13 October 2015

Thirteen Writers In Search Of A Story

by Ella Dove and Sean Lusk From Our Students

It is a truth universally acknowledged that students on our creative writing courses form close-knit groups that continue to meet and work together long after their time with us. Many have told us that becoming part of a supportive community and getting feedback from fellow writers they’ve learnt to trust is one of the most unexpected benefits of the course. But, even so, we were still surprised and delighted to hear that students from the Three-Month Novel-Writing Course that finished in July had already planned a trip away together. Here’s their story…

It was the pub that did it. Anna said, on that first meeting back in April, ‘most groups go for a drink afterwards’, and so we thought we had better try it. As it turned out, that was a great idea: it was the pub where we dreamed our writing dreams together, where we laid plans for each others’ novels, and where we made up our minds that we wanted to extend the magic of the course beyond July. A few of us had been on writing retreats before, and some had a regular group of fellow writers who provided mutual support, advice, encouragement and had become ‘retreat buddies’. We wanted our Curtis Brown Creative group to be like that, and so it has become.

So, there we were, thirteen writers sitting around a log fire, laptops on our knees, ideas in our heads and a friendly old dog called Rosie snoozing at our feet. Outside, the Devon countryside lay silent, an idyllic scene of thatched roofs and greenery. From time to time, ramblers ambled past, each armed with maps, flasks and various bright coloured rain macs. The hours ticked by and we worked on, fully content in each other’s company. No writing-related question was too great, no query too bizarre to answer.

‘Should I be worried that I still have no plot?’

‘Is it normal to hate your entire novel?’

‘Should I get rid of the oozing darkness?’

And so went our writing retreat weekend at Retreats For You in the Devonshire village of Sheepwash, a fabulous old house run by the ever-hospitable Deborah and Bob – and of course, their faithful dog , Rosie. Some of us had near-finished manuscripts, others were further away from completion, and the odd member had scrapped their idea entirely to work on a brand new project. The atmosphere throughout was one of productivity, inspiration and above all, friendship.

A good writing retreat produces something ‘in the air’ that gives the writing process a turbo charge. Perhaps it’s the brainwaves of all those imaginations working overtime. Certain ingredients are required: a big house, country air, peace, comfort, beautiful surroundings, superb company and the right amount of wine. Our retreat at Sheepwash had exactly the right mix of those things. Our hosts insisted on doing everything for us – not one writing moment was to be wasted on washing-up, or even on going to the trouble of pouring our own wine.

It’s a testament to Curtis Brown Creative that we all get on so well. Rewind four months and we were strangers, fifteen unknown faces walking into our first session to share our innermost thoughts and writing plans. As the weeks progressed, we became more confident, more willing to comment freely on each other’s work, and far more likely to indulge in a pub trip after class! Now, we know every group member’s novel in a good level of detail, something that’s hugely helpful when it comes to seeking advice. The feeling is that we’re a little family of sorts – of varying backgrounds, ages and professions, but with one huge thing in common. We’re united by writing.

When life’s fast pace takes over, it can often seem impossible to sit down and write that novel you’ve always dreamed of. ‘I’m too busy,’ we cry, ‘there’s far to do much to do!’ Granted, we all have our obstacles, but together, we enjoyed   weekend of writing, bags of mutual encouragement and an almost unhealthy amount of laughter. The only failing was that it went too fast for all of us – we’re planning to do it again very soon, keeping that Curtis Brown Creative summer magic in the air right through the winter and beyond. As one weekend in Sheepwash has proven, sometimes, all you need is space, time and the support of new friends to let creativity grow.

As well as expert teaching from published authors, all our three- and six-month novel-writing courses offer dedicated modules on submitting your novel to literary agents – and include sessions on writing a synopsis and preparing a covering letter. Click for more information or to apply for our creative writing courses.

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