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Ghost Story Writing Workshops with The Book of Darkness and Light – Facebook Live

Reviewer: Ruth Jepson

Instructor: Adam Z. Robinson

Adam. Z. Robinson is the founding member and primary storyteller from theatre company The Book of Darkness & Light (hereafter referred to as TBODAL) best known for their shows The Book of Darkness & Light, Shivers and most recent offering Upon The Stair. In each show, lost souls read from a book of twisted stories, weaving a trio of tales designed to unsettle and scare the audience. TBODAL are always well reviewed and have solid core group of fans who attend multiple shows each tour. Their shows include clear parallels to authors such as M. R. James or books like The Woman in Black. So to say that Robinson knows his stuff is somewhat of an understatement.

Since going out to the theatre is not currently an option, Robinson has invited his audience into his home and mind, and is offering up ghost story writing workshops online via Facebook Live. He has previously run such workshops alongside performing, and this is clear from the slick format and well presented exercises. Each workshop so far (he has been running them over the past month) starts with a warm up task to get the participants horror juices flowing. In this particular workshop the warm up is to take a fiction book, open it at random and use two short sentences as your first and final line. Robinson allows for time to write, giving timing prompts but staying quiet as people work. PowerPoint slides are provided to keep folk on track with tasks. Once everyone is in a writing frame of mind, more focused prompts are set, with longer time limits. Previous workshops have used photographs, or extracts of work from established ghost story authors, and even personal experience to inspire participants’ writing. Tonight, exercises focused on haunted objects, arrivals, encounters and back story. Robinson is quick to reassure that there is no wrong way to respond – no work too long or short, no focus incorrect.

A request for work to be read out is extended at the end of every exercise, and many, many volunteers come forward. These are a mix of experienced writers, those who have attended every week so have built up some skills, and people who are in their first session and have not written since high school. Robinson randomly picks three per task, and work is direct messaged to him. This is the best part of the workshop. Robinson performs each piece in his inimitable manner. His voice is perfect for the ghost story genre, soft but intense, pitched low so as to draw everyone in. Even stories from clearly new writers are made to sound as if written by a master. Robinson gives completely supportive feedback, enthusiastically emphasising good ideas and well written phrases while advising on how the short pieces could be developed and improved without ever sounding critical. Equally supportive is the community of amateur writers that are also in attendance, feeding back and adding further compliments in the comments box, which scrolls continually through the workshop. Anyone having a bad day can’t help but be cheered by the frankly lovely people there from across the country (and in a few cases from across the world!). With attendee numbers hitting the high 70s during tonight’s session, competition  is fierce to be read out, so some will go away disappointed  – or just eager to return and be picked next time!

As well as the writing tasks, there are periods of discussion between Robinson and the writers, with recommendations of books and authors flying back and forth, as well as comments on effective techniques and tropes. There is a workshop group now set up on Facebook so such discussions can be continued, and participants have branched off into sharing and developing their work outside of the Live workshops. It wouldn’t be outside the realms of possibility to expect a few new horror authors come the end of the lockdown.

Robinson offers his workshops free to anyone and everyone who wishes to attend, but of course ‘pay what you can’ donations to help him continue are also promoted. Future workshops will focus on editing your work, and different genres, so there is something for non-horror fans too. Even if you haven’t written fiction before, and especially if you haven’t considered writing horror, the workshops are highly recommended as a way to try something new and escape into another place for a while. Just don’t be surprised if that new place is infested with ghosts and ghouls…

Anyone who wants to take part in future workshops is recommended to visit TBODAL Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/TheBookofDarknessAndLight/) and Robinson’s website (https://adamzrobinson.com/) for more information – his donation page can be found on the latter.

Reviewed on: Friday 17th April 2020

Further workshops every Friday (repeated Wednesdays) with streams of Robinson’s writing every other Thursday.

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The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Mark Clegg. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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