Tuesday, 3 June 2014

My week on a creative residential

I got back from my creative writing residential at Totleigh Barton* ten days ago and haven't stopped thinking about it since.

It was an amazing five days. I got used to meeting people sprawled on sofas with notebooks or laptops looking thoughtful around the house and felt at home alongside the incredibly well-stocked bookcases. It was like sleeping in the best library in the world where the authors had come to life and were speaking to you about how to improve your writing. It was quite a buzz and it's taken me a while to come down!

I managed to get up the drive for a good 90 minute walk. The drive takes a while to travel along in a car and it takes about 30 minutes to walk to the nearest little town, Sheepwash. I was struck by the isolation of the house and how you could easily forget about the internet, television, or even that anyone else in the world existed. The manor house is surrounded by farmland which isn't all owned by the Arvon Foundation so I was very careful to stick to the road. I went for this walk on a whim to get rid of a claustrophobic mood which had descended so I hadn't asked at the office for a map. I'm sure there were many walks to explore and I would be so excited to walk through the lush countryside if I ever go again.

I didn't do an enormous amount of writing during the week but there were four three-hour workshops in the mornings which were extremely entertaining so I wrote in those. I think I over-compensated by reading about five collections of stories and 'on writing' by A.L. Kennedy which was amazingly funny and suited my mood perfectly. I was lucky in that there were seven other students instead of the usual 15, so we all got twice as many one-to-one tutorials. I had taken a few stories with me which have benefited hugely from having an expert edit them and guide me into how to finish the piece and 'sew in the ends'.

Overall it was a hugely beneficial experience but I think it lessens the effect if you go on too many so I will aim to do another one in a few years' time. Hopefully things will have moved on quite a bit by then. Fingers crossed.

*Bursaries are available.

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