Nottingham’s first Festival of Words is currently swirling through the city’s streets. It’s not flashing in Market square; it’s quietly unfurling at the Flying Goose Café, Nottingham Playhouse and other creative venues across the city. Last weekend events centred at the Newton Building, Nottingham Trent city campus. Armed with a Saturday morning pass, I was sent to invade Nottingham Trent territory.
First on the agenda, the ‘Writing Comics’ workshop. Emily Cooper introduced this workshop with a brief on the comic world. Its form and popularity is exploding through use of the internet; it is both free and extremely accessible. Alongside internet use, cheap trade paperbacks are also enabling up-and-coming artists to promote their work. As a result peculiar and exquisite works are infiltrating the comic- market; the fantastically eerie Mr. Punch, wordless comics, Scott McCloud’s ‘infinite canvas’.
Emily plunged us straight into the comic world, steering us through the process of botching a comic. Our first task was to compose a 16-point script that begins ‘Boy meets Girl’ and ends ‘Boy loses Girl’. A range of responses were produced, including a sweet but wordless boy-girl encounter that ended ‘Boy coughs up lungs, and various other internal organs. Girl walks away’.
Transforming these scripts into a comic format highlighted the dynamic and versatile nature of this genre. An obstacle course awaits the intrepid comic writer. A writer must create a flowing plot: the comic writer must direct the readers gaze along the flow of the plot. Writers invent speech, but the comic writer has speech bubbles to contend with. The interplay between words and image presents a deliciously pernickety challenge.
Concluding her workshop by showing us how to compose a comic script using the free-to-access website Scripped, the group collaboratively created a comic script. This was the workshop’s highlight – the festival had attracted a diverse range of people with a genuine interest in writing, and engaging with them was a sheer pleasure. It was worth attending purely to mingle with the friendly and innovative festival goers. The Festival of Words has created a rendezvous for creative minds.
After the comic writing workshop I had time for a lecture (titled ‘It’s The Words, Stupid!’) claiming to ‘challenge the way we think about words’. I’m not convinced it did what it said on the tin; at some points it was merely an opportunity to promote the author’s works. The lecturer’s brief had neglected to mention ‘long winded readings from the author’s books’. However, speakers Brindley Dennis and Frances Thimann contributed interesting points. Frances argued that words only subsist in context.
Words come loaded with association that shift and bend depending on which words you neighbour them with. Words lift other words. She has previously used this notion to create a story from a single word; her story Cello is a back-formation of the word ‘shelves’. Brindley showed us how authors vary the emotive weight of their words to create waves of tension and elation.
Finally we were invited to try an exercise: grab your favourite book, select a sentence and mark each word on a scale of one to three of its emotiveness. Try it with this article. If you work through my whole article you will observe an enticing introduction and a boring middle padded out with lively adjectives. The End.
All images: Flickr
For more info on the Festival of Words go to: www.nottwords.org.uk/