the door.
   Even if there's only
   the darkness ticking,
   even if there's only
   the hollow wind,
   even if
               is there,
go and open the door.

At least 
there'll be 
a draught.

- by Miroslav Holub
trans. by Ian Milner and George Theiner

Geraldine Green 19.4.2013

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