Friday, 16 October 2015

Summer schools, festivals and retreats, Fictionfire by the Spires and new workshops

Fictionfire by the Sea retreat
Saturday dinner at the Porthgwidden Cafe
It's been a while since I posted on Literascribe, mea culpa. So much has happened in the meantime, some of it good, some of it really not! I had joyous times teaching creative writing, first of all at my Fictionfire by the Sea retreat in St Ives in Cornwall, back in April. The best group of writers attended - we shared stories, advice, laughs, gasps at the beauty of the location. I stayed on for a few days after the weekend was over, to get back in touch with my own writing. That was pretty much the last time I felt relaxed! Read on, and you'll find out why.

Giving my talk on self-editing
(thanks to Debbie Young for the photo)
In June I taught for my fifteenth year at the University of Winchester's Writers' Festival - I gave a talk on editing and a day course on character building. It's always lovely to go there and meet again friends and fellow writers again - there's a real reunion feeling about it, but also the chance to make new friends. The plenary speech this year was given by Sebastian Faulkes - a very polished performance.

In the garden of Exeter College -
reception before final dinner

In July and August I taught on two summer school programmes for Oxford University. The first of these is OUSSA, held at Rewley House. I've been teaching on that programme since 2002 and always enjoy it, though it is very intense! Then, over the course of three weeks, I taught advanced fiction writing at the OUDCE creative writing summer school, for the third year. This is held at Exeter College, which is such a beautiful location. I got held up one day because they were filming the new series of Endeavour in the front quad - with the wonderful Roger Allam and Shaun Evans. When I've run Fictionfire day courses at Trinity College, we've coincided with the filming of Lewis - Oxford is always full of film crews!

with fellow tutor Julie Hearn
So, hard work, great company, good fun, fantastic stories being written!

Now for the bad news ...

It was also a summer of delays, distraction, exhaustion and frustration - and I'm still not quite out of the woods yet. I'm not going to go into detail because I can't bear to dwell on it anymore, but since June we've been embroiled in renovation of two rooms in our house after a long-term water leak caused significant damage. The leak had been there for months, perhaps years, so entailed drilling up floors, letting walls and floors dry out, stripping the rooms back, replastering, refitting, decorating etc, etc, etc. Next week, we hope to sign off on the whole process - but believe me my stress levels have been through the roof.

Also raising my blood pressure was my Fictionfire website, which was to be 'migrated' to new software in August. A process which should have taken three weeks took seven and is still ongoing. The site is at least live now and I can take bookings, but for several weeks I could update neither it nor my online shop. I have just discovered I don't have a mailing list sign-up box anymore - argh! So, it's a work in progress ...

Looking ahead, in spite of the website woes, you can now visit the site and book places on the new series of Focus Workshops and Fictionfire by the Spires: Reboot and Troubleshoot, a writers' workshop/retreat weekend here in Oxford from 7-8 November.

The first Focus Workshop will be Breathtaking Thrills on October 24th - if you want to learn how to create tension, excitement and suspense in your fiction, this is the one for you. It's followed by Layers of Meaning on November 21st, Share and Support on November 28th and Does Happiness Write White? on December 5th.

Take a look at the website for full details. There are currently only 5 places left for Fictionfire by the Spires: Reboot and Troubleshoot, so don't wait too long!

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