Sunday, August 03, 2008

Arvon Writing Retreat

The Arvon Foundation: Lumb Bank, Summer 2007. That's me at the front on the far left, in case you weren't certain; I nearly missed this group photo because I'd fallen asleep over my manuscript! Tutors Lee Weatherly and Malorie Blackman are sitting at the front. Lee is grasping the bench with both hands, as though afraid it may fly away with her at any moment, with Malorie Blackman beside her, clearly less horrified by the lens. On the far right, for some reason looking as though she only has one leg, is Bridget Collins, author of a debut teen novel due out from Bloomsbury this autumn.

This photograph appears courtesy of Claire McNamee.

At the end of this month - I'm not quite at packing stage, but am gearing myself up mentally - I shall be going on a five day Arvon writing retreat. It's untutored, which means there'll be plenty of time for some actual work instead of the more dubious options of chatting, lazing about and generally getting sloshed that are available on most writing courses.

Though having said that, the last Arvon course I attended was probably the one where I worked - or was worked - the hardest. It was a course on Writing Teen Fiction, and the tutors were Malorie Blackman and Lee Weatherly, both of whom are very stern disciplinarians. We had a two-to-three hour group workshop in the mornings, wrote up our daily assignments during lunch breaks and early afternoon, then would meet again for a slightly shorter workshop or reading after supper. At least two out of the four afternoons each of us would meet a tutor individually to discuss work in progress. We then had to present said work on the final two evenings in a series of individual readings of about ten minutes each.

Although that may not sound desperately arduous, by the time fifteen people have got their own lunch in a galley kitchen, sorted out any photocopying or typing that needed to be done, and found a quiet spot to compose for a few hours, suddenly it's supper time and after that, the late reading or workshop. So if you want to work on your own stuff beyond those few hours in the afternoon, you have to burn some serious midnight oil. Which means rolling into bed in the early hours ... and bleary eyes the next morning if you actually make the 9am workshop!

Don't think I'm complaining though. I thoroughly enjoyed the Teen Fiction course, and took away some brilliant advice from Blackman and Weatherly, even though my year has been utterly consumed by the Warwick Laureateship and the new editorship of Horizon Review!

So I'm eagerly looking forward to my writing retreat this summer, and spending some quality time alone in a room with my manuscript. One day soon, it will be ready to send out to some lucky, lucky agent ...


Ms Baroque said...

Sounds great, Jane. Well done making the group photo!

And Malorie Blackman is a HUGE hero of my daughter and ALL her friends.

Jane Holland said...

I can believe it. We got on rather well, both having a strong and rather outrageous sense of humour. Lee was far more reserved and, I suspect, didn't always get my jokes.

But then, so few people do!