Let’s Get Away From It All…

hdr-00027-0What made the most difference to the writing lives of these Prime Writers?  In our continuing series of posts looking at options for change and next steps, we focus on the festival and the residential course.  There’s something about “getting away from it all”, putting your head and body in a new space and time.  Unlike a longer course, it can be a short, sharp shock designed to blast you out of your routine.  It also enables you to interact with a new set of writers and industry professionals who are similarly out of place.  For those who chose not to, or were unable to afford the time or money to take a degree or a longer course, centres like Arvon and Skyros, as well as writing festivals in York and Winchester, made the difference.
For Jo Bloom, it was Arvon, an annual programme of residential creative writing courses and retreats held over five days, tutored by leading authors, and held at rural writers’ houses, offering workshops and individual tutorials and time and space to write, free from the distractions.  Just try to get a wifi signal here!  Jo says, “Many years ago, I just decided that I wanted to write more, work less.  I attended 3 Arvon courses (two of which were paid for by the Arts Council, amazingly).”  The Arvon courses helped her to finish her first novel and find an agent.  After completing a short Open Course of Arts (OCA in Creative Writing) she does still wonder about missed opportunities.  “I wish I had done an MA or similar in creative writing. I think I would have learnt a lot – and it would have boosted my confidence.”  The paperback for her debut, Ridley Road, will be out in the next two weeks.
Outdoor-Modern-Writers-Retreat-3For Beth Miller, a course at the Arvon centre provided initial encouragement, but it was the Winchester Writers’ Conference that helped her to, eventually, find her agent.  Here’s a link to her blogpost where she talks about the pain and pleasures of the conference – Other Than That, Mrs. Lincoln, How Did You Like the Play? Nobody ever said it would be easy – but as Beth’s second novel was published yesterday, it clearly worked for her!
For Karin Salvalaggio, a creative retreat provided a new way of life.  “Five years ago I was stuck because I needed to go on holiday. I was single and without my children for the first time in twenty years.”  After she did some research, she decided on the creative writing course in Skyros, Greece, taught by Monique Roffey. “On the final day Monique suggested I do an MA in Creative Writing at either Birkbeck or Goldsmiths. Two weeks later I was enrolled in a 2 year part time course at Birkbeck. It was that fast.”  Taking the course enabled Karin to see her writing in context with other writers, and having a tutor identify her strengths and suggest next steps made all the difference.  Now, she’s just back from a book tour in the US. “Halfway through the second year I’d already written the first draft of my novel and had signed with an agent. The rest is history!
There are creative and writing retreats all over the UK, and further afield.  Now, what would make a difference to your writing?


One thought on “Let’s Get Away From It All…

  1. Pingback: Let’s Get Away From It All… | theprimewriters

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