If you haven’t heard of Arvon Foundation writing courses, where have you been?
There may be cheaper courses and warmer locations but Arvon is widely acknowledged as ‘the best’ and if you’re serious about writing (of all kinds) and want to spend a week completely immersed in your art and under the spell of some amazing tutors and guest speakers (I’m talking Willy Russell, Andrew Motion, Michele Roberts and Carol Ann Duffy, to name just a few) then you really should take a look at the Arvon programme.
They’re even offering ‘Food Writing’ with Sophie Grigson this year! It’s enough to make your mouth water.
I’ve been on 2 Arvon (fiction) courses and I can highly recommend them. The first was in Yorkshire, at Lumb Bank, with tutors Barbara Trapido and Elsbeth Barker (lovely in a slightly ‘other worldy’ way, bless ‘em) and the second, a few years later at Totleigh Barton, in Devon, where the tutors were the late, wonderful Julia Darling and Adam Lively (son of Penelope).
I’ve just decided that it’s my ambition to be a tutor at Arvon. I just have to become a best-selling author first. (Although in the unlikely case that they ever have a course entitled ‘Writing For Woman’s Weekly’, I might stand a bit of a chance).
The Arvon experience is that you spend a week ‘living as a writer’. That doesn’t mean you’re wrapped in a shawl shivering in a garret but if you’re expecting hotel-style accommodation and meals on tap, you’ll be disappointed. The Arvon houses are all ‘historical’ and some have a literary link (Lumb Bank was owned by Ted Hughes) but they’re comfortable rather than luxurious.
When I was there, everyone shared rooms and we all had to cook one evening meal during the week (in a group – it was fun!). Arvon now offers more single rooms, if sharing with strangers isn’t your thing but the evening meal cookery arrangement is still the same.
But forget the food and accommodation for a minute. The best thing about Arvon is being with like-minded people and talking, eating and breathing WRITING for 6 days.
You feel really cut off from the outside world and indeed, you are, unless you decide to venture out. When I was at Lumb Bank, a group of us went to Haworth one afternoon, to visit the Bronte Parsonage but at Totleigh Barton we were really in the middle of nowhere and I couldn’t even get a phone signal (gasp! I did survive –just).
There are bursaries and grants available towards the cost of an Arvon course, if you qualify (eg: if you’re on low income and/or if you’re an English teacher) but there’s no getting away from the fact that they’re quite expensive (around £620 for 5.5 days in a single room), sooo it’s good news that Arvon are running a writing competition and offering a week’s course as first prize!
How to enter:
Write a piece of flash fiction or poetry describing your favourite place to write.
There’s no word limit stated and (this is the confusing bit), in the brochure it asks you to submit your entry on a POSTCARD, with your contact details, to:
Postcard Competition, The Arvon Foundation, Free Word Centre, 60 Farringdon Road, EC1R 3GA.
But on the website it says to email your entry to: firstname.lastname@example.org
So take your pick! I reckon it’s easier to email – and you’ve got more room than on a postcard too!
Closing date for entries: 21st May 2011. The judge is Sunday Times journalist Cathy Galvin
Instead of an entry fee, Arvon are suggesting that you make a donation, to support their charitable work. There’s more information on that on their website.