Tuesday 4 August 2009

Home, Tired But Inspired

This is the view from the bedroom window of my flatlet in the flat where the lovely Annie and her photographer friend, Heather shared with my mother and me. It was such fun finally meeting up with Annie after all this time, and also Kev (aka Captain Black), although I didn't end up spending nearly as much time chatting to them as I would have liked.

The Writers' Holiday at Caerleon was everything I'd hoped and a whole lot more. Nothing was too much trouble for the tireless Anne and Gerry Hobbs who organize everything. This year was their twenty-fifth anniversary at Caerleon, and having now been, I can fully understand why so many of the people I met there return year after year. If you wish to book for next year have a look at the site here.

Everything from the courses, to the accommodation and the endless supply of food was excellent.

My two main courses were with Marina Oliver - Advanced Novel Writing - writer of over 50 novels, past chairman of the Romantic Novelists Association, StorytrackS and very lovely lady. I've faffed about with my manuscripts not quite knowing how to better them, but now, having learnt so much from Marina, I'm now armed (not dangerous, though my ex might beg to differ) with the knowledge to take them to a far higher standard, which can only be a good thing.

The other course I took was with another lovely lady, Della Galton - How to Write & Sell Short Stories. As with Marina's course, I've now come away with a far deeper understanding of (where the hell I was going so badly wrong) what I should be thinking and working on, if I want to write saleable short stories.

Both ladies were inspirational, as were the After Tea speakers, including Sue Moorcroft who held a fun workshop - I slunk down several inches when she asked for a brave volunteer, who was given a character and then we all fired questions at her asking about the character's life, etc. I thought this a little strange, until my mother and I did the same thing to each other in the pub (yes, there's an excellent pub there too) and found it far more useful than either of us had anticipated. In fact, it helped me to realize that I need to swap two female characters in the book I'm about to start writing.

Katie Carr My mother was amused when I wrote down the name and asked, "What are you doing?" I replied, "I don't want to forget her name and miss the talk." "But," said Ma, a confused expression on her face, "She has the same surname as you, and you have a sister called Katie. How hard can it be to remember?" She gave a talk about skeletons in your closet, and how your family history can help inspire you to think of different plots for your story, if you only ask, "What if?"

The evening lectures included talks by Teresa Chris, agent to so many excellent authors who basically told us that we wouldn't expect to exhibit at the Royal Academy without years of learning to paint, so why should we expect to be published and be successful without serving our apprenticeship with our writing. Also, never submit work to an agent if you haven't finished the novel first, and polished it to make it the best it can be.

Katie Fforde, who very kindly answered my garbled question, "What is your starting point for a book? Do you think if the character, or the plot first?" Basically, Katie starts with a spider graph, including all that she wants to include in a book and then works out how she can put it all together (I'm sure she answered that in a far more intelligent way, but my brain is still frazzled from all the concentration).

I was exhausted by Wednesday evening, not helped by the journey to and from Hay On Wye, when we met up with my friend Andrea, who laughed hysterically at the sight of me wearing my mother's ghastly hat. Hell, it was raining, and I didn't have an umbrella! Actually, I forgot I had the damned thing on. However, I was determined not to miss the truly unmissable Jane Wenham-Jones. She is one entertaining lady, and, having just finished reading her book, "One Glass Is Never Enough" a damned good writer to boot. I came straight home and re-read my copy of her how to book, "Wannabe a Writer?".

Zoe Sharp, author of the Charlie Fox series, who was fascinating to listen to, as well as amusing, and very friendly later as she signed her books.

On the final night we were treated to a "Welsh Night Concert" with the excellent Cwmbach Male Voice Choir, who have to be heard to be believed. Then Kate Walker (author of 57? books) made a presentation to Anne and Gerry, together with crime writer, Stephen Wade and a few others, who had arranged a collection and presented Anne and Gerry with a huge bouquet, a padded album in which we'd all been invited to write something (photos, cards, etc also inside), and Kate Walker's most recent book dedicated to them. It was a perfect ending to a fabulous week.

I can't wait to go again!


Maria said...

Sounds like you had a great time and learnt a lot. That's what it's all about, isn't it? I got a copy of 'Writers' Forum' July edition and saw a letter from you in it! Nice to learn about your holiday!

Melissa Amateis said...

Oh Deb, it sounds absolutely fabulous. I'm so glad you were able to go.

Welcome back!

Fiona Mackenzie. Writer said...

Love the sound of the advanced novel writing class. So stuck on transitional scenes. Don't know if I've even spelt that correctly.

HelenMWalters said...

Glad you had such a good time and did Della's short story course. She is so lovely x

Chris Stovell said...

Good, I've been looking out for you and now you're here! It sounds as though you've had a brilliant time, and a very useful one too.

Michelle said...

Sounds like you had an amazing time - wow! I want to go on the children's writers version of this in November so you have got me all excited. Also good to see you on Twitter too.

Unknown said...

I really does sound like you had a great time. Get some rest!

Liane Spicer said...

You went with your mom? Fantastic!

I'm loving reading about your trip. I can feel the excitement in your writing! Now I've bookmarked the Caerleon site and I'm getting ideas for next year... Which is pretty daft of me considering the airfare alone. :)

Queenie said...

Wow, that sounds tremendous. I'm particularly envious of your course with Della, I'd love to do one (or all!) of her courses but she teaches in places so far away from me that it's a major operation to organise. So glad you had such a good time.

Jan Jones said...

Glad you had a great and inspiring time, Debs!

Now to put it all to work, eh?

Lorix said...

Wow, it sounds fabulous. I'm glad you had such a fantastic time.

Phillipa said...

Whew, Debs. I'm exhausted, just reading about it all. Glad you had such an inspirational time. P x

Anna Scott Graham said...

what a treat for you, and us too, in gleaning so many great bits!! Oh, so glad to hear how great it was!!! :)))

hee hee... just reading that gets me inspired!!

so sorry though about the rain and your mum's hat... :)))

Annieye said...

You beat me to it Debs (what a wonderful review of the whole week). It was such a pleasure sharing our little kitchen with you and your mum. Here's looking forward to next year!

Susie Vereker said...

What an interesting post - sounds brilliant socially and professionally.

Beth said...

I'm so jealous! I'm glad you enjoyed it though :)

Jan said...

Brilliant time been had!
Good to hear re courses that so clearly inspire you HUGELY.

Faye said...

It sounds like you got to spend a week in writer's heaven,Debs. First to spend some concentrated time in the company of other writers. All learning from each other with the help of your talented workshop leaders. Especially loved the character exercise. Do you think the shed needs its own lifesize doll that can be your standin for character interviews--always on hand to help you sort out troublesome players? Grumpy may not approve. . .

And what a treat to close things out with the Welsh Male Choir--must have been beautiful in that setting. BTW, does your mother write as well?

Tamsyn Murray said...

Oh wow, am still super jealous! So glad you had an enjoyable and productive time :-)

Fionnuala said...

Debs, this sounds like such a fabulous and inspiring time. I want to go....in fact might book for next year? x

Unknown said...

Great post. It sounds as if you had a truly wonderful time and came back inspired. You'd better get writing then... ;o)

Kaye Manro said...

Wow Debs! It sounds like you had a fantastic time of it! Welcome back, but I'm so glad you went.

Anonymous said...

Great report. I was going to write one myself, but since you've done such a good job, I'll just link to this one, if you don't mind. It was a fun and packed week, wasn't it.

Having met Della at lunch, I wish I'd done her course. For all the wrong reasons };o>

Deborah Carr (Debs) said...

gaelikka - ooh, you saw my letter, so exciting. Caerleon was brilliant.

melissa - thanks, it was great.

fia - you and me both, in fact that's something I really need to work on too.

helen - Della is lovely, and talks such sense as well as make the classes fun.

chris - it was wonderful, exhausting, and well worth attending.

michelle - I'm sure you'll find it very useful, their courses are so good.

chad - I've been shattered all week, so I do need to relax a bit.

liane - I can imagine it would be horribly expensive for you to get there. It was bad enough for me.

queenie - it was great. I can't praise it enough.

jan - that is so true, and something I'm slowly working on.

lori - thanks, it was wonderful.

phillipa - it's given me so much to think about and work on.

anna - I look hysterical in that horrible hat.

annieye - it was such fun to spend time with you. Roll on July 2010.

susie - it was exactly that.

b - it was wonderful, thanks.

jan - it was well worth going to, for the courses and the fun.

faye - it was great fun, and I'd been asked if I wanted to be interviewed for a radio show from the shed that week, but couldn't.

Ma writes too, but although she did Della's course with me, she did a different course for her first choice with Jane Jackson, very good it was too I gather.

tam - thanks, it was well worth going.

fionnuala - we've paid our deposit for next year already. Hope I can go.

shirley - you're quite write, I need to get working on all these ideas.

kaye - thanks, it was brilliant. I need to now sit down and get a move on.

capt - it was great to finally meet you too. I definately want to go again. Please do link to me any time.

Della is lovely, and looks far younger and prettier in person than in her photos in the mags, I thought.

claire p said...

it sounds amazing!! I think I should try and go next year :)

Jill Steeples said...

Thanks for such an in-depth report. Sounds absolutely fab and I'm just envious I wasn't there!

Anonymous said...

sounds like you had a fantastic time, well, so glad for you, Sweetie!!!

CL Taylor said...

Sounds fantastically useful. Thanks for the report - am always keen to hear about writing courses/retreats.

DJ Kirkby said...

I'd love to go on one of these escapes except that it would mean leaving my family. I'll just have to attend vicariously via your blog posts! I have had the pleasure of meeting Della Galton at a talk she gave to a local writer's group.

Flowerpot said...

I'm so pleased you had such a good time. It sounds fab and I am most envious!

Ladybird World Mother said...

Very envious... sounds such fun, if a tad exhausting! Glad you had a good time. Here's to next year!

Deborah Carr (Debs) said...

claire - do try and go, it's well worth it. Ma and I have paid our deposits, but haven't told husbands yet!

maddie - it was great fun, and so interesting and useful too.

melrox - it was fab, thanks.

calistro - I think Caerleon Writers Hol would take some beating.

dj - Della was so lovely and friendly. Very helpful too.

flowerpot - thanks, it was well worth going to.

Leigh Russell said...

Sounds fantastic, Debs. I'd love to do something like that. How heavenly to be able to devote yourself to learning about writing like that with so many inspiring people.

Anonymous said...

Sound like a wonderful time! I'm dead envious, I would have loved it but am glad it was everything you hoped it would be;)

Amanda said...

Sounds fantastic, Debs - Thanks for sharing! :-)

Carol said...

That sounds absolutely wonderful!! I am so glad that your back and all fired up :-)

C x