My writing course was amazing. It was a real retreat - five days staying with new and interesting people in Ted Hughes' old house in North Yorkshire. There was no internet, no TV, not even a radio. The tutors were brilliant, but scary: Tim Pears who has written seven novels to high acclaim, and Patience Abgabi, an incredibly talented and terrifyingly frank poet who gave unstinting and critical feedback on any work one dared to give her. But unstinting and critical was what (I told myself) I wanted - once I'd picked myself up from the floor! Every morning we had a workshop taught by both tutors, an hour and a half each. Sitting around the long wooden table (where surely Ted Hughes worked on his poems) we'd write and read out and try to develop good practice and discipline.
We took it in turns to cook, which was companionable and fun, with new people to be with. We drank wine in the evenings and talked in the unfettered way that you can with people whom you don't know very well.
I felt strange when I arrived and then very strange and disorientated when I left. I wrote lots of stuff -some good, some needing work and some needing the bin - but the point is that I wrote. I'm determined to continue to do so, every day if I can manage although that's proving difficult already.
What the course showed me was the extent of the gap between where I am now as a writer and where I'd need to be if I wanted to publish anything. I'm planning to use this year to work on closing that gap just a little.
And now we're back up in the Highlands of Scotland staying for a few weeks again in my mum's lovely house. The sun is shining and the kids are shouting- as usual. Will I get inspiration? I hope so. But we've been for a lovely bike-ride this morning - I'm achy and feel as if I've woken up muscles which haven't been used in the daily grind. So that's good. I need more of that. Oh - and I've just started Hilary Mantel's sequel to 'Wolf Hall', 'Bring up the Bodies'. And I'm already heavily immersed in the Tudor world, which can prove problematic at breakfast time! I'm definitely more interested in Thomas Cromwell than is good for me.
It was on the... 18th January, actually
23 hours ago