I’d wistfully looked at the Arvon brochure for years, pouring over each course title and author tutor as some women might covet handbags or shoes, thinking, ‘One day, maybe one day…’ but on a limited income with two small children, it simply wasn’t possible. As a family, we’ve never even taken our young childrenon holiday. Even if we’d had the finances, there was no way I could possibly justify an Arvon course to myself.
At the beginning of 2014, I decided to (try and) write a novel before I turned forty. I’ve written short stories on and off for twenty years, but recently after starting to write again after a break of six years and having good feedback in local competitions, I thought, ‘2014 is my year for getting serious about writing’.
When I saw the course advertised, I knew it was perfect for me. The tutors were authors I admired; it was at the most local venue to where I lived which meant I could keep travelling costs to a minimum and I was happy to reduce costs further, by sharing a room. Thanks to a brief meeting last year at a Vita Nova event with Nell Leyshon, she mentioned the fact Arvon offered grants, of which I was unaware. I decided to apply.
Sue Walker contacted me extremely quickly after my application had been sent and gave me the good news.
As for the actual week? Well, it was magical. I’m sure many people say the same and genuinely mean it, but without sounding sycophantic, I’m not sure really, if Arvon could possibly have any idea of what this week personally meant. Not only did it give me the only break I’ve had away from my family for over seven years – so, an actual holiday! – but the feedback I received from Clare Allan and Tash Aw was encouraging and confidence building. They were beyond what I could have expected, highly professional but friendly, generous with their time and the atmosphere really was one of a big happy family.
I left inspired and fired up about my novel with a clear idea of the direction I’m now going to take it in. And I will be eagerly waiting for the next brochure and highly likely to be applying again!