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for all courses book through Darren Harper  via 


CREATIVE WRITING led by Mike Smith

Mondays, 7.00pm-9.00pm, 9th April to 18th June 2018. Room 8, Fisher Street Galleries, Carlisle.

£75 (£60 over 60/ £23 in receipt of benefits)

This 10 week Facets of Fiction course aims to give practising writers of prose fiction a regular input of informed feedback on work in progress.



Further Into Fiction – a 10 week Fiction Writing Course

-designed by Darren Harper and taught by Mike Smith M.Litt (Glasgow)

Dates: 12th April to 21st June 2018 Thursdays 10.00am until 12.00 noon

Venue: The Carlisle Phil & Lit Society, Room 8, Fisher Street Galleries 18 Fisher Street Carlisle CA3 8RH

Fees: £75 full  (£60 over 60s/ £23 in receipt of benefit)


Intended for Beginners to Intermediate. Using a combination of exercises, tutorials and seminars I’ll lead students through an exploration of the elements of fiction writing: Beginnings, Endings, Locations, Characters, Storylines, and Narrative Voices among others.



A 10 week CREATIVE WRITING course starting on 10th APRIL Tuesdays 1-00pm – 3.00pm

£75 (£60 over 60s/£23 students/benefits)

What can we look for in other people’s work?

What moves us; to tears or laughter, anger or compassion. And when we experience those feelings we can go back and see exactly which combinations of words have evoked them.

But that’s not all. We can also find out what can be done, and how it might be done, with plot, narrative voice, locations in time and place, characters and ambience.



It’s always difficult to know what to put up as a blog post. I’m not inclined to publish the small doings of my daily life. I did go out for a coffee today, and it wasn’t a bad coffee, but the slice of ‘chocolate crunch’ though chocolatey and crunchy was otherwise tasteless, and a bit on the sweet side, but I suppose it had conformed to what it said on the label.

You see, it’s not that interesting, is it?

A friend of mine, and a very good writer, introduced himself at our first meeting, by describing himself as ‘having the honour to be a failed writer’. It’s a wonderful description, and one that could be applied to me as well, and perhaps better than to him. I’ve been writing since I was at school, and that’s a certain half century with perhaps a few more years tagged on.

My first piece published was, I think, a poem, heavy on structure and weak on content, though it did trite in spades. That would have been in the late nineteen sixties. After that I moved north, and wrote some more. Poems got published. Out of the three hundred or so I have archived on yellowing paper – typed on a manual typewriter (Olivetta Dora – A small portable. I loved it. I wonder if Mr Hanks has one. Mine has long gone) only six are worth a fart, and three of those need work.

I was pleased with myself when I got two poems about Cumbrian stone walls into The Countryman (January 1977), but not as pleased as I ought to have been to get into the hard-back PEN anthology of ‘New Poetry’ the year before (I face Fleur Adcock across the page). Since then I’ve had two comparable success – that’s in fifty years, remember. Out of the hundred or so poems that have been published here there, and more often than anywhere else in Acumen, I got one into that magazine’s 6oth anniversary edition (First Sixty, 2010). I also won, in 2009, with a collection of poems that included the Ullswater Requiem, the first Sir Patrick Geddes Memorial Trust award for student work that celebrated the causes of that trust, to be awarded to a piece of ‘artwork.’

The success, always, lies in the writing, not in the recognition. But the recognition reassures – even though we know that it goes oft astray.

If anyone asks me to read poetry to them, I’m pleased to do so, but if they don’t, I’m neither surprised nor insulted.

A friend and fellow writer recently set up The Carlisle Phil and Lit Society….a valiant enterprise, in my opinion, evocative of windmills, and grist. Another fellow writer, and friend, plans to run a poetry symposium there, for the encouragement of interest and participation in the literary arts. I put up a link to this a few days ago and was horrified to find abusive and negative responses to both ideas. I can’t begin to tell you how angry and sad that makes me. Thankfully, I have a wall against which to bang my head.