Wednesday, August 04, 2010

‘Stick to the roads; steer clear of the moors.’ Part Two

I was led to believe that Moniack Mhor would be basic but comfortable. I found it considerably more than basic and every bit as comfortable. It used to be a farm stead but to me the stone walls, dark wood floors combined with an arched mirror brought simple chapels to mind. Maybe it was the passion for writing and reading that I found inside. It was filled with books and posters and had soft, comfortable sofas where the attendees accumulated during the first afternoon over mugs of tea and glasses of wine.

These first hours are always a little odd. We went round and around our incomplete group checking out each other’s names. 

Gillian Philip and Erica Munro, our tutors, both local (ish) arrived to join us. The Director of Moniack Mhor gave us a talk on the building and the ethos of Arvon in so far as it affected us. Students are expected to cook (in teams of four) one evening meal during their stay. The menu and all ingredients are provided. Lunches and breakfasts are on a ‘help yourself’ arrangement, which means there is also a ‘tidy up after yourself’ deal. There are always people who do more than their share, as well as those who do less than their share. I suspect this can be a source of tension in some groups.

Classes were held in the morning and one-to-one sessions in the afternoon. Every evening something was planned, usually readings: our own work, an author’s work we admire, our tutors’ work etc. On the Wednesday night we had a visit from literary agent Geraldine Cooke.

My aim for the week was to dive into my manuscript and work out the new and improved structure; what needs to go where to tell the best story? I didn’t exactly achieve that but did accomplish something else. Back in March of this year I couldn’t see how to edit or what to cut but now I can. I’ve lost the fear for the mess that will ensue once I start moving bits of story around. And I got some faith back – this might sound mad – I believe that I will know in spite of the muddle what needs to be moved. I believe in my intuition again. I have it; I just need to listen.

There are so many wonderful things about Arvon courses: the dedicated time to write, to think about writing, to spend time with other writers and the experts – the tutors and the guests – who will answer all those questions that you have but haven’t known who to ask.

I’ve come away determined. I’m going to finish my novel and start subbing it to agents. I’ve got an idea for a radio play and I’m going to prepare and sub an idea for a non-fiction book I’ve been contemplating for several years.


Queenie said...

Three cheers for determination! And for losing the fear. Chopping a story up and moving bits around IS a daunting prospect, but you have the skill you need to work out whether you've done it well - i.e. you can read. So glad the course went well.

liz fenwick said...

Wow - i need to go on one if that what you come out with. Well done and its sounds bliss.

Sue Guiney said...

This sounds like it was a great success. I've always wondered about Arvon courses. It seems like it really did the trick for you. Can't wait to hear more about your progress!

HelenMHunt said...

Woo hoo! You sound amazingly focused. Excellent stuff.

Carol said...

The is just a brilliant post...your positivity just jumps off the page (or should that be screen) and I'm so glad it's helped you believe in yourself again!

Go you...I know you can do it!! (but make sure to leave a wee bit of time to squeeze me in when we're there in September!)

C x

Debs said...

I'm glad your faith has been restored.

It's daunting to look at all those words on a ms and know you need to move so many of them around. I'm going to try to listen to my intuition too, I think it tells us so much.

sheepish said...

I could do with a course like that it sounds brilliant really confidence building which is something I lack. I look forward to seeing your progress and shall try and be motivated by your enthusiasm.

Helen said...

Oh my God JJ, I disappear for a while and all this happens. Wow. When I think of you when I first 'met' you online and how worried about it all you were. Now you've just grabbed the bull by the horns and away you're going. It's fantastic. x