Historical Fiction Course with Manda Scott and Robert Wilton
As the rain fell against a distant backdrop of cold, blue skies, I arrived at The Hurst. I was one of the first to get there and, feeling nervous, unsure, and like I’d packed too much – only leaving behind the kitchen sink! – I made my way into the house and up to my room.
Dusk fell over the valley as I sat at my new desk in a surprisingly warm bedroom for such an old building. I watched headlights stretch over the drive and saw the dark silhouettes of strangers – soon to be friends – make their way up the grand stone steps.
Time stretched before that initial meeting. Doubts fluttered in my head; would I be as good as the others; would they be welcoming; would I be completely out of my depth? The next morning during the first workshop, I soon discovered I shared these fears with all of my peers.
It already seems like a lifetime since that first night. The week progressed well, each day shedding new light on my companions and new writing techniques to try out. The course tutors, Manda Scott and Robert Wilton, were an absolute delight. They held us all enrapt during their readings, their feedback was always encouraging and enlightening, and they led our group workshop sessions with ease, making us all feel peaceful and comfortable to take risks and share our work with the room.
At the beginning of the week, they asked us what we wanted to get out of this experience. I found this a difficult question to answer. What did I want? To make friends. To be with like-minded people. To understand my genre. To be reassured that I could actually produce something of quality.
Those goals were all met, one way or another. And as the week continued, I discovered that something else was happening too; I was falling in love with writing once again. Unknown to me at the beginning, I realised that I had been feeling stifled and pressurised by my need to produce good novels quickly (the curse of self-publishing). The exercises in the workshops allowed me to take risks with my writing, to experiment once again and create brand new, exciting characters.
Besides the actual writing, the week allowed me time to focus on myself as a professional, to create relationships with like-minded and driven individuals, and to have a moment of peace without the stresses of social media and the internet.
It was a relaxed week, with everyone getting along nicely. We discussed personal lives over shared lunches and dinners as well as our writing goals. On the final evening, we each read a section of our work, and we were all impressed by the quality in the room. There were mixed feelings that last night; we were tired and in need of our homes and loved ones, but we were also very sad to be leaving this supportive and cosy little nest we had built for ourselves.
The following morning, we said our goodbyes, and only hours later we were talking again on our WhatsApp group. I so hope we will stay in touch and continue to inspire each other.
As for other Arvon courses, I say bring them on! You can never be too inspired!