I am forever wondering how I can improve my writing. There are tons of suggestions out there and one I often encounter is the advice to read a lot. Of course, there are other things I could do so when I saw that a feature writing workshop was on the list of events for last weekend’s Mountains to Sea Book Festival I didn’t hesitate for a nano second before signing up.
The Mountains to Sea Book Festival is held in Dun Laoghaire, a south Dublin suburb, and is so-called because Dun Laoghaire is scenically squashed between the Dublin Mountains and the Irish Sea.
Patrick Freyne (an Irish Times journalist) and Anna Carey (a free-lance journalist and children’s author) facilitated the workshop. I wasn’t sure what to expect however I was more than pleasantly surprised as the event was excellent. Patrick and Anna had clearly put a lot of thought into their well structured presentation which they delivered with confidence and style.
They covered: the difference between a news item and a feature, how to get ideas for features, how to pitch an idea to an editor, research, conducting interviews, and the writing process. They proffered a mass of sound advice: the suggestion I honed in on, even thought I was already so aware of it, was the aforementioned one to read widely. Note to self: read more, much more. They said it was also important to read critically.
I particularly enjoyed the ten minute session where we looked through that morning’s papers scanning the news stories to see if we could come up with a different angle on a story which we could use for a feature. My fellow participants were creative discovering different slants on the news which made me think that finding something to write about may not necessarily be as difficult as I believe it is.
The workshop was held in the DLR Lexicon, Dun Laoghaire’s new and as yet unopened library and cultural centre, so a bonus of attending was the opportunity to have a sneak peek inside it. The DLR Lexicon has attracted much criticism with gripes about the design and cost. Personally I like the granite clad building with its ocean-going-liner feel and I think its light filled interior is super stylish. I look forward to it opening.