Winter Workshops

Alice's bookshelf

Winter workshops with the Writer in Residence

by Alice Little



In January, February and March 2021 I ran my first three workshops as Writer in Residence. Due to lockdown, all three of these workshops were online. Here’s what we covered –


1. Introductory workshop

At this event I introduced myself and my ideas for the residency. We discussed what nature writing means, came up with examples from our own reading, and identified some common features and trends – some we liked and some we didn’t. We had a look at extracts from this article on nature writing [], among others, and had a go at describing a woodland scene for ourselves.


Here is a short extract of a response to this exercise, by Barbara Phillips, which she sent ‘to show you how well your handling of the lead up to the writing part worked for me. […] What I like is the way being told to write leads to something, anything, cropping up I did not know, until then, was there.’


She had once liked living so near a wood, but not now, all it was to her was a deeper, darker defence against what was beyond. Against life, in all its messy glory and pain. It no longer held any attraction for her. Once, she had not sought out screens and if she had found one, she would have pushed it aside without thinking, would have seen through and beyond anything that barred her way.


2. Writing workshop

Our second event was a workshop specifically designed to get people to try writing for themselves, at whatever level. We began with short exercises and built our way up, looking at setting, character and finally plot. Taking a lesson from our first workshop (which many of the participants had also attended) we tried to infuse our work – whether prose or poetry – with the surrounding of the woods, so that the plot could not happen but for Wytham.


If you’d like to have a go at home, take a look at this video on Wytham’s bluebells [] for inspiration, and when writing try playing this video of woodland sounds [] in the background to take your imagination to the right place.


3. Write together

I brought with me the exercises from the first two workshops, but the primary aim of this session was to devote time to our own writing, while in each other’s company. We shared our goals before we began – some people were working on poetry, others on prose and non-fiction projects. Then we set a timer and worked silently (cameras on or off, as preferred) for the next hour, before checking in at the end, saying how we’d got on with our goals, and what we would do the next time we sat down to write.




In summary, each of these different formats worked well, and we weren’t at all hampered by being on Zoom – I think we’re all used to it by now! I’m certainly looking forward to being in the woods and running events in person, but meanwhile it was great to connect with writers online and discuss ideas about nature writing and my residency project.