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A Novel Idea

by Isobel Gostling

Discover the story behind this local creative writing teacher...

Haslingden-local Gayle Knight is coaching creativity in Lancashire through weekly creative writing groups which aim to get people writing.

“It’s something I’ve always done,” 59-year-old Gayle says, remembering “being at school and writing little plays, forcing my friends to perform.” She went to art college after acting, painting, and, of course, writing her way through school, and eventually landed her dream job of manager of the Civic Arts Centre in Oswaldtwhistle.

Sadly, it was whisked away from her after 13 years when she was let go in the summer of this year.

After this shake-up, she felt “a sense of new beginnings” and wanted to take advantage of her free time. She tells me that a quote from P.S. I Love You, the novel by H. Jackson Brown Jr., stands out to her: “Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.”

“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.”

So Gayle didn’t waste any time – by the autumn, she had picked herself up and begun her writing courses in five different locations. Each week Gayle teaches a different genre of writing, and she tells me laughingly of the hesitation in her classes when they come face-to-face with a genre they’re not too sure about! “We looked at Westerns and I got a groan from a couple of the people beforehand … then at the end, they said, ‘Actually, that was really good fun.’ It’s not a style that they would normally look at; it got them thinking in a different way!” Westerns actually turned out to be Gayle’s favourite genre to teach because of the playfulness it inspired in her students; seeing them get stuck in to such an unexpected genre gave her a soft spot for the cowboys and saloons of the wild west.

It is the magic of experimentation that she most loves in her classes. One of her favourite authors is northern-born Joanne Harris, author of the successful Chocolat and, most influential for Gayle, Blackberry Wine. This unique little novel is partly written from the perspective of bottles of wine on a shelf, proving that pushing yourself out of your comfort zone can produce a masterpiece!

All writers are welcome, with some at the sessions being years into their writing adventure, and others only taking their first steps. Gayle believes that “to be a writer you’ve just got to write consistently.” It may seem difficult at first to break through the fog of uncertainty, but Gayle also shared with me her trick for getting words on a page. “If you’re struggling to think of something to write, just look at the coffee cup in front of you, or look at the tree outside your window, or look at the back of your hand, even, and try to write some descriptive phrases.”

“To be a writer, you’ve just got to write consistently.”

No doubt Gayle’s community of creatives is now bigger than it ever was, and you could add to its number if you’re looking for an excuse to write among friends! Join Gayle for over an hour of creative writing where she takes you through the ins and outs of genre, as well as gives top tips on how to get published. Only £6 per session. Whether you’re young or old, experienced or just a beginner, why not give it a try? For Gayle, there is no wrong way to write, so long as you pick up your pen. Contact: Gayle Knight at Gayle@gayleknight.co.uk for info on courses in your area.

Once you’ve had a read of Gayle’s story, discover her students’ poetry and short stories here.

If this article has piqued your interest, and you’d love the opportunity to see your work in print, then you’ll be pleased to hear that NorthernLife will be running a short story competition over future issues.

NorthernLife Jan/Feb 24