April 2016 will be steeped in all things Shakespearean as William Shakespeare (1564–1616) died four hundred years ago and everybody is (still) talking about it. Which is good as everyone should know who Shakespeare was and what an enormous debt the modern world owe to his work. What not everyone might know is that someone so important to the English language and literature in general for his plays and poetry would only have been 52 on his death. Which seems a terribly early death for someone so very gifted and prolific.
But in our current times we have lost other gifted and prolific artists at an age that seems too young. Only this week the British writer, actor, musician and director Victoria Wood (May 19, 1953 – April 20, 2016) passed away at 62. And yesterday the singer and superstar Prince (June 7, 1958 – April 21, 2016) died at only 57. This is obviously very sad for their family, friends and many fans. Part of our sadness is because we can’t help but wonder what these artists might have produced if they’d lived longer. What we can still enjoy and treasure is what they made in their lifetimes and looking at the example of Shakespeare’s life, we know that the work artists, writers and musicians produce can endure long after their death.
Shakespeare understood the human condition of hope, desire and dreams. He was also well aware of how very short life is. Of course, I need to round off this slightly maudlin start with a small Shakespeare quote, it’s one of my favourites:
We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
Illustrated by Charles H. Buchel, 1904
The joy of writing is that you can transform sad, difficult events from our little lives into something new and positive. All the writers I’ve spoken of understood that.
On Tuesday I went to the Norwich Writers’ Circle launch for the Olga Sinclair Open Story Competition 2016 This is for a 2000 word story on the theme of shoes and is being sponsored by a Norwich shoemakers, Van-Dal Shoes.
It was a great evening with talks by people from Van-Dal shoes, which is celebrating 80 years. Frances & Michael Holmes did a presentation based on their book The Story of the Norwich Boot and Shoe Trade telling us fascinating stories and showing archive pictures from the local shoe trade over the last century.
Then Ashley Stokes from the Unthank School of Writing spoke about the creative writing courses they are running, both online or at evening classes.
Finally, the writer Rachel Hore, whose most recent novel is The House on Bellevue Gardens, will be adjudicating the prize and gave tips on what she will be looking for in the competition entries. All very useful and inspiring.
Also inspiring was getting a copy of The Cafe Writing Map in the post from Writing Maps. These are ‘creative writing prompts and ideas for stories’. Good fun and they currently have a 30% off Writing Maps in April!