My first paper

So I attended (and presented my first paper) at an international creative writing conference last weekend. And it was fascinating. I’ve been aware of Great Writing (held in London every June) for a few years but haven’t been able to attend until now. As a poet/writer who’s an art-science, medical humanities, public engagement and co-inquiry specialist, I get invited to conferences to speak about writing as a resource in other disciplines, but I’ve never spoken to a room of creative writing scholars, fellow writers and practitioners before. I’d never even submitted an abstract before or experienced that selection process. I actually thought, until a couple of years ago, that everyone got invited to speak at conferences. Shows you how much I knew back then…

For the conference I decided to talk about my writing, collaborative and teaching methodology, Strange Bedfellows. I’ve been using Strange Bedfellows for well over a decade now but have only just begun to reflect on it since I started my business, The/Poetry/Fold. And I can now see that reflection has set me on this PhD path (and the methodology is what I’ll be researching). Doing something very naturally, it developing organically and often in response to what crosses my path, has served me well as a writer. However, when non-writers started asking me about Strange Bedfellows – what it is and how it works – I realised I wasn’t very well equipped to answer.

A client who’d engaged me to do some CPD work asked me to explain the features and benefits of my creative writing approach. Now while I don’t want to dismantle my creativity so much that it’s rendered useless, I think that client’s question deserved a considered response. Initially this conversation took place in a commercial context: the client would be paying me for my training services. Fair enough then to ask about how it all works. I did my best and contextualised the approach by describing an actual workshop and the overall module rationale, but I was left with the undeniable realisation that while I know how to plan and deliver Strange Bedfellows, I don’t really understand how it works, especially in terms of how it affects my own writing practice.

The first thing I did after this incident – about 2 yeas ago and at the same time as starting The/Poetry/Fold – was to go online and look for academically focused creative writing journals and resources. I found some, but not as many as I thought I would. I discovered the AWP and AAWP and started to realise there was an international dialogue going on. A few articles and papers later I was excited about what I was finding. Some of what I read annoyed the hell out of me, some really resonated, some made me ask questions and made me want to read more widely.

At the conference last week I met lots of new people and listened to some amazing presentations. How I wished I’d had four heads so I could have attended all the panels simultaneously. In the end I came away wanting instantly to sign up for next year. I’ll be attending again and hopefully will get another opportunity to present about Strange Bedfellows. In future posts I may share some of my presentation and talk about some of the people I met but for now I have a poem sequence to work on (“The man with the moth on his lapel”). Thanks stopping by and taking the time to read my blog.


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