Tag Archives: Swindon workshops for writers

Swindon Celebrates International Women’s Day 8 March 2014


Once again the women of Swindon are gathering to celebrate International Women’s Day on 8 March.

A packed programme of workshops, art and craft displays, talks, poetry recitals, singing and dancing is planned to take place around the Central Library and Art Galleries adjacent to Regent’s Circus.

The theme of the day is RESPECT NOT VIOLENCE – taking a stand against violence against women – and the Balloon Launch at 1pm will represent the hopes of Swindon’s men and women that RESPECT will always win through.

I’ll be running a short journaling workshop at 1.30 on the 2nd floor of the Library – so come along and learn how to discover your inner icon through reflective writing.

Look forward to seeing you!


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How journaling can reconnect us with our community

Walk into any good quality stationers and browse their journal shelf and you will doubtless find a notebook designated as a Travel Journal. This is for recording thoughts and reflections in places we visit, on holiday, or as part of a conscious effort to be ‘away from it all’, in places that aren’t part of our usual itinerary.

But what about journaling in places that are already familiar to us? That form part of the landscape we already call home? What can that do – to us? And to the place?

Yesterday I had the privilege of leading a group of journal writers through a short workshop in response to our surroundings. These were Old Town Gardens in Swindon, Wiltshire, UK. We used the Bowls Clubhouse as our base – whose members could not have been more accommodating or welcoming – and enjoyed an hour and a half of companionable journaling and reflective discussion.

First, everyone was invited to choose an inquiry from our specially created washing line:

Washing line of inquiry

Then we all embarked on a meditative stroll around the park, allowing our bodies and our minds to slow down and notice what we notice – using our senses, paying attention to whatever caught our eye, picking up “objets trouves” along the way, seeing how our perceptions were affected by the inquiry we had selected – or not! Sometimes called psycho-geography, this is a way of seeing how our environment affects us, how we interact with it and what we take away from it physically, emotionally and psychologically.

Upon our return we enjoyed a few minutes writing about our experience – what we noticed, what memories were evoked, what was important to us about the place, what connects us to it, what feelings and emotions arose, what insights occured.

And then we shared something of our reflections in a respectful and open discussion.

Everyone went away feeling completely relaxed and connected – to each other, and with renewed fondness for the place. We all experienced something of the power of community journaling, and glimpsed the potential of how this type of shared mindfulness, through the medium of reflective writing,  might help us re-shape our relationship with the environment, and with the places we each call home.


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Journaling in Town Gardens!

The Town Gardens in Spring by Jane Milner Barry   If you’re looking for some extra journaling inspiration during this hot spell why not come along to Town Gardens Bowls Clubhouse in Swindon, Wiltshire on Saturday 27 July, to try out a bit of psycho-geographical journaling with me and artist Bea Menier?

Come and explore what your environment means to you, what you notice as you stroll around the park, and what your journal has to tell you about it all!

Bea and I will have the kettle on from 9.45am, ready to set you off on your journaling adventure between 10 and 11.30 am, pursuing a line of inquiry of your choosing. Just bring along a notebook you love to write in and a pen it gives you pleasure to use. Hope to see you there!

(The workshop is being offered as part of Town Gardens’ Little Big Festival, with thanks to Josie Williams of Commonweal School and to Town Gardens Bowls Club for their kind hospitality in allowing us to use their clubhouse. Also thanks to Jane Milner-Barry for her beautiful image of Town Gardens Bandstand.)

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Need a reason to sign up for the autumn workshop series?

Sometimes we receive feedback which is just too good not to share. Here’s an extract from an email that I received from one of the participants in the Spring workshop series, who articulates so well the impact I intend for people who join the programme – to realise their own inner strength through journaling.

Here goes:

“It was an excellent course. Each night I explored something different. It broadened my horizons and certainly inspired me to carry on writing.

“What I liked most about this course was that it was a mind-opener. It gave me many different ways to approach journaling. The one that’s freshest in my mind is the use of cards to represent skills, talents, interests, values and commitments, as we did on the final evening. I found that the “value” card I picked up was not at all relevant to the “commitment”. This led me to reflect on whether any of my values would have been relevant to that commitment. I found it was a very useful exercise. Earlier on in the course, drawing a distinction between inner and outer causes was great. It turned the positive tap on as it made me realise that I had great inner strength.

“Writing with fellow journal writers was an enjoyable experience, too. Though we were not obliged to share, we often had the impulse to share.

“I also had some fun moments. On the night we were doing metaphors, I picked up the kazoo, which to me was a most obscure object. It also failed to make a sound. I struggled to write anything meaningful. In the end, I started with, ‘Life is a kazoo. It’s narrow at both ends and big in the middle, with a lot input from the top.’ I laughed all the way home. When I got home, I carried on with kick-off sentences like, ‘Life is a bowl of soup’, ‘Life is a lantern’ and ‘Life is a smartphone’ … Most of them ended up as nonsense – but entertaining nonsense. However, a few of them worked and helped me when I was stuck.

“I shall certainly carry on journaling. I have gotten into the habit of carrying my journal with me, and I have altered the seating in my room so I can more readily sit at my desk when thoughts come to me. I find journaling so rewarding. I often feel as though the more I write, the more threads there are for me to explore. Among other things, I have started a journey rediscovering my past. Before the course, I’d never felt comfortable reflecting on the past and had even convinced myself that I had forgotten most of it. However, our past is what makes us who we are. I have started to write about how I grew up. As I write, more and more memories come back to me. I am finding it a very positive exercise.

“I think I need some more help writing to my future self, but I’ve been surprised by the wonderful feeling of my pen running smoothly over the pages. As for the venue, it’s hard to find a better place for writers in Swindon than Lower Shaw Farm.”


If this whets your appetite go right ahead and reserve your place on the contact form on the Events page.

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Book early for Autumn 2013 workshops and receive a free signed copy of The Journal Writer’s Handbook

We had such a blast at the last course which finished last Wednesday 10th April that I went straight ahead and rebooked the venue – the inimitable Lower Shaw Farm, the jewel in Swindon’s life-long learning crown – for an Autumn series.

I already know that places are in demand for the next course so if you’re interested in picking up a notebook and deepening your journal writing practice don’t delay. Fill out the contact form on the Journaling Events page right here and book your place!

Here’s the low-down, so grab your diary:

Dates: Monday 2 September – Monday 21 October 2013
Place: Lower Shaw Farm, Swindon, Wiltshire, UK
Time: 7.30pm – 9.30pm
Cost of programme: £80 per person payable on booking.

Don’t forget, EARLY BIRD bookings confirmed by 31 July 2013 will receive a free signed copy of The Journal Writer’s Handbook.

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Journal Power!

I am so thrilled to have been invited to lead a mini journaling workshop at Swindon’s International Women’s Day event on 8 March.

IWD poster

The event organiser, a wonderful lady named Rosa Matheson, who’s a historian, author and keen charity campaigner on behalf of a Nepalese orphanage and for the empowerment of Nepalese women, has triumphed again with her fabulous ideas about tapping into the talents of local creative women for the benefit of those on the other side of the world.

The 100 Women Book Project first saw the light of day about two years ago. It was the result of an a-ha moment for Rosa – an idea about getting women here to help women there, by writing about a day in their life and compiling the stories into a book to sell.

One of the entries in that book was written by yours truly. I was honoured to be asked to contribute, and to feel part of a creative endeavour that is so much greater than a book. The more I think about the concept of women creating something together for the sake of other women the more excited I get.

So in early March we will begin to wake up more Swindon women to their own inner resourcefulness and creativity. There will be the opportunity to try both artistic and reflective journaling on the day, and it remains to be seen what new project ideas might spark as a result.

Journaling enables us to express our “real me”. It gives us the tools to begin to make our dreams a reality, and to get really clear on what actions we can take that give us most joy and fulfilment. And here in the west we can readily find the means to achieve our heart’s desire, receive an education and find sustaining employment. Whereas in the east, and particularly in Nepal, women are expected to be at home, bringing up families or looking after aging parents, often in the direst poverty, resulting in more and more children having to be “abandoned” to orphanages or to fend for themselves on the streets.

So to be part of an “empowering women” event is a great privilege, and to explore what that means through reflective journaling is even better.

Our journals help us uncover powers we never knew we had. Who knows what Swindon women might yet unleash on the world?

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Life as a self-published author #2

As I’m reflecting back on my life as a self-published author so far – all 35 days of it – I thought it would be useful to jot down my musings here. Of course I would normally do this privately in my journal, but maybe there’ll be something in amongst this lot that others might find helpful. Today I’m looking at the early stages of book marketing.

First off I don’t have a grand master plan for marketing my book. With me it’s more a case of following my nose and doing what feels right in the moment. This is a hell of a lot easier when you’ve actually got a real product to talk about and show – especially if it’s something you’re proud of.

But for the sake of analysing “how I do marketing” as a self-published author I guess I would have to look at the contacts and experiences I’ve had  over the past few years which have stood me in good stead for this phase of the book’s life cycle.

Being a freelance writer in the pay of a local magazine helps enormously. The whole catalyst behind my book coming out in December was because in November my editor offered me space to promote it! See what I mean about following my nose? I’m a shameless opportunist! Though I do find opportunities come along more readily when I’m truly doing what I love.

Traditional and partner publishers often talk to writers and authors about platform building, and creating a network, both on and off-line, of potential readers and fans.

I’ve always hated the concept of networking. That empty formulaic conversation where one only just manages, with the thinnest of veils, to disguise one’s intention to sell one’s product or service. Yuck. It all seems so very calculated and forced, in a ‘must-do-some-networking’ way.

Yet by following my heart and getting involved with a number of groups and events that I hold dear, I’ve managed to build up quite a large network (I suppose) of contacts. But it’s important that the network came about as a by-product of my participation in things that first and foremost I love to do. Reading, writing, expressing ideas and playing golf (!) are all things I love, and taking part in these things has given me a network of contacts well into the hundreds. The more authentic the network, the easier the marketing process, and the more likely it is to be successful.

Add to this the workshops that I have delivered on the topic of journal writing, which served to help me identify my readership – and which helped me tremendously in putting my book together in the first place. It was a great experience to showcase some of my journaling ideas to a paying audience – and to begin to create a small community of like-minded reflective writing practitioners. And it gave me a huge confidence boost that what I had to say about journaling was bringing something new to the topic, and introducing a new audience.

So when my book first came out I was able to email all my contacts advising them of it, just to raise awareness. I made a handful of sales straight off the bat from this process, which was extremely gratifying.

In the next instalment of Life as a self-published author, I’ll be looking at using online networking tools. Check back soon!


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