One of my resolutions for the year was to take part in a writing retreat. I looked at a few possibilities, one of which was abroad in sunnier climes. In the end I plumped for an Arvon Foundation course. I had heard nothing but good things about them from people who attended previous retreats.
There was a good choice of potential other courses in the brochure, some I couldn’t do because of timing and work. In the end I settled on the Starting to Write Short Stories course. It looked like an interesting one, with a wonderful setting and tutors with impressive backgrounds. It was also a good chance to develop my short story writing this is an area that I dip-in and out of when I am not writing my novel.
The course was at Lumb Bank, not far from Hebden Bridge and it’s the former home of Poet Laureate Ted Hughes. It is a beautiful and inspiring setting. Along with 15 other participants we had a number of workshops with our excellent tutors Tania Hershman and Robert Shearman throughout the week. We even had the chance to have one-to-one tutorials with them too.
As well as the formal opportunities to write there were a number of opportunities to go away and write or to socialise with the other writers. One of the good things about the week was the lack of Internet access. For someone that is distracted by constant access to the web this was a welcome novelty. It also highlighted what can be done without being constantly tied to the web.
Also I don’t think I have ever eaten as healthily as I did during the week. We took it in turns to work in the kitchen to prepare the evening meals for everyone, using locally sourced fresh produce. My stint was on the last night Friday. I was tasked with making two fruit trifles from scratch. This was a first for me and surprisingly they went down well.
Each evening there were a number of themed events. On the Tuesday Tania and Rob read from their work, I didn’t need a second invitation to buy their books. Wednesday’s event saw Manchester writer Zoe Lambert come along to read from her work. Friday it was the participants turn and we all had the chance to read a piece of work that we had produced over the course of the week.
I read my short story ‘100 Million Light Years From Where I Want to Be’. This was something I had written in one of the workshops. This was a serious piece but I don’t think that I set the right tone for reading it by tripping over my own feet as I advance towards the spotlight. I think my piece went down reasonably well despite the comedy interlude. It was great to hear what everyone else had been working on over the course of the week.
It was such a brilliant and rewarding week and one that I didn’t want to end. There’s talk of us all meeting up socially in the future, which would be nice. For now I feel very inspired and I hope to put into action all that I learnt during the week. I may even have a go at making another trifle.
Here’s something on the Arvon blog that eloquently sums up the week from Colette, one of the other participants – ‘I’m a Writer’.
Saturday morning was the time that we all left and headed off home. Feeling inspired by all things literary during the week, I decided to stop off in Haworth to visit the Bronte House and the surrounding village as it wasn’t that far from Lumb Bank. It was also somewhere I had never been before. While there, I wasn’t expecting to be drawn attention to works of another Haworth-based writer especially one that was working on the car park. In return for free parking I bought the author’s book. His name is Edward Evans.