clhollandwriter: (marchin)
[personal profile] clhollandwriter
It's a week until this year's Swanwick Writers' Summer School, so I thought I'd post up a beginner's guide for those attending for the first time. My first year I went in blind - they didn't have much of a web presence back then, and I didn't know anyone else going, so I probably made most of the mistakes on this list!

1. Pack light - This probably applies more if you're travelling by train than car, although space may be limited if you're car sharing. There is a book room at Swanwick, filled with books by the other attendees. There's also the information room that sometimes has freebies: I've picked up copies of Writers' Forum and Mslexia in past years, and there's often a pile of Writing Magazine issues, bookmarks, postcards, and small zines. I assume you'll want to take these home with you, so leave room in your luggage.
2. Take a sturdy Bag for Life - In case you fail at 1.
3. Take plenty of cash, and your chequebook - There aren't any card facilities at The Hayes, so if you're buying drinks or from the gift shop, you'll need to pay by cash. There is a card machine in the book room (it belongs to the school rather than the conference centre) but in case of failure it's best to have your chequebook along for when you've spent all your cash. Unless you're on a budget, in which case it's probably best if you don't bring your chequebook.
4. You don't have to go to all the classes - This is a difficult one, because having paid to Do All The Things if you're anything like me you'll probably try to. None of the classes require signing up in advance, so you're not robbing anyone of a place. If there's nothing on you fancy, go and write. Read some of those free magazines you picked up. Take a walk around the lake. No one will mind.
5. You don't have to complete the class if you don't want to - The specialist courses run for an hour a day over four days, and the short course over two one hour sessions in a single day. If you don't get on with the start of the course you don't have to finish it. While it's frowned upon to leave partway through a session (although people will walk out if it overruns and they have places to be), there's nothing to stop you bailing in the break. You can even turn up for the next session of a completely different class. I've done both of these.
6. Don't try to do everything - This is a separate issue to 4 as it takes in the whole programme. At Swanwick it's understood that some people are larks and some people are night owls, and the programme caters to both. The morning Lift Up You Hearts, Lift Up Your Pens, and lakeside meditation sessions all start at 8am. The various evening entertainments finish at around 11pm. If you try to do all of these, plus all the courses, you'll probably by exhausted by Tuesday. Pace yourself, and don't be afraid to take yourself off for a nap if there's nothing on you want to do.
7. When they say Tuesday's a day off, they're lying - Although there aren't any classes on the Tuesday, there will still be panels, rehearsals for the evening's theatrical productions, the procrastination-free day, and the full roster of evening events. Don't bank on taking it easy.
8. Don't feel you have to eat everything - The meals at Swanwick can best be described as hearty. Breakfast is a choice of cereal, fruit, pastries, a cooked breakfast combo, or all of the above. Lunch is usually a cooked main and a pudding, as is dinner. Sometimes there's also soup. There are also tea breaks with biscuits (am) or cake (pm). You will not go hungry, unless you're particularly fussy. In fact, some people I know manage the week on one meal a day.
9. Don't panic about not writing - This may sound counter-intuitive since it's a writing school, but between the classes, catching up with people between classes, lengthy meals, evening events, homework, and emergency napping, there may not be much time for writing. That's okay, as long as you haven't brought a deadline along. You'll still be thinking, talking, and breathing writing all week.
10. Pack early on Thursday - This is another that mostly applies if you're travelling by train, as the coach to the station leaves early. Unless you're a really early riser, you'll want to be packed before breakfast as there isn't time to do it between breakfast and departure. If you're travelling under your own power you have to be off site for 10am, so have a little more time. I tend to pack on Thursday afternoon, after the AGM and before the evening programme starts, partly because I'm feeling glum about it all being over, and partly because I don't want to be packing after the last night disco finishes at 11pm. It's not unheard off for people to stay up after this finishes too, to delay the inevitable.

If you bear these in mind, you might even get to Friday morning without feeling like you haven't slept for a week. I can't guarantee it, though.

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