Mothership Writers, a Bristol-based community writing project for new mothers has been launched. Acclaimed Bristol novelist Emylia Hall, who is the founder and creator of the project, tells Bristol 24/7 what inspired the birth of Mothership Writers and what participants can look forward to.
I’m excited to be launching Mothership Writers. Over the course of 25 fortnightly sessions, taking place at two city venues, the project will bring together women and their babies to learn the craft of creative writing, and to explore and document their experience of new motherhood. The workshops will begin in April, and thanks to support from the National Lottery through Arts Council England, it’s entirely free to take part. All we need now are forty new mothers who’d like to write.
Is anyone ever really prepared for those intense, all consuming, first months of motherhood? I know I wasn’t. After my son Calvin was born prematurely we stayed in St Michael’s for nine nights. I remember showering in the hospital cubicle – painstakingly, all my limbs weighted, one breast already red and hard with mastitis (although I didn’t know the name then) – and thinking I will write about this and the intention was, in itself, a balm. A week later, with Calvin curled like a hedgehog on my chest, my laptop balanced on my knees and my eyes wide with fatigue, I wrote.
I never could take that advice, ‘nap when your baby naps’, for me the time always passed too quickly, an hour felt like a second and I was back where I started again. I wanted to do something that reminded me of who I was. My feet always felt more firmly rooted after writing: I’d listened to the voice inside.
You don’t need to have any writing experience to sign up for the Mothership Writers workshops. And you don’t have to think of yourself as a ‘creative person’. Everyone can draw benefit from writing: it’s a practice that encourages us to embrace complexities, and to go deeper into contradictions, and to live – I believe – more richly. While the health benefits of journaling are well documented, in our workshops we’ll be focusing on aspects of creative writing to learn to think like writers, and find our individual voices. You might not know it yet but you do have a voice: your set of life experiences, your unique way of seeing the world.
New motherhood is actually a great time to be creative; the trick is to make writing as much a part of your routine as your baby’s feeds and naps. To try and steal odd moments for you, whenever the opportunity presents itself. Dirty dishes can wait, and whoever notices cobwebs anyway? I’ll be encouraging Mothership Writers to always keep a notebook to hand, and to make your duties as a mother include the things you enjoy as well.
With Calvin I’d go on long looping walks across the city. In the beginning this was born of necessity – he wouldn’t sleep unless he was moving – but then I came to love it, to crave the fresh air and movement. The Harbourside loop. The midweek quiet of the Ashton Court estate. The vast stretches of the Downs, where I’d stride along, buffeted by wind. As I walked I’d often be writing in my head, my mind travelling. Later, when Calvin deigned to sleep in a static pram, I’d duck into a coffee shop, or perch on a bench, and whip out my notebook or my laptop. This always felt like stolen time, and all the more delicious for it.
St Werburghs Community Centre and Windmill Hill City Farm, our two Mothership venues, are perfectly in keeping with the project’s ideals – they’re welcoming, accessible, vibrant places. Workshops will last for ninety minutes, and the atmosphere will be informal and flexible. All teachings will be available in hard copy afterwards – just in case the babies are yowling! – and a closed Facebook group will encourage the sharing of work. Mothership Writers is about community and wellbeing as much as creative development and writing skills.
I look forward to friendships being formed as new mothers find their way with words, and babies grow. I hope participants will reflect the diversity of our city. And while Mothership Writers is a Bristol-based project, new mothers everywhere can connect through our online journal and social media.
One of the most exciting parts of the project is that over the course of the year we’ll be working towards creating the first ever Mothership Writers anthology. While primarily a keepsake, this work will have a cultural value too, a frontline dispatch from a chorus of new voices. It’ll be an honest, authentic portrayal of new motherhood, from a particular time and place: Bristol in 2019.
There are 40 places available on the Mothership Writers course. Participants need to be in the last trimester of pregnancy or with a baby under one at the start of the course (April 2019). For more information or to reserve a place, visit https://www.mothershipwriters.com/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Bristol-based writer, Emylia Hall, is the author of four novels. Her first, The Book of Summers, was a Richard and Judy pick in 2012. Her latest is The Thousand Lights Hotel. Emylia has taught writing workshops in Kigali, Zurich, at the University of Lausanne, and as a regular tutor for Arvon.
Read more: An interview with Emylia Hall
Main image: Emylia Hall