TW3 – That Was The Week That Was!
For many years, my father, Tony Greenfield, has been attending the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in Derbyshire. He raves about it and has implored me to accompany him on many occasions. Unfortunately, I am usually otherwise occupied with family holidays of the beach-and-pool variety. This year, circumstances allowed me to pitch up to Swanwick as a first-timer, or “white-badger.” For those who are puzzled and thinking that I may have transformed myself into an albino nocturnal creature, I can explain that experienced delegates wear yellow badges and virgins, like myself, wear white badges.
My Dad is infirm with Parkinson’s disease and his sight is failing. I knew that I would need to look after him but that didn’t spoil my enjoyment or full participation. My new friends at Swanwick were all very kind and helped whenever and wherever they could.
When I arrived on Saturday afternoon and had assembled my Dad’s motorised scooter, settled ourselves in to our assigned accommodation, and attended the Chairman’s Welcome, I went along to the welcome for white-badgers.
I confess that I was quite nervous and over-awed. There were so many experienced authors, poets, journalists, playwrights and people of many other talents around and I am just a very novice novelist. I couldn’t believe how quickly I was put at my ease by these amazing people. Swanwick is really well organised by the magnificent committee. Ambassadors are appointed who are very approachable and helpful. Not only that, but I soon found that almost everyone was helpful and genuinely interested in MY work and ambitions.
The week consists specialist and short courses, workshops and one-to-one sessions with established experts. Each evening, there is an invited keynote speaker followed by entertainment which is all pretty much self-made and, again, very well organised.
On the first morning, Sunday, I went along to my choice of four-part short course which was “Short Stories” led by Linda Lewis. She really knows what she is talking about and was able to impart lots of useful information about how we should set about earning some money from publishing our short stories in women’s magazines. This was followed by a two-part course on “Connecting with an audience,” delivered by poet, Joy France.
And so the fun-packed and information-filled week went on. I won’t bore you with a journal of all the sessions that I attended. You need to come along next year (12-18 August 2017) to find out for yourselves. But here are my highlights.
The evening speakers (see a list here) were all magnificent and awe-inspiring. I wouldn’t have missed any of them for the world. However, one, in particular, stood out for me. That was Michael Jecks, author of 42 medieval crime fiction novels.
Yes! FORTY TWO!
He told us his own story. He talked to us on the level as if we were his equals, which I realise I most certainly am not. But he made us believe that we could also achieve as he has. What made the evening extra special was that he sat and chatted and laughed with me for almost two hours. He offered me a lot of good advice, we shared a few amusing anecdotes about our time spent working in the IT industry, and he made me really start to believe in my own potential as a writer. I was relaxed in his company. He genuinely wants to help up-coming authors. He is a humble man and a thoroughly nice chap.
- Joy France turned my belief that I am a rubbish poet, which was instilled in me by my prep school English teacher, on its head. I CAN write decent poetry if I follow her advice and that of Alison Chisholm.
- Veronica Bright introduced me to the world of flash fiction, Something that I have ignored until now. I didn’t think that I could do it, but I DID!
- Award-winning scriptwriter, Katie White, pressed me into performing in a five-minute playlet written by Terry Baldock. It was the first time that I’d acted for over thirty years and it was a lot of fun.
- There was a “Heroes and Villains” fancy dress disco on Monday evening. I improvised a passable Indiana Jones outfit which scored a hit with some of those present.
- Thursday evening closed with a Dregs Party, to which everyone took their remaining stock of booze to share. This was followed by the Last Night Disco. Some people dressed for the occasion. Myself and John Lamont wore our kilts. For those who are interested, my tartan is Hunting Chisholm.
All in all, it was a thoroughly interesting, entertaining and informative week. I am motivated to write more and to write more diversely.
I shall certainly return to Swanwick and I massively recommend it to all aspiring and experienced writers.