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Love Dogs Eileen West

Swanwick specialities: writing and propriety unshackling

That was close!  Correcting myself in the nick of time, I was about to begin this blog by indicating that instead of my dog lover hat I would be writing this with my writing hat on.  However, my dog lover bonnet is perpetually perched upon my head so let’s just say that I’m writing this with my writer’s gloves on as well.

That rambling preamble, a pre-ramble if you will, is merely to warn that what you’re about to read  a) does not contain dogs and  b) isn’t for the faint hearted.

Now that I have your attention I’ll begin.

For the past 12 years I have attended a 6 day writers’ summer school in Derbyshire. Having taken a reluctant break from Love Dogs, I have recently returned from this year’s frivolities … ahem, this year’s week of studious creativity and sobriety.

The school is now in its 64th year, the longest running writing school in the world, and is highly addictive which is why there are delegates who have been attending for over 50 years continuously.  I emphasise, more than 50 years without a break!  I am a relative newcomer with my measly dozen attendances.

A whirlwind of a week crammed with workshops, courses, talks, discussion groups, readarounds and writeabouts, Swanwick caters for every kind of writer and every conceivable genre.  Which segues me neatly, in a Freudian sort of way, to a workshop run by the redoubtable *Della Galton.

Bearing in mind the age span of attendees at Swanwick (do the Maths from above) there had been much whispering in certain quarters regarding Della’s Thursday morning class.  Also, much speculating on turnout.

Della needn’t have worried. Writing Erotica filled the Orchard Room.  Commiserations were expressed for The Art of Comedy, Practical Internet Technology and Copywriting which were up against it in the programme.

From the moment Della began, everything appeared to have a double entendre, exploited a pun or was just downright suggestive.  She handled the guffaws and titters with her usual professionalism and aplomb and to eliminate all prepubescent coyness from the outset she set us an exercise: shout out acceptable and non-acceptable terms in literary erotic fiction for female and male parts of the body.

We could have heard a foil wrapper drop … but for only a moment then the floodgates drew back and a veritable outpouring of anatomical synonyms came rushing out.  Many of them from the most quintessential of little old ladies sitting directly behind me.  And when queried these same ladies had most definite ideas into which categories their barrage should fall.

All the usual c***s, f*****s and p*****s flew around the room with “valley of pleasure”, “furry cup” and “lady garden” (all big in 1912 no doubt) thrown in for good measure culminating in a lengthy debate as to where “member” would fit … in the list.

It was as if these septuagenarians and octogenarians had been waiting their entire lives to scream out obscenities in a packed room and Swanwick had helped unshackle them from propriety.  I wonder if right now they’re at the check out at Sainsbury’s bellowing out “TITS” like they’ve contracted late onset Tourette’s.

It was a most surreal morning in anyone’s book.  And it was a two-parter with the second session that afternoon.  I won’t even go there.

As these same lovely ladies tottered into the dining room later some of us admitted to seeing them with different eyes, not a little respect and a vow to emulate their chutzpah in our 50th year at Swanwick.

Dog willing!

*Della Galton is editor of Xcite Books and writes erotic fiction under the name Antonia Adams.  She’ll shoot me for divulging that.

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