Next weekend I will be treating myself to one of my favourite guilty pleasures; my third Write Away weekend ran by Ruth Brandt, tutor extraordinaire. The venue is a De Vere hotel – Gorse Hill, just the other side of Woking to where I live. I chose the residential option, as opposed to the non residential one because, well – I like to get away to immerse myself in all things writing. I come out of the closet, so to speak, as a writer because there are also other closet-writers there and we can join in solidarity! Feeling safe in the knowledge that I will be accepted as a writer (as opposed to an author because I haven’t had anything published yet) without the odd looks that non writers give you when you tell what you do in your spare time. Coupled with the fact that I would be in no fit state to drive home because a small group of us just don’t know when to stop enjoying ourselves!
Last year, as I got to the “class”, I recognised a few familiar faces from the year before, so knew that this was going to be a great weekend, for although they are good fun; they are also very good writers.
Don’t get me wrong; we are there to work and to learn but we also have a jolly good laugh.
I started writing with Ruth, first on a Saturday workshop in June 2011 and afterwards, I joined one of her evening courses in January 2012 and completed five terms. I have done the odd workshop, when I have time but Write Away is my favourite. Most of us on the weekend courses are students of Ruth’s and many of us have become good friends. I call us her “disciples!” I have “gone it alone” to work on an online novel writing course that I am doing through Writing Magazine, but I do miss class sometimes.
Ruth has had many successes with her writing, being shortlisted in many literary competitions, and published in magazines such as Mslexia, Litro, Ireland’s own, Candis, and Yours, as well as short story’s Published in Anthologies. She also writes plays and poetry, and is studying for her MFA in Creative writing at Kingston University, as well as being the Writer in residence at Polesden Lacey. What more can you want from a tutor with that pedigree? And she is a very nice person as well, who joins in with her “disciples” at the end of a hard days writing.
The weekend is well structured. We arrive to class on the Friday evening, after checking in, then we introduce ourselves and write our name on a folded over piece of paper, so nobody can forget our names (this part always amuses me!) Ruth will go over the structure of the weekend, like what subjects we are going to learn about, and then asks if we have any requests for areas we want to cover. We will do a couple of exercises where we will read our work to rest of the group ( I always cringe at this bit because I don’t write very well on the hop, I like time to think about it,) and then it’s time for dinner and drinks and a catch up with old friends. Those who feel virtuous will retire to their rooms and work on their WIP (work in progress) and the rest of us will stay in the bar till the early hours putting the world to rights!
Next day, we breakfast, and at ten on the dot, sit at our desks ready for the expert tuition of our leader and prepare for a hard days graft. This is the longest day; it is full on, even though we stop for tea and biscuits mid morning and afternoon, plus a delicious lunch midday, make no mistake- we are there to write our hearts out! And to workshop, even though I still get over anxious and forget to breathe when I am reading my beloved piece of work out! I nearly got used to not being nervous by the fifth term of evening class, but now I am out of practice and back to square one. There’s something very intimidating about bearing your soul and inner thoughts to a group of people; even though I know most of them. But we all have to do it and I really enjoy listening to other people’s stories, even though I always think they are better than my own. We wannabe writers are an insecure bunch! (Well, I am)
There are one to ones with Ruth, where she critiques a piece of work that you have chosen to share with her. I’m hoping to write a new short story for her, like I did last year; it all adds towards the “portfolio.” The part I really like though, is that you can have some free writing time to yourself, without any interruptions. This especially useful when if, like me, you are at the beck and call of family, when you are around, and it doesn’t matter how thou dost protest; saying you are too busy for them because you are writing, doesn’t cut it.
I did take myself off to Wales last year on my own “writing weekend” (Am I there yet? Blog on WordPress) but it wasn’t quite the same. What would really float my boat and be the ultimate in indulgence is to have a whole week away in a beautiful place like Italy. There is such a retreat run by Sue Moorcroft called Arte Umbria. Set in the rolling hills of Umbria, in a rustic dwelling, surrounded by peace and tranquility, I can’t think of a more heavenly setting. Add delicious food, superb wine and the expert tuition of Sue Moorcroft, what more could you want?
Sue has written several novels and frequently writes for women’s magazines (which is a difficult market to get into.) I have read and enjoyed two of her books so far and have attended a Short Story workshop that she ran at Guildford Book Festival last year which was excellent. She has her own Team Sue Moorcroft page on Facebook, which I am proud to belong to and has helped me with useful information regarding writing and some technical info on how to get post this blog on the Facebook page. Considering I am only a wannabe, I am very grateful for her time and help. I know we all have to start somewhere, but nonetheless.
So this time next week I will be at Gorse Hill, with my phone off and for that time I will come out of the closet and be the writer I wannabe!