I'd been up the night before to give the midweek talk on an Arvon Foundation course on Writing for Children. The tutors for the week were Julia Golding and Marcus Sedgwick, so the twelve participants had already had three days of first-rate advice and teaching from experienced and much published writers.
The Arvon Foundation has other centres, in Totleigh Barton in Devon, Moniack Mhor in Scotland, and the Hurst in Shropshire, all running courses on a similar pattern.
Lumb Bank used to belong to Poet Laureate Ted Hughes and in the 18th century was the home of a mill-owner. It still stands in 20 acres of woodland in countryside that falls and rises steeply. The house itself is sternly granite and made me think of Elizabeth's Gaskell's North and South.
But the tutors and midweek guest were housed in the "cottage" (itself a substantial three-bedroom building) on the hither side of this magical gate. Participants did their writing exercises on the vast dining table, which accommodated 15-16 people for dinner on Wednesday night with perfect ease.
Everything seemed on a gargantuan scale - fittingly for the home of the author of The Iron Man. My talk was on the upper floor of a separate barn, where I was facing a possibly eight-seater sofa!
I'd been asked to read from some of my books, answer questions and give an overview of my career. I had an hour to an hour and a half, about half of it set aside for questions. And I have written 96 books so it was a hard task to condense that down.
As I read a passage from Stravaganza: City of Masks in which the magician Rodolfo (he would describe himself as a scientist) sits hunched in a chair 'like a hawk roosting" I thought I felt the spirit of Ted Hughes just lightly pass.
Have you ever been on a creative writing course? And if so, how did you find it?
|Idyllic scene from tutors' cottage, Lumb Bank|