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Arvon writing courses review: fun and inspiration at The Hurst, Shropshire

Robert Pimm
Robert Pimm

Arvon writing courses review: why the Arvon foundation offers some of the world’s top writing courses and how they can help you.

Arrival at The Hurst

Ahead, in the kitchen, everyone seems to be laughing.  As I approach, the noise swells.  I push the door open to find ten people sitting around a long wooden table, drinking tea and eating lemon drizzle cake.  In an instant, the din dies down as everyone turns to look at the newcomer – me.

What have I left myself in for?

What happens on a writing course?

The prospect of attending a writing course holds both fascination and dread for would-be authors.  I attended the Arvon Foundation’s “Editing Fiction: Turning First Drafts into Publishable Books” at The Hurst in Shropshire.  So what actually happens on a writing course?  Do they help your writing?  And what if you don’t get on with the other participants?

The Hurst, Shropshire

I long to sit longer on this bench in the grounds of the Hurst

The Hurst: the basics

The Arvon course I attended, in November 2018, lasted from Monday afternoon to Saturday morning.  It consisted of morning workshops, followed by afternoons free for writing, walking, or attending 1:1 seminars with the tutors.  Workshops included sessions on how to edit a novel (including the advice “enjoy a moment of contentment on completion”); how to make novels more sellable (“story is everything”); story structure; and selling.

We also had sessions, to varying degrees both challenging and revelatory, where we examined the synopses and first pages of our novels.  Each of the 16 course participants too turns.  I was impressed by the candour of our tutors and their readiness to give concrete advice.

What else was on the schedule?  We had meals cooked in part by participants; evenings with readings and other more, or less, structured activities; and, sadly, farewells after breakfast on the final day.

The Hurst, Shropshire

Preparing a meal with other course participants (outstanding crew!)

Do writing courses help?

Did it help?  My week at Arvon helped turbocharge my motivation; my writing; and, possibly, the prospects for getting my next book published.  Five reasons why:

Great teachers

Access to top talent: experts who can offer you advice on writing technique and on how the publishing industry works; and may even, if you are lucky, look at, and give feedback on, your writing.  All gold dust for a writer.  Our tutors were Hannah Griffiths, head of literary acquisitions at independent television, film and digital production and distribution company All3Media and Christopher Wakling, author of seven fine novels and lead fiction tutor at Curtis Brown Creative.  I found both outstanding.

Get inspired!

Being surrounded by other writers is stimulating and inspiring.  Everyone fizzes with ideas.  Listening to others’ first pages and other writing fuels your desire to improve your own.  Recommendations for reading; other courses; or tips on writing competitions can all boost your motivation or suggest new ways forward.

Connections

Contact with other human beings is the key to happiness and success in many fields – including writing.  A week living, cooking, learning and washing up together in a remote house is like a case study in bonding.  (For more on happiness and humans, see The one with the links to happiness – links in bold italics are to other posts on this site.)

Time to think

When was the last time you spent a week doing something you loved?  When that something is writing, you may end the week with a colossal sense of satisfaction.

Have fun

I found living in a remote historic house (the former residence of playwright John Osborne, complete with the Oscar he won for Tom Jones in 1964) with a bunch of lively and interesting writers, excellent food and drink and great outdoor walks on tap enormously enjoyable.

The Hurst, Shropshire

The gardens of The Hurst are pleasingly idiosyncratic

When I enter the kitchen, I register that all the faces are friendly.  ‘There’s tea in the pot,’ someone says.  I sit down, pour myself a mug and grab a slice of cake.

‘So,’ someone says.  ‘What’s your novel about?’

I take a deep breath, and the week begins.

P.S I hope you enjoyed this Arvon writing courses review.  I’d be interested in to hear of others’ experiences.  I earlier reviewed an (also excellent) Skyros writing course I attended a few years ago, and a likewise fine writing course at Loutro, on Crete.

P.P.S. I hope you’ve found this useful.  If so, please follow me on Facebook.  Or you can join my mailing list – I’ll be delighted to give you a free “Hotel Story” to say thanks.  Check out the range of writing on this site via my 5 pleasure paths.

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7 Responses

  1. Nice blogpost, Robert. I’ve attended 7 or 8 Arvon courses and loved every one of them. There was never one that was disappointing and I always learnt a lot with excellent tutors.
    I believe I was on the Skyros writing course you mentioned, although it was a Pitching to Publishers rather than a lot of actual writing. A great week, wasn’t it?

    1. Good luck! I found it incredibly helpful: for the instruction, for the networking (although that can never be taken for granted) and the peace and quiet. Let me know how it goes!

    2. … and I meant to add – do let me know if you would find any other info about Arvon useful – or if you find any of the other writing resources on the site (under “writing: about writing”) any good! Thanks! RP

  2. Thank you, Robert. That’s kind. I’ll check out your resources. My plan is go with an open mind (obviously with some high expectations) and make the most of it. Having the few days booked in my diary has helped me focus on my writing already. I’ll let you know how I find it. R ????

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