On the very first day our tutor Louise said, ‘This week you’re going to walk the walk. You’re all writers.’ And for the first time I actually felt like one.
Emylia Hall attended a Novel Writing course at Totleigh Barton in November 2008. Her debut novel The Book of Summers was published by Headline in March 2012.
I remember sitting in the studio during a workshop and suddenly knowing what my next novel was. Within two hours I had a plot and two characters I couldn’t wait to write about.
Sarah Butler started her novel on an Advanced Fiction course at The Hurst in 2007. She tells us about writing that novel, keeping going and eventually getting published.
The structure of the course was nicely balanced, with a taught session in the mornings (everything from the history of graphic novels to how to begin structuring and writing one, storytelling techniques, page layouts and writing and drawing exercises) and private working time/one-to-one tutorials with the tutors in the afternoons. For me this was the most beneficial part. Almost everyone had come to the course with a clear idea of a short piece of work they wanted to tackle. I came with visions of a grand epic and needed a lot of help finding a starting point and a way in, even to talking about it let alone setting pen to paper. I found my way in, and I found a group of people who are still my friends and supporters to this day.
Katie Green, Graphic Novelist and Course Participant. This is an extract from her blog
The reason Arvon works is simple: the system works to create not just a writing course, but a place where people come together as a community of writers......One of the remarkable things about my job is being witness to countless small but significant moments in people’s writing lives. It might be in the sitting room on a Monday, after everyone has arrived, when a participant realises – perhaps for the first time in their life - they don’t have to explain their motivation for writing.
Rachel Connor, Centre Assistant at Lumb Bank. This is an extract from a guest blog for Strictly Writing - well worth a read to get a feeling for the Arvon experience.
Arvon is different. It is optimistic, life enhancing and totally democratic. It is truly and deeply educational. It shows that words, stories, poem, plays, songs, are tools of exploration and discovery, that in using them with care and boldness we can come to a deeper understanding of ourselves and our world. (Arvon) is about encouraging people to become fully rounded imaginative beings who are in tune with their own instincts and ambitions, who have a sense of joy in their own language, who can look with fascination at the surrounding world, and who can explore and celebrate it in words.
David Almond, award-winning Author and Arvon Tutor
My phone stopped working a few miles before reaching The Hurst. I didn’t anticipate what a blessing that would be. On arrival, I discovered there was no internet access either. So, armed with unfamiliar feelings of privacy and solitude, I immersed myself in this remote Arvon world, surrounded by other writers seeking a retreat.
The morning workshops and private tutorials - conducted by authors Bernardine Evaristo and Patrick Neate - provided excellent structure to the day. We looked at various writing samples, comparing styles, and took part in some challenging writing exercises. There was no pressure to write flawlessly, nor was there any sense of rivalry between participants. In truth, there was just a real sense of camaraderie and mutual support.
The remainder of our days was spent wrapped in the warmth of a Shropshire summer, focused on homework and progressing with our own books-in-progress. All the writers wandered off to their private spaces and got on with their work.
Not only was it a wonderfully productive week at The Hurst, I returned to the chaos of London recharged and reinvigorated to continue writing. Since then, I have written 40,000 words and am much more disciplined about my work. If I lose my way again, I have promised myself I will apply to join another Arvon course.
Michelle Jana Chan, Course Participant