Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Arvon Calling

Ted Huges looking down on us all

After the relief and euphoria of arrival, Earl grey tea with walnut cake, a pretty bedroom, stunning views and rain on what was proving to be one of the hottest days of the year in every other part of Britain except Heptonstall in Yorkshire, I decided it was worth booking into Lumb Bank if only for the scenery and ambience. If I managed a spot of writing, so much the better, and all under the watchful eye of a faintly disapproving Ted Hughes.

Looking around we were a mixed bunch. In age somewhere between thirty and sixtyish I guessed, with a fair smattering of rural and urban, from Orkney to Stoke Newington, with at least two Welsh farmers, (one retired), a surprising number of chain smokers, a smattering of hard drinking journalists, keen to write fiction of more than 2000 words, a sad faced accountant, a brace of bright young lawyers and a lovely girl who confessed to having once set her laptop on fire when she opened the lid onto a scented candle. All women except for a quietly spoken pornographer from Edinburgh who dabbled in web based errotica of the S & M variety. I was told later by a regular Arvonite that you always got one of those. She maintained their inclusion was so common as to be compulsory.
The two contrasting views from my room
Though not an outgoing type myself I was on nodding terms with the woman I’d shared a taxi with from Hebden Bridge, who at sixty feared she was too old to write fluffy chic lit, so had opened a farm shop just in case. (Later to prove the unlikely author of a witty sex scene involving an over enthusiastic lover called Bill the Bonker, nail varnish and a chicken shed, but more of that another day.)

At the end of my first meeting with the other Arvonites, before we’d even been introduced to the tutors or explored the possibilities of the garden, I realized booze would prove significant.
“Wine to accompany supper is provided on the first night,” we were told, and any more had to be ordered from the village.
Julie, later known as The Wine Monitor, grabbed a sheet of paper.
“Jot down what you’ll drink over the remaining four days and add your money to the kitty accordingly.” Determined to remain clear headed for the tasks to come I scribbled ‘2 bottles, red’ and handed in my cash, feeling hopelessly outclassed by the 6, 8 or even 10 bottles noted down by the majority of my fellow students. Clearly writing exciting commercial prose wouldn't be the only pleasurable item on this Lumb Bank agenda.
The garden
Our tutors, Judy and Katie, joined the group for dinner and after coffee and a few mutterings as to the meanness of the evening's wine ration, we settled back to take in the week’s programme.
An early riser, I was surprised to find morning sessions weren’t to start before 10 am but I kept this to myself, allowing us time to write in the morning I presumed. We were to start with dialogue, viewpoint and other general stuff. Our intoductory task, to write a first meeting between two characters, getting over a sense of scene and place, with dialogue…. Show not tell and steer clear of adverbs, we were warned. A doddle I thought innocently, unaware my 'viewpoint' was about to be slapped down in no uncertain manner. Never again will I include 'shiver' and 'pleasurable' in the same sentence.


elizabethm said...

This sounds fantastic. I am looking forward to the next instalment already. Clearly it doesn't need to be fiction!

Angel Bluestocking said...

I know exactly what you mean about the alcohol but I shall be honest and tell you I did partake in at least 6-8 bottles myself by the end of the week!

I too remember that initial getting together and how daunting the whole thing was. On day 2 I cried to my hubby and told him I wanted to come home (Yes, I know, I didn't put that in my blog did I?)

I just want to say that I think you are so brave and I can't wait to see what happens next.
I do hope this hasn't knocked your confidence.

I go on the Caerlon Writers Holiday course on the 26th July. Wish I was going with someone I know. Perhaps we should go together another year my dear.

Bye for now

Cait O'Connor said...

This is great writing and I can't wait to hear more. Wish I'd been there.

ChrisH said...

I'll be reading with interest.

Tattie Weasle said...

Oh WOW - seriously impressed you have done this - longing to know more!

Frances said...

Lampie, I also so want to read your next installment.

You might realize that I am both a Virgo and someone who came into adulthood in the 1960's. This give me such a blend of idealism, analysis, and skepticism.

I am delighted that you got to Arvon, and definitely want that experience to strengthen your faith in your own writing. Your writing is strong, keep writing.

I remember decades ago, when I realized that I knew a bunch of folks whose names appeared in various catalogues as teachers of various art courses, in various colleges and universities and art schools.

Many of these folks were/are fine artists. They make very good art, and often are affiliated with galleries of some note. They also have bills to pay. If they can have a school assemble a full class that they can teach ... well, the students will definitely benefit, and the teacher will too.

Please know that I don't mean this as a downer. More of an admission of why I might still choose to struggle to be an artist whose work I value, on my own.

I could pm or e-mail you on this topic until every cow known to any farmer on our beloved site comes home.


Fennie said...

I went on an Arvon course once in Devon so I can appreciate the atmosphere. Buy why aren't you 'allowed' to include 'pleasure' and 'shiver' in the same sentence and why no adverbs?

'His pleasures were malign: slyly, he watched her shivering, as anxiously they waited to jump into the frozen water.

Milla said...

trust Fennie!
love the installment quality to this, am agog for the rest so don't disappoint us, you clearly have the knack of spinning out a tale which makes you half way there!
Am afraid I might have been a 6-8-er, too, gulp, or glug. And I know exactly what you mean about shivering etc. The thing I was knocked down for, and still cringe at (!) is "the very air ..." and the pugger kept bringing it up so you could never ever forget it and nor could anyone else.
More, please, miss!

Calico Kate said...

Oh I want to go I want to go ... looking forward to reading the next bit in a mo!