“You’re so close to IT, Keira. IT! You’re bloody good, and so close.”
– Horatio Clare, my first Arvon Tutor.
At seventeen, I embarked on my first Arvon course after needing a ‘residential’ section for my Duke of Edinburgh award. At the time, I was rather lost at school and just saw the break as another academic requirement. That was, of course, until I caught sight of the large gothic manor at The Hurst; surrounded by an active woodland, open land dotted with broken statues and gargoyles, and the entire site decorated with autumn leaves – to put it simply, my imagination ran rampant.
Two wonderful tutors and a close group took me under their wing. For the first time, my stories were encouraged and I was given confidence in my work. I returned home with a new motivation, and shortly afterwards changed my university option from business to creative writing.
Within the year, I stood at the door of another Arvon centre; Lumb Bank. From the cobbled village at the top of the great hill, to the homely welcome, inspiring tutors, secret bedroom, to the great friends I made on our sing-a-long nights and book discussions from a range of cultures inspired me, at the age of eighteen, to discover how the rest of the world viewed their literary culture. Soon afterwards, I applied to move to Australia to study abroad.
Before I left, I used my savings to go on one last Arvon course (I was admittedly hooked). This time, I travelled far south to Totleigh Barton. It was like waking up in Peter Rabbit’s garden, with a thatched cottage sat amongst it all. My room looked out on the vegetable patch, and the dining table reminded me of a giant’s table – the perfect place to write for children.
Throughout all my experiences with Arvon, I’ve witnessed the exact same things; a beautiful location, a well-thought program, caring staff, yummy home cooked food, and a good mix of people from all walks of life. Arvon has definitely put me on a different path; I’m still currently in Australia where I volunteer at literary festivals, independent publishers, and as a creative writing tutor to disadvantaged children. Next year I will be graduating, and I now have the confidence to chase after every ambition. All of this, I can honestly say, would not have happened if my mother hadn’t sent me on an Arvon course three years ago.