Back in Brum, I’m experiencing information overload after a fantastic week in Shropshire, thinking about nothing but writing. I was on an Arvon creative writing course, “Starting to Write”, tutored by Mark Haddon and Will Fiennes. Returning to reality has been a big, big comedown.
Lots of people have said “you’ve had such a good time, would you do another one?” and my answer has had to be “no”. Not because I didn’t enjoy it – quite the opposite! The chemistry of “our” week was so perfect, I’m afraid another course could never live up to it.
The tutors were gentle, lovely, down to earth people, who treated us as professional writers. Quick to praise and constructive in their criticism, Will and Mark were the perfect teaching team. They gave us invaluable advice and inspiration that will stay with me forever.
Nestling in a Shropshire valley, the Arvon centre – John Osbourne’s former home, The Hurst – is an amazing retreat. We spent every day listening to birdsong in the sunshine and every night looking at the stars. I’ve never seen so many stars. (The weather helped, of course. How can you fail to be inspired by lush green hills under deep blue skies?)
The Centre Directors Kerry and Pete (and their gorgeous daughter Pearl) gave us a fabulous welcome and were the perfect hosts. How they do it week after week, I do not know. But they just keep smiling.
My biggest fear had been my fellow students, especially having to share a room with someone I’d never met, but I needn’t have worried. My room-mate Fiona was brilliant. She made me laugh loads and she didn’t snore once. We were a group of fifteen, but even after five days in each other’s company, there wasn’t anyone who made me feel irritated or intimidated. No-one was too loud and no-one too quiet. No-one hogged all the attention, no-one sucked up to the tutors. We were equals. I had sparkly conversations with every one of my fellow writers; I trusted them implicitly. I am honoured to have met Andy, Anna, Chrysse, Fiona, Fran, Gina, Jackie, Jess, Kris, Paul, Peter, Sam, Sue and Tamsin.
On the final night, we all read out a piece that we’d done during the week. If you’d told me before that we would have to do that, I’d have been in two minds about going, but the course had upped my confidence so much that I did it with gusto and really enjoyed myself. I read a piece called The List, and afterwards, I’m blushing to say, Director Pete asked me if I’d mind him sending it to the Head Office for publication on the website.
What’s it a list of? You’ll have to read it to find out. Is it true? Well, put it this way: before I could let Pete send it, I had to change some of the names…