Mapping Our Place – writing exercises

Last week, I gave a workshop on ‘Mapping Our Place’. This blog post reflects on the session and there are a few exercises that you may wish to try.

Flipchart for mapping our place
^ An action packed session of writing! ^

The icebreaker did not quite go as well as planned; there was a bit of confusion as to passing on the meaning – this may have been to do with me perhaps not framing the exercise well for everyone.  Here is what should have happened (with instructions if you’d like to give it a go).

Noun game (adapted from an exercise from the Tŷ Newydd Writing the Wild course)


The aims of this exercise are

  • to act as an icebreaker to the workshop
  • to act as a game to free people up for writing, and,
  • to act as an exercise in beginning to think about words used with mapping and with place.


Slips with “A [noun] is” | preferably with the words relating to the theme of your session
A hat to mix up the slips

The exercise:

Instruct the participants to take a slip and to complete the sentence that has been started by writing a definition for the word written on it (e.g a field is | “starred with daisies”), enourage participants to be as poetic or as literal/ accurate as you like.

Then rip the meaning off keeping your original “a __ is” and hand the definition to the person on your left.  Read them out together and enjoy the surreal and serendipitous (example from our session: “a world is | suspended in space”

The aim is to create a comfortable atmosphere, a cooperative writing environment and focus on the theme of the session.

flat cap noun game

Imagining the special place – creating a poem.

In order to get the writers in the right mood for this bit of the session.  I read a poem that is currently out for consideration [If it’s accepted I’ll edit this bit with where it has ended up].  I asked the participants to close their eyes and imagine somewhere that meant something to them, to think about it for five minutes: what it looked like, smelled like, the colours and feelings that were evoked.  Then I gave ten minutes for writing and editing time with the prompt to begin a poem that began with “I remember that place” with no pressure to follow a form.  There were some imaginative and surprising responses from places from bed to Bury which was amazing! This exercise was subverted too: “I remember that plaice, down at the chip shop…” but it was beautifully done with the addition from “the wistfulness of salt” which is a gorgeous turn of phrase.


As ever my main aim when I develop writing workshops and activities is that it doesn’t matter if participants go off prompt; they’ve created new writing and that is what I am there for.  I prepared a writing exercises handout for the participants which you can download to use yourself or with friends/a writing group: Mapping Our Place handout for writers.

In Rochdale?  The next Touchstones creative writing session will be from 2pm – 4pm on Thursday 7th July 2016 and facilitated by Annette Martens.


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