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Thursday is the final day of courses. We finished up the poetry course by looking at summer and collage poems, and hearing some of the previous day's homework. Some interesting things hatched from those eggs!

I hadn't been planning to take a short course, but remembered the slightly deflated feeling from last year when I missed out so on a whim picked Murder Investigation over Flash Fiction, Advanced Characterisation, and Self Publishing. It turned out to be one of the best courses of the week. Retired police detective Stuart Gibbon took us through the steps of what happens in an investigation after a body is found, and gave some real life cases as examples. It appeared to be the perfect complement to the CSI course earlier in the week which did the same thing from a forensics perspective, and I slightly regret not taking them both (although my Monkey Mind is chattering a little less so it may be worth the loss). I also took the opportunity to get my copy of The Real CSI: A Forensic Handbook for Crime Writers signed by author Kate Bendelow. Crime Writing and Forensics are always popular at Swanwick, and Kate's book had caused quite a stir when it turned up unexpectedly on Tuesday - people were queuing to get into the book room to get one!

As always, the AGM took up the workshop slot. A new committee was elected, including the co-option of a new secretary with the relevant experience and replacement of both the Chairman and Vice Chairman. Then it was off to pack and/or attend the dregs party before dinner.

The evening event was a rather more low key affair this year, as the committee had decided there wasn't the time to do a pantomime justice this year. Instead there was a brief "award ceremony" where prizes were handed out for the chairman's puzzle competition and Ingrid's writing contest from earlier in the week. The latter had received over seventy entries, possibly more people than had attended the course! I honestly don't know how she managed to read all the entries, since her secret appears to be not to sleep!

After this there was a brief singalong, with John Lamont singing Swanwick favourite "500 Words" and the committee regailing us with a rendition of S Club 7's "Reach" that was stuck in delegates heads for at least four days if the comments on Facebook were anything to go by.
 then finally, a last trip to the bar before the final night's sleep.

 

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I had a surprisingly lazy day on Wednesday. After reading my poem out in the poetry specialist course - and really not enjoying it - I decided to skip the Performance Poetry short course. I didn't feel like taking any of the others (Heroes, Life Writing, Comedy Sketch Writing). In hindsight I wish I'd taken the life writing course, as this isn't something I've ever looked at before (which was also the reason I didn't take it), but by this time I was feeling a little ragged so glad of the extra down time.

I also skipped the workshops on journalism and editing. I probably could have spent the day working on a poem from my new prompt, a glittery purple egg, but spent it chatting, reading, and walking around the lake instead - all time-honoured Swanwick traditions in their own right.

The evening speaker was Imogen Cooper of the Golden Egg Academy and formerly of Chicken House, who gave an informative talk about the academy's services for writers. After were the Page to Stage performances, and another early night for me.



clhollandwriter: (Default)
Tuesday is traditionally the day off, with a minimum of activities and lots of potential for free time. This year there was a short course in the morning, instead of the usual panels and speakers, with a choice of pitching, research, grammar, and mindfulness. I went for mindfulness, as this is something I'd like to bring more into my life. There were several exercises, and the tutor Zana Lamont emphasised the importance of kindness, to ourselves as well as others. The session ended late, with the class engrossed in a video that had half of the delegates in tears by the end.



Alongside the courses ran the Procrastination Free Day, which as in previous years locked two groups of writers in a room to challenge themselves to meet wordcount goals. Several of the other delegates also achieved this by locking themselves in their bedrooms to write, and as a result the bar was surprisingly quiet.

After lunch, overlapping with the end of PFD, were the rehearsals for Page to Stage. I opted to spend most of the rest of the day in my room, binge-reading and also writing a poem for the following day's poetry session. After travel and some heavy socialising it was nice to have some quiet time to myself.

In the evening there was a "chat show" hosted by Simon Hall and interviewing several of the course tutors, followed in the evening by the buskers' night. I skipped both of these as I'd already decided that, this time, it was going to be a true day off.

clhollandwriter: (Default)
Monday is when I start to get the days confused at Swanwick - after all, it's the second day of classes. I spent the whole day convinced it was Tuesday, a trend which continued all week.

The day started with the specialist course. This year, again, I took the poetry course run by Alison Chisholm. We were following the course of the year with poems following the seasons, and today was Winter so Alison gave each of us a glittery snowflake as a prompt, with instructions on how to use the spaces and spokes to generate a poem. We also discussed diary poems, and how these can cover different time periods (hours, days, months).

I had been planning to take the Marketing and Promotion short course, but decided against it in the end. Also on offer were Writing Intimate Scenes, Poetry from Dreams, and Illustrated Picture Books. None of these appealed so I gave them a miss and parked by the coffee machine instead and chatted to other delegates for a while.

Later in the afternoon I took my only workshop of the week Writing for Competitions, run by Ingrid Jendrzejewski. She's won a prodigious amount of competitions since she started entering in 2014, including winning a free trip to Swanwick last year, but she's a nice as she is prolific so it's difficult to hold it against her! She hadn't expected many people to come, but the hall was packed. She rattled through a lot of useful information in the hour, and could really have done with being given a short course slot. At the end of the session she gave us a writing prompt and instructions to write a story or poem, taking into account the guidelines she'd given us, for a competition with a deadline of Wednesday.

Our evening speaker was children's author Cathy Cassidy. I've enjoyed my time at Swanwick a lot more since I stopped feeling like every speaker was compulsory, so I gave her a miss in favour of curling up in bed with a book, and another early night.

clhollandwriter: (Default)
The first full day of Swanwick means choosing a specialist course, one of the long courses that runs throughout the week.
On offer this year were Writing Popular Fiction, Fiction for Children and Young People, Scriptwriting, Non Fiction, and A Year in Poetry.

After the morning session I took myself off to the Book Room, and was glad to see the secondhand table was a hit this year. This is where delegates can donate books about writing they no longer want, and can take some of the offerings in return for a donation to the school. I picked up a copy of The Plot Thickens by Noah Lukeman, and from the delegates' books a copy of A Route Map to Novel Writing Success: How to Write a Novel Using the Waypoint Method by David Hough.

The short courses for the day were Short Stories, Forensics and CSI, My Voice Will Go With You (about finding your writer's voice) and The Inner Game. The latter was about silencing the monkey mind, the inner critic, and challenging the things it comes up with. Easier said than done, but I learned a useful technique which came in useful later in the week.

As always there was a Facebook and Twitter reception in the main lounge during the afternoon tea break. I intended to go, but got distracted on the way by coffee and chatting, and only remembered an hour later when I saw the pictures on Facebook.

There were three workshops on offer, on running a creative writers' group, journalism, and a briefing for Page to Stage for casting the performances that would take place later in the week. This is the slot I usually sacrifice for quiet time, so I headed back to my room to read before dinner.

Dinner started with a small group of us in the bar celebrating the sale of Val Penny's novel Hunter's Chase to Crooked Cat Books. Then dinner, and our evening speaker Sophie Hannah. She was hilarious and informative, with anecdotes on the inspiration behind her first book and how she came to be writing Poirot continuation novels. Unlike the previous speaker, she's a plotter and outlines her books to within an inch of their life. It works for her - she's nothing if not prolific - but it's not a method of writing I get on with.

After the speaker I took in the start of the poetry open mic, but didn't have the stamina to stick out the whole thing so headed off to bed.

clhollandwriter: (Default)
I am, once again, blogging a week late. I took my tablet and some good intentions, but didn't switch it on all week.

The trip up was mercifully uneventful, and we found ourselves outside Derby station waiting for the coach. And waiting. When it eventually arrived it turned out to have been designed for children, in rows of five tiny and uncomfortable seats. I wonder in hindsight if the coach company saw the booking and assumed school meant children, but they've provided coach services often enough in the past to know better.

We arrived late, but there was still enough time to unpack before the Chairman's Welcome. After that was dinner, and our first experience of the new buffet-style dining. I loved it. There was a choice of main (generally two meat, one fish, one veggie), two choices of carbohydrates (potato and rice or pasta) and two vegetable choices. Despite having to queue, everyone was served quickly which left us with plenty of free time before the speaker. This was something that often came up in conversation during the week - how much extra time we found ourselves with, because of that one simple change. It also meant there was a choice of desserts, which usually alternated between multiple cakes, or a choice of cold desserts (including fruit), and one hot option. The down side of this was I ate more puddings than at previous Swanwicks, the up side that several of these were fruit rather than cake.

After dinner was the evening speaker, crime writer Stephen Booth, who was excellent. I don't read a lot of crime (although I'm starting to) but it's always nice to hear other writers' processes - and he's most definitely a pantser. I went along to the book signing and picked up a copy of Dancing with the Virgins, the second in his Cooper and Fry series, which I then spent the rest of the week reading instead of writing.

As always, I headed to bed early as even uneventful travel is tiring and there was a busy week ahead.

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