Arvon Friends support our work with disadvantaged young people and adults; joining costs from £30 a year and benefits include being able to book onto courses early and receiving our monthly newsletter. If you become an Arvon Friend by Monday 2nd December you will receive the brochure in advance of the general public and have priority booking on our 2014 courses, full details are on our Friends page.
Arvon Friend Jude Brown speaks about the highs and lows of enduring her writing marathon….
“It’s turned out to be a good year so far. I made a few long and shortlists, including the newly launched Bath Short Story Award and the well-established Bridport Prize, and surprise surprise! I won a Northern Writers’ Award for my novel The Dangerous Sun. The novel was written as part of my MA in Writing at Sheffield Hallam University and when I finished the course I decided to book on an Arvon retreat to work on it further.
I’d taken an Arvon course in the past, Writing for Radio at Totleigh Barton, and many many years ago took part in a South Bank Special filmed at Lumb Bank. But I’d never been to The Hurst. I had no idea it was John Osborne’s old house. As a student I’d fallen in love with his play Look Back in Anger and with the main character, Jimmy Porter. The profile of a disaffected,volatile, troubled young man is a perfect fit for my protagonist, Luke Spargo. And I couldn’t help think that John Osborne might have found it highly appropriate to write about Luke under his roof. The best thing about the course was the last night, when everyone got up and shared. I’d had doubts about where the novel was going but I got some really encouraging feedback.
There’d been some previous success, I had stories published in small presses and magazines, met writers such as Willy Russell and Jimmy McGovern, but other things took over and the momentum slipped away. So at the beginning of this year I decided enough was enough. I made a pact with myself to grab every opportunity and enter as many competitions as I could. There were failures. I got nowhere with The White Review or the Bristol Short Story Prize and I completely missed the deadline for the Lightship First Page competition but this happens when you start to put yourself out there. My intention was to hurl everything I could at the wall of opportunity and competition and by the laws of stickiness a percentage should stick. Guess what? It worked.
It wasn’t that my writing suddenly got better it was because I set myself targets and took my writing seriously. I thought I had when I enrolled on the MA but that was just the start. It’s a marathon, writing. You need endurance. I started out by joining online writing communities and then moved onto joining local writing groups and then to taking writing courses. It might sound obvious but the more you do, the more you get. The writing retreat at The Hurst led to a free read by The Literacy Consultancy. They gave positive feedback and also highlighted areas that needed attention. I redrafted, submitted it to New Writing North and Sarah Hall, the fiction judge, picked it out as a winner. Here I am with a cash fiction prize of £1,500 and a Northern Writers Award. I just need to get a yes from the agent now!”