Creative writing workshop

Black British Voices: Poetry into prose using compound adjectives with Ashley Hickson-Lovence

Join professional writer Ashley Hickson-Lovence for a writing workshop exploring how to make your prose shine by incorporating poetic devices. As Ashley says, ‘Poetry and prose are alike but with prose there’s more room to manoeuvre’.

For the writing workshop, you will need a pen and paper or notebook.

Watch the writing workshop below. You will not need to pause the video to do the writing exercises – Ashley sets a timer and writes along with you for each one!

Going further

If you enjoyed the workshop and would like even more inspiration for your own writing, check out the writing exercises below, also by Ashley Hickson-Lovence.

Exercise 1: ‘My Name Is…’

This exercise invites you to consider the backstory of your first name. We will start with some free-writing, as we did in the workshop. Write ‘My name is…’ at the top of your piece of paper and then your name to form the title. Take 30 seconds or so to think about your name, the weight of it, the shape of it, how it looks on the page, before you begin writing the story of your name.

Set a timer for 5 minutes. The aim of free-writing is to keep your pen on the page for the entire duration of the 5 minutes; it doesn’t matter what you write – just keep writing! You might like to answer some of these prompt questions, or you might be inspired to go off in another direction from your name.

Prompt questions:

  • Where does your name come from?
  • Do you have any nicknames and why are you called them?
  • Does your name mean something in a different language?
  • What smells, colours and textures do you associate with your name?
  • If your name was an item of clothing, what would it be?
  • If you could taste your name, what would it taste of?

The final line of your piece should mirror the first line: ‘My name is ___________’

Exercise 2: ‘I Come From’

Watch Dean Atta’s poem, ‘I Come From’, here:

Now it’s your turn to write your own ‘I Come From’ piece – either poetry or prose – in ten minutes. Think about your upbringing and what made your growing up experience unique, personal or special with specific focus on place.

Prompt questions:

  • Where did you grow up and what images do you associate with the location?
  • What food did you eat often and where did you eat it?
  • What smells do you remember from growing up?
  • What clothes did you wear and where were they bought from? 
  • Where did they go on weekends and why was it memorable? 

Set a timer for 10 minutes and write!

Exercise 3: Journeys

Read or listen to Peggy Carr’s poem, ‘Flight of the Firstborn’, here.

This emotive poem describes the feelings of a child outgrowing their parent to start their own life somewhere new. Through metaphor, symbolism and enjambment, Carr expresses the poignancy of growth.

In response to reading Carr’s poem, imagine that someone close to you is going on a journey and you are saying goodbye to them as they leave: a loved one, a friend, a family member, a pet etc. They could be leaving the country for a holiday by plane, going to university by train, going to work by car, going to the shops by bike etc.

Prompt questions:

  • Where are they going and why?
  • How do you feel as they embark on their journey?
  • How do you think their absence will affect you?
  • What’s happening around you as they embark on their journey?
  • Metaphorically speaking, can you make the first line mirror the last line?

Set a timer for 10 minutes and write!

Resources created by Ashley Hickson-Lovence and Arvon for the St John’s Inspire Summer School.

Ashley Hickson-Lovence is an author, PhD student and Lecturer of Creative Writing. While working as a secondary school English teacher, he completed his MA in Creative Writing and Publishing from City, University of London and is currently completing his PhD in Creative and Critical Writing at the University of East Anglia. He is also a Lecturer of Creative Writing at Arts University Bournemouth. His debut novel The 392 was released with OWN IT! in 2019. His second novel Your Show, based on the life and career of former football referee Uriah Rennie, is to be released with Faber on Thursday 7th April 2022. He is currently writing his third novel, About to Fall Apart

Arvon is a charity that runs creative writing courses, events and retreats both in-person and online. They offer courses and workshops tutored by leading authors, as well as a Learning Programme for Schools and Groups. Find out more about Arvon on their website.

Share with us!

We would love to see any examples of work that you do during your Inspire Summer School. This can be a photo of something you have made, a picture you have drawn, some written work (e.g. the start of a speech, or the answer to a question we asked), or some thoughts you have about what you have learnt! Submit your work to us through this form.

All pupils who share their work with us by August 31 2021 will receive a certificate of participation in the summer school and will be entered into a prize draw! A £10 Amazon voucher will be awarded to each winning entry, selected randomly from all submissions. If you give us permission, your entry may be shared on Inspire Digital and our social media alongside your first name.