What a magical time myself and my new writing friends had last week attending an Arvon residential writing course in Lumb Bank, Yorkshire.
So pretty and picturesque.
Our tutors were the delightful romantic comedy writer, Chris Manby and the exuberant, larger than life Mike Gayle. We also had a motivating and amusing talk from guest speaker Jenny Colgan (who I forgot to photograph, I was so enthralled. Sorry Jenny!)
Mike in teacher mode!
Lumb Bank is an imposing 18th century Mill house set amongst rolling hills and gorgeous gardens and was once owned by the renowned poet laureate Ted Hughes who very aptly commented that in Yorkshire, ‘only the rain never tires.’
It was pretty chilly for most of the week considering it was July – I think there was only one day without rain at some stage of the day.
Chris in teacher mode- with wine!
But the inspiration from Chris and Mike was enough to light our inner fire for the whole week, all of us eagerly taking in the offered advice on how to prepare our outline and work our way through the ‘sticky bits’ to finish the novel. Chris shared a chart she always uses to map out her chapters and we all asked for extra copies to make sure we could plan this way when we returned home. Bloody brilliant! How did I not know about this?
‘TURN OFF YOUR INNER CRITIC,’ at least until your first draft is finished, was excellent advice from Mike; words that I could do with sticking above my laptop whenever I settle down to write.
We were all encouraged to start something new, although a few fellow writers wanted to continue with their ‘work in progress’ which was fine.
Thierry had travelled from France to attend the course and was only seventeen years old, as was Tara who has already self-published her excellent short novel This is How I love Henry.
When the sun finally peeked out from behind the rather stormy clouds, most of us climbed the steep, steep hill into Heptonstall to find Sylvia Plath’s grave.
Two benches for sitting and thinking! It was like being on top of the world.
Sylvia, also a renowned poet was married to Ted Hughes but sadly committed suicide at the age of thirty by putting her head in the gas oven at her home, while her two children slept. She is buried in the new church in Heptonstall.
The old St Thomas’s church in Heptonstall.
Her grave is badly lacking in tender loving care and there has been controversy about its location for many years; fans of Sylvia wondering why she is buried in Yorkshire when she was American.
Sylvia Plath’s gravestone.
We rounded off the week by reading our new first chapters out loud, numbing our ‘inner critic’ with plenty of wine and ended the night by playing The Hat Game. Can’t quite remember how it goes (due to my inner critic needing excessive tamping down!) but seeing Mike acting out Peter Pan was something to behold.
I think Mike is actually flying!
Would do it again in a heartbeat!