I have returned from the world of Arvon at The Hurst in Shropshire - wow!
When my eccentric and garrulous electronic travelling companion told me "you have reached your destination", and it read "unknown road" I got out with some trepidation. The worries about what would happen in Ambridge without me sunk down my list of priorities.
A smiling face rushed out to greet me and I found myself within the Arvon embrace. Somehow it didn't matter that the room was full of "unknowns", somehow they were already known to me on some level. It was extraordinary what an easy atmosphere it was and how easy to engage with everybody from the very start. I am sure this just does not just happen - the staff steeped in the Arvon ethos create it.
I am finding it hard to generalise about my week. It was storytelling gone mad. Some had arrived with their head already deep into the novel they wanted to write whilst others just wanted to write A novel. I had a story to tell but no clue how to tell it. As I heard and got to know a cast of real and fictional people I was sucked further in. I will, I sense, always know these fellow journeymen/women. It was the same with our fantastic tutors Jane Bailey and Joe Treasure who we all got to know along with fellow students. They were generous with their time, their experience, their expertise and so much more.
We spent mornings looking at aspects of the novel from structure to "voice". We practised and shared our pieces. The afternoons were spent in 1:1 tutorials, writing and cooking (if it was your turn). After dinner we spent the evenings listening to our tutors writing, having a guest speaker talk about her writing and, towards the end of the week hearing each other's work that they had written during their stay. I look forward to seeing everyone's name in print before too long.
I have started my novel based in 1970s "dirty" Soho. When not trying to plot and bring my characters to life by naming them, I spent my time inhabiting the clubs in Soho of the time and trying to think of names for them (Barbarellas sprang to mind). Normally I would have gone straight online but without internet access I have had to search my imagination which has been so much more fun! I have also lost sleep pondering what slang was used at the time. Any ideas gratefully welcomed! I have, at last, taken some ownership of my plot and have even written 2000 words - so only another 68000 or so to go...
It rained for the entire week at The Hurst. As the week drew towards its end and we sat talking in the kitchen nobody seemed too worried about the thought of rivers bursting their banks and being forced to stay and continue our writing without access to the outside world. I suggested that maybe this is what Writers in Residence meant - last week's writers that refused to move on for the next week's course...If only...