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Writer’s Residency: Day Seven – Telling the Story of Objects

August 22, 2013

Today’s workshop featured a series of exercises designed to tell the story of an object which is of importance for personal, family or social history. We began by taking a look at the local objects which had been chosen as some of the One Hundred which tell the story of the North East. These were chosen by curators and archivists from across the region as part of the Lindisfarne Gospel exhibition and can be viewed online at
The objects of interest to Teesdale are: The 8th Century Wycliffe Cross, John Bowes’ election mug and Thomas Sopwith’s models which represent geological strata for use in the North Pennine ore-field. These objects are held at Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle.
Participants brought a variety of wrapped objects which they presented and told the story of once we’d completed an exercise to guess what they might be from their shape, size, weight, smell etc. A bit like trying to decide what’s in a Christmas present before opening it.
I read excerpts from persona poems including ‘The Dream of the Rood’ and Sylvia Plath’s ‘Mirror’. Participants solved the riddle of each excerpt then developed persona poems and stories about their objects.
At the end of the session we indulged in creative play of a different kind and made our own objects out of plasticine. These included: Norman the garden gnome, a sushi food basket, a wood basket, a celtic brooch and a ten pin bowling set – the ingredients for a new story perhaps.
If you are interested in using objects as stimuli for developing writing you might like to try the following observation exercise adapted from Ted Hughes’ ‘Poetry in the Making’ (Faber & Faber Ltd. 1967)
Select an object and concentrate on it for five minutes.
Write down your thoughts and observations on it. One per line.
Continue until you fill one side of A4.
Extend the associations out while keeping the focus on the object.
Do this with the same object for 5 minutes on different days during the next week.
Develop a poem or piece of prose from your notes.
Have fun!

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