Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Arvon Foundation comes to Derby

At the end of November, I am going to be co-tutoring a creative writing course with Ross Raisin for the Arvon Foundation. In case you don't know Arvon, it's a charity that runs residential creative writing courses in beautiful, historic writing houses across the UK. The courses are a week long, and tutored by two writers, with another visiting mid-week.

The thing that makes Arvon so special (apart from the beautiful countryside settings in which to write, and the fact that each house has its own literary history) is that the tutors and the writers live alongside each other during the course. After a day of workshops and tutorials, everyone sits down together for dinner, and so you can chat to your writing heroes in an informal setting, as well as learning from them during workshops.

The thing that makes Arvon so special to me is that it's really had a hand in improving my fortunes as a writer. I won a free course when I couldn't afford it at all (they are pretty expensive for those earning minimum wage, though bursaries are available). In 2009 the foundation gave away 41 free courses to celebrate 41 years of Arvon, and I got to go on a Creative non-fiction course led by Terence Blacker and Andy Martin at Totleigh Barton in Devon.

Totleigh Barton

My luck continued as arriving at my cute little room in the pre-Domesday thatched manor house in Sheepwash, I found a piece of paper in my desk drawer offering the chance to win a place on the Jerwood/Arvon Mentoring Scheme. This meant a year of being mentored by a leading writer, as well as a tutored cross-disciplinary 'masterclass' and a writing retreat at an Arvon house.

I applied, and was selected to be one of three mentees under Bernardine Evaristo. During the year, as well as the two Arvon weeks, I got feedback on Infinite Sky, and writing tips that continue to improve my work from Bernardine, as well as the other tutors and mentees. At the end of the year there was a champagne cocktail reception at the Free Word Centre to showcase our work.

So I am very happy to have been invited to co-tutor one of their courses myself in my home town. Arvon have branched out into non-residential courses, and this one, all about novel-writing, will take place at The Quad in Derby.

The Quad

Here are the course details:

Have you always wanted to write a novel but feel daunted by the enormity of the task?  This three day workshop from renowned creative writing charity Arvon will allow you to immerse yourself in the art and craft of novel writing, and give you the confidence and knowledge to complete your first novel. You’ll experience a powerful mix of workshops, one-to-one tutorials with highly respected authors, the support of your fellow writers and plenty of time and space to write.

This course is part of a new programme of non-residential Arvon weekend city courses taking place in cities across England. The course starts at 11am on Friday until 9pm; Saturday 10am - 9pm and Sunday 10am - 6pm. Numbers are limited to 16. A limited number of grants are available for people on a low income.


Ross Raisin was born in Yorkshire, and is the author of numerous short stories and two novels, God’s Own Country and Waterline.  He has been the recipient of several literary prizes and was recently named as one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists.

Chelsey Flood grew up in Derbyshire and is the author of Infinite Sky. She has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia, where she won the Curtis Brown Award. She currently lives in Bristol where she is completing her second novel

Course fee:  £270 (lunch and dinner included)
£60 deposit will reserve a place. Full balance payable by six weeks before course starts

 Two grants of £135 ( half the course fee) are available. Please contact  suzie.jones@arvon.org for information on how to apply.