This week I have been taking my bike up onto the Roman wall in order to attend a Writing Workshop at Housesteads Roman Fort. The purpose of the two days was to write a piece on the theme of boundaries.
If you haven't visited Hadrian's wall, then I highly recommend that you do. Not only do you get the wonderful sense of being surrounded by history that is almost 2000 years old, but the scenery is stunning.
Being inspired by that kind of scenery is not exactly challenging. Stood among the ruins, you can almost see the Roman soldiers walking their patrols along the wall. Which is exactly where my short story idea came from.
Now, I don't know a lot about the history of the Romans, but I know a little. Certainly enough that I can imagine the fierce Roman soldiers roaming the wall in all weathers in an attempt to keep the 'savages' out.
In a way the wall itself is a kind of boundary. It was built to separate the Roman Empire from the north, and it worked. For a time. So for my short story, I thought; what if it was more than that? It wasn't just a wall to keep the two people separated, but it was more of a personal obstacle for one particular soldier?
It seems entirely possible to me that there would have been soldiers who felt that way, and who were not there by choice. Which became the basis of my short story. A Roman soldier that was forced to be there, and who saw the wall as more than just one kind of barrier.
With all of the snow that we have had over the winter, I decided that it would make a beautiful contrast; the pristine white landscape and the conflict of the Roman soldier. There is also something so very tempting about writing for a snow-covered landscape. It’s almost like a blank canvas, but with everything that you need right there in front of you.
The workshop itself was very interesting. We wrote, and we wandered around the fort taking pictures and discussing our ideas, and we also created the ‘stone’ book that will be left behind.
I got to meet two wonderful people who both love writing, and it was nice to sit and talk to them about various things. It was also good to hear their ideas and how different they were despite having the same theme.
The stone book is not quite finished yet, as there are some final things that need adding and changing to the short stories before they are ready. Once they are, however, they should be on display at Housesteads. It is nice to think that there will be people visiting there that will get to see something that I have helped with and written. I may even have to ride up there again just to see it, or drag some of the family along and take a whole boat load of pictures.
One thing is for certain; I will be looking for more workshops of a similar nature. Meeting new people, visiting beautiful places, and doing what I love best are all worthy reasons for travelling up and down the country on my bike. And being able to leave little pieces behind at those places brings a certain sense of accomplishment that is its own reward.
Once the book is on display, I will let everyone know, and I will try and get some pictures of it to post on here.