Wild Word Surfing with Deb Winter
I don’t want to offend anyone but I have been thinking about the day I spent with the biggest bunch of liars I have ever encountered, all thanks to Deb Winter and her Wild Word-Surfers improv workshop, and it was hilarious.
Honestly, you wouldn’t credit it, but the 20 or so bunch of folks who turned up, looking like butter wouldn’t melt, soon showed their true colours.
Often when you turn up for a workshop there is an initial slightly uncomfortable “getting to know each other bit ” with everyone on their best behaviour. Not here though. Under Deb’s expert guidance we were immediately into flights of fancy, offering each other gifts of raindrops, flying goats and cloaks of invisibility. I collected rare kittens, an island in the sun, never-ending biscuits, and a host of other lovelies I just didn’t have room in my bag for.
Over tea and biscuits, the laughter still ringing around the room, I grabbed a moment with Deb.
“I realised a long time ago,” she told me with that Deb Winter twinkle, that if you don’t like the world you find yourself in, you can find yourself another one.
“And why limit yourself to a double life, when you can have multiple ones? When you’re a child they come down on you like a ton of bricks for telling lies. But I’ve built a career out of making things up.”
And suddenly we were all in pairs describing our secret hobby. Some of us were ashamed to admit we collect toenail clippings (one of us professed to be making a model of the Eiffel tower out of his). One man travelled miles for a good traffic jam. One person piled stones upon each other in the street, another collected lentils from all over the world. One poor man had 300 shelves and numerous sheds to house all the tools he couldn’t stop himself collecting.
There was a miniature goat rider who wouldn’t tell us where she lived, and if you ever come across someone in a long, blonde wig and nothing else driving a tractor in the dark, along the country lanes…well I met her too.
And so it went on. Amid uproarious laughter, the used chewing gun collector described the tools of her trade – ice and a miniature spatula – bemoaning the good old days before folk became more litter aware.
The friendly slug collector described her slug hotel and the calming influence they have on her, while the assembly chuckled, offering friendly advice on the homing nature of slugs and snails. Apparently, if you take them to another location of less than a mile away, they can find their way back. Well, who knew? No wonder they seem so determined to eat everything in my garden. They are furious with me for making them travel so far to come home.
Aching with laughter, and determined not to waste energy separating fact from fiction, we next encountered the three-headed oracles and were allowed the opportunity of asking life-changing questions such as: How can I be happy?
Experts in subjects such as mole-tickling (did you know that they purr like kittens?) and sculpting from jelly only increased our joy, so that by the time we began translating gibberish poetry, some were complaining that their tummies hurt too much.
Deb, laughed along with us, always encouraging, always warm. She embraced every flight of fancy with her own open, light-hearted energy, reminding us to shout “Wombat” if we just couldn’t think of anything else to say.
What inspires her? I had to ask. People had been telling me how much they were looking forward to a day of lying.
Deb laughed. “It’s great fun, isn’t it? Though we could call it improvisation.”
She has always loved words, she told me. Her first-class honours degree in English literature led to an MA in English poetry, and in 1985 she began her work as a creative writing tutor – but she didn’t stop there. Deb’s more-than-double life has included 30 years managing projects in the charity sector, a career in teaching public speaking, and, since 2010, becoming a professional storyteller – all of which have allowed her to work with a wide range of people, developing her remarkable skills as she went.
“I get great satisfaction from helping others become confident in their own voice and talents because I was so very shy, quiet and self-conscious for years,” she explained.
And it was clear that Deb really does love meeting people and turning them into friends. Her enthusiasm is inspiring and her charm is infectious.
As the workshop drew to a close and the participants took their leave, there was a strong sense of lightness that we all carried back to our everyday lives where telling the truth and behaving responsibly are the norm.
“It’s just like the best bits of being a kid,” someone said as we were leaving, and I think she was telling the truth… for once.
Deb Winter gives storytelling performances and runs wonderful creative workshops throughout Pembrokeshire and other places. To find out more please go to her website: www.deborahwinter.co.uk
You can also find her on YouTube.