Crossing the line
By Jim Green, MA Creative Writing & Publishing, 2nd Year
I played the Student Ambassador role recently, resplendent in my red West Dean College of Arts and Conservation sweatshirt, a full-on member of Team West Dean’s Recruitment Squad for Open Day.
As I wait nervously to be called before the next would-be creative writer, adrenalin starts to pulse through my veins. I begin to perspire, like an actor about to go on stage, out into the public gaze, blinking under bright lights, butterflies careering around inside my stomach. Anxious I won’t be able to locate the Dye Room or Ceramics, hidden amongst those mysterious West Dean nooks and crannies.
Do I have the correct door codes? Should I escort prospective students back and forth, through the walled garden, from College to the Old Dairy? Or should I say the Arts Studio?
I shouldn’t have worried. It was fun and as much of an education for me as the “wannabe newbies.” All those searching questions about what’s it like to be a “creative” at West Dean College. Probing my innermost thoughts and feelings, like a forensic pathologist wielding his scalpel (sorry, carried away reading Unnatural Causes by Dr Richard Shepherd - highly recommended!).
So, the big question – “Why West Dean College of Arts and Conservation?”
There’s something about the sense of place here, notwithstanding all the amazing people and objects within. The buildings and grounds have a life of their own, they envelop you in the West Dean embrace. The history, the variety of things going on, the people you meet, all firing the imagination. It’s thought provoking, a place where as a writer you can’t help but become minutely observational. You’re inspired, imbued with a feeling there’s something special to be explored and enjoyed.
You’re drawn into the “West Dean Immersive Experience.” Not just creative writing, but part of a broad and very skilled artistic community. The artists, makers and conservators. Their work ethic and methodology, skills and achievements. Flitting between clocks, furniture, pottery, tapestry, musical instruments, fine art of all kinds. Touching, smelling, absorbing paint, metal, wood, stone, textile, paper.
For creative writers at WD the emphasis is on engaging authors with other artists. There are many similarities between what they do and what we strive to learn; structure, planning, perseverance, acquisition of a creative skill. Not learning by rote, but a carefully crafted, thought provoking process. “Living the creative life.”
Another “big thing” about the West Dean Creative Writing & Publishing MA programme, is its focus upon publishing what we write, crafting something people will want to read, will appreciate and enjoy. The final stage of “becoming a writer,” achieved through engaging with, and learning from, real life authors, editors, publishers and agents, every one a key part of our writing community.
My own obsession is for family, health and social issues, so my main character is a GP, Dr Ted Evans. I’m writing fiction in the crime / domestic noire genre. My first novel, Loves Me, Loves Me Not? is about an elderly woman’s assisted death and the infinitely strange motivations of those who might be willing to help, or hinder, her.
In my next blog, I hope I might be able to tell you something about our other writers, what their imaginations, and characters, are up to. But be warned, we can be a shy species, hiding our lights under the nearest bushel, until good and ready for exposure to the potentially painful glare of public scrutiny.