Posted in Charity, education, Travel, writing

Totleigh Barton – Arvon Writing Course. Part 5

The front of Totleigh Barton Manor, Devon, one...
The front of Totleigh Barton Manor, Devon, one of the writing centres of the Arvon Foundation, a charitable organisation promoting creative writing.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


I wake up a bit later this morning, 7.30am, after having been awoken during the night with a major coughing fit that kept me awake for a while. I finish reading Utopia, have breakfast, get dressed and start writing before the morning workshop.

This workshop is my favourite so far, a challenge to write dialogue as though in a film, much like how Mark explained for me to re-write my WIP yesterday. We have to use four prompts that have been passed around within the piece. Each of us had to write down a location, an object and the names and occupations of two people and then pass these around to other people so they got mixed up. the prompts I had were ‘farmyard’ ‘remote control’ ‘Louise – student’ and ‘Mary – journalist’. I had fun writing my piece (which I will share as a flash fiction post soon). I had always struggled with dialogue before, but after the work I have done this week I feel much more comfortable with it now.

After the tea break William get’s us looking at our first job. The session with him have also been really helpful because going through all these different memories is helpful in prompting me of things I can include in my autobiographical WIP.

After lunch I type up the piece I re-wrote after showing it to Mark yesterday. I hope to use this for my reading on Friday, we have 5 minutes each to read to the group, not long! I set the timer on my phone and start reading, sat in the corner of the snug keeping my voice low so as not to disturb the others working in here. When the alarm rings at 5 minutes I am only about halfway through my piece. Out of curiosity I switch to the stopwatch and start again. 9 minutes 36 seconds is how long it takes to read my whole piece, damn. Do I choose something else to read? Stop halfway through? or can I edit my piece so it fits in to around 5 minutes?

I put it to one side to think about later and decide to take a walk up the hill to check for message son my phone having not done so since Tuesday afternoon. I am coping surprisingly well with my digital detox!

Stood in the middle of the car track, wind blowing my hair wildly I wait for the signal to pick up and give my phone chance to catch up. two text messages, one from each of my children. The first my son just asking if I am okay, then my daughter hoping I am having a good time and giving me an update on the pool match, one of our players won a game. I’m pleased to hear they are ok and not texting with problems, it is the first time I have left them home alone! I’m also happy to hear we won a game in the pool match. I reply to both letting them know I am okay and having a good time than check my emails. I’ve had 26 ‘likes’ for the blog post I sent out on Monday before leaving home, 4 reblogs of the post, 20 comments and gained 9 new followers on Monday alone, great work! 😀

I click onto my blog app, will it load, a 3G signal is probably needed but it would be nice to see how many hits I’ve had while away, normally I spend a few minutes each day promoting that days post, will my hits have dropped due to not being able to do that this week? After a short delay the page loads, 789 hits on Monday, making it the busiest day ever, and I havent even been Freshly Pressed! Cool. I do a little skip and jump seeing the numbers. Tuesday and Wednesday bought in 516 and 463 hits respectively, still good going considering the lack of promotion!

More good news in my emails, I’ve had a lottery win. the email doesn’t state how much only that it has been paid into my bank account. Most likely it’s only £10 but it’s still exciting anyway, I’ll find out for sure how much it is when I get home (it was just £10).

I skip back down the track to the centre and fetch my cigarettes, notepads and book from my room. After updating my journal entires I start to read my new book – Dark Life by Kat Falls.

I feel like doing something different and an image I have had before pops into my head so I fetch my art materials and start sketching. Eyes feature prominently in a lot of what I draw and the image I have is half dragon, half wolf split down the centre of their faces with the eyes being the main focus.

I sketch away for some time, then glance at the clock on the wall, it is dinner time. I abandon my work on the floor of the snug where I had lay to do it and rush over to the dining room.

Today’s chef group have prepared sausage, mash and cabbage followed by chocolate brioche bread and butter pudding.

Over dinner there is more talk about the Olympics and publishing. When asked his opinion on self-publishing Mark comments on how having an agent and publisher gives you a much wider reach than self-publishing as there are things you just cannot do yourself, he says finding a good agent is the best thing you can do as there is so much they can help you with.

After dinner we head back to the snug for William’s reading, I quickly clear away my drawing, but not before a few people have spotted it and comment on it. One member of the group says ‘Is there nothing you can’t do?’ which makes me laugh as I do consider myself a jack of all trades (master of none).

William reads us a piece he wrote for the Woodlands Trust ‘Why The Ash Tree has Black Buds’ ,a little bit from his two books ‘the Music Room’ and ‘First Story’ and tells us about the tale of philoctetes from greek mythology. Then he tells us about a charity project he works with called First Story which goes into challenging secondary schools and teaches writing to students, before reading a few of the pieces students created. The Q&A session spends a lot of time on First Story, which has many of us inspired and moved at how difficult life is for some of these young people and how much the creative outlet of writing helped them. Will shares how his books are not fully autobiographical but contain a lot about himself, his life, his brother’s epilepsy and his journey across America.

Time for bed and I am left thinking a lot about Will’s charity work, an idea is brewing…


Self-published author whose first book Coffee Break Companion, a collection of short stories and poems is now available on Amazon. S.L.Grigg lives in Bromsgrove with her family. Working in the NHS and enjoying reading, Pilates and travel, amongst other things when she isn't too busy writing.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s