A few weeks ago Dr Lorna Cork invited me to run a writing workshop as part of her day-long Yes Women Will event (3rd annual celebration of International Women’s Month). I was delighted to say yes. I’d just got back from a five-day research trip so could only stay until after lunch, but with so many quality and inspirational talks on offer I felt compelled to blog about the experience.
Lorna is an eminent researcher and consultant in the field of education (also a passion of mine). Her book on Supporting Black Pupils and Parents is a must-read. She set up the Yes Women Will event three years ago with the aim of bringing women together in a celebration of support and empowerment.
MC for the day, laughter coach Ishi Khan-Jackson, introduced the first speaker – BBC’s Head of Human Resources, Marcelle Moncrieffe. Marcelle shared her career journey, starting with how she refused to be held back by not having gone to the ‘right’ university. She encountered a few downs as well as ups on the career ladder, but her strategic and single-minded approach to her own professional development ensured that her goal – working for the BBC – was achieved. Marcelle presented us with her 10 point plan for taking her from ‘stuck’ to ‘success’. I found it a brilliant personal manifesto and the points that resonated in particular with me were her first and final tips: Have a plan (how else will you know where you’re going?) and Do not seek permission from others.
Next up was Eileen Murphy, Managing Director of Informed Training. I was lucky enough to sit next to Eileen when we first arrived so I already had a sense of her passion for Customer Relationship Management (CMS) Systems, or ‘what happens after you’ve got the business card?’. Her talk made me stop and think. Yes, I have a list of email contacts and even a spreadsheet of contacts, but how can I harness my relationship with readers so I can keep in touch with them regularly? And other professional relationships are equally important. What about fellow writers? Producers and potential adaptors of our literary work? Event and festival organisers? (I tend to rely on word-of-mouth for speaking gigs.) Agents and publishers? Suppliers (e.g. designers, printers)? Referrers? Be warned, Eileen – we’ll be having a conversation soon.
Then it was over to the third speaker, Mo ‘the Motivator’ Harford. Mo is a business trainer with a fascinating personal story about how a physical ‘body breakdown’ was the wake-up call she needed to take control of her unhealthy habits and learn to live a better, more fulfilled life. She referenced the Amy Cuddy TED talk Your body language shapes who you are and to illustrate the point Mo got us standing up and doing powerful Wonder Woman poses. It felt good and most of all it works! Mo reminded us that we need to pay attention to our bodies and say better things to ourselves. As a writer, especially of biography, this interested me. We all have our own narratives – the stories that we tell ourselves about why our lives are the way they are.
Time for the workshops. Sixteen women joined me as I led a session called ‘Unleash your writing potential’, where the focus was on using real life events and personal enthusiasms as a springboard for ‘finding the right topic’ and ‘discovering one’s voice’. The women valiantly took part in a quick on the spot writing exercise (something I hate doing!) then we listened to a piece being read out. I was sad it had to end – lunch was beckoning – but it was exciting to hear tantalising snippets from some fascinating life journeys.
Over lunch (hats off to the Hilton Garden Inn for some delicious food) I had the pleasure of Jacqueline Robinson’s company as well as more chats with Eileen and Mo. Jacqueline is an author and speaker from Croydon with three poetry collections under her belt. She’s launching her latest book, A voice from behind the veil, on 12 April and I wish her every success with it.
So, a few thank yous. Thanks Lorna for inviting me, thanks to Writing West Midlands for recommending me, and thank you to all the speakers for the inspiration and learning.
Over to you. What’s inspired you recently? Have you realised there’s an area where you need to up your game? What’s your narrative? Let me know in the comments. (Men welcome too, of course.)