Swanwick is the well-known summer writing school held every year in, well, Swanwick Derbyshire, the Hayes Conference Centre.
Sometime ago, we decided to attend and share the drive up and back together. Of course, once Kate McCormick, who is more involved in the organisation, heard she suggested we wrote a joint posting for the CWC blog. So, here is our daily joint impressions of Swanwick from Bea Hutchings a “white badger” (first visit) and Steve Male more a grubby grey badger (second visit).
Bea: The journey from Devon to Swanwick
Chatted all the way to Swanwick, talking about – guess what? Writing! Traffic wasn’t too bad, no major hold-ups. Stopped at Gloucester Services, had a nice lunch – organic, real food! Amazing farm shop, very different to all the other motorway services I’ve ever known. Arriving in Swanwick about 3.30pm, we turned into Hayes past an impressive Gothic Church called St Andrew’s. First impression of my room was – it was a bit compact, but adequate, although Steve was very pleased with his. The showers were fine, plenty of hot water. Very quiet during the night. Would recommend an en-suite next time like Steve had. Housekeepers very good, everything clean and tidy; everyone very friendly.
Bea: Gender ratio
As always at these type of things – more women delegates than men. 4:1 ratio. Age demographic – mostly an older age profile, but there were a few groups of enthusiastic, young people.
Bea: Evening Guest Speaker Sue Moorcroft
She was very reassuring; emphasising triumph over publishing adversity. Sue is a very successful author, who works incredibly hard – who has had ups, but many downs, however, she is now a Sunday Times best-selling author. Very inspiring.
Steve: Huge array of sessions on offer
One of the great benefits of Swanwick is the wide range of courses which conversely makes for the biggest problem: which ones to choose. Each course is delivered in one-hour slots either one, two or four. They are split up and scheduled on separate days or morning and afternoon. If you can’t find something that appeals every morning, afternoon and evening I’d be amazed. One of the many great aspects of Swanwick is you don’t have to pre-book those you want, just turn up. We went together to some courses but split up for others and give a short impression of the best herein.
Steve: Friendly people
Without exception all the tutors and delegates were friendly, and we made many new friends. We now have some people to meet up with next year who even, surprisingly, want to meet us. (Bea says: “speak for yourself Steve!”)
Steve: Competitions Course
This was a two-part course, by Ingrid Jendrezejewski, with oodles of information about how to successfully enter competitions from an experienced and successful competitor, and latterly judge of many contests. The view from both sides was in-depth and informative.
Bea: The Book Room
Very well organised by our very own Kate McCormick. A huge variety of books to choose from and all at reasonable prices. Swanwick merchandise was also on sale as well. Next door (and exit) was the information room, where you could pick up quizzes and enter open mics, all done with the aid of ballot boxes.
Steve: Evening Guest Speaker Amit Dhand
Another terrific speaker talking of his personal progress from schoolboy with an ambition to write thrillers through his initial career as a pharmacist to now the hugely successful author of the Inspector Harry Virdee series of crime novels set in Bradford, Yorkshire. He was a truly exceptional speaker, humorous, self-deprecating and insightful with another inspirational talk of his route to success climbing a huge pile of rejection slips: brilliant.
Bea: Poetry Open Mic
Having put my name in the ballot box earlier in the day, I found myself duly elected to perform one of my poems at the open mic. In all, there was approximately 50 attendees including 25 performing poets, assembled in the Main Conference Hall. I was 3rd on the list, and I read a poem which had won the Writing Magazine second prize in May. Judge Alison Chisholm was in the audience, as was decidedly non-poet, Steve! It was a good evening with a variety of poems read. (Even Steve stayed awake!)
Bea: Food choices
The catering was excellent, with every effort made to please all dietary requirements and appetites. The selection of main course and desserts was perfect. I particularly liked the breakfast choices, and all the fresh fruit available at every mealtime. Coffee, cake and biscuits were also a welcome interlude from all the intense workshops we went to.
Bea: Writing for Children
Tutor Benjamin Scott delivered a very polished two-part presentation, using power point. He used the analogy of the railway network to demonstrate the different age groups in children’s fiction. I was particularly interested in YA publications, but it was so interesting learning about the many opportunities to be a children’s author.
An in-depth presentation, by Rosemary J Kind, over two-periods, of all the ins and outs of publishing our prose. The first session outlined how to get an agent and publisher, the pitfalls, what to do and more importantly what not to do. The second session focused on self-publishing with a similar forensic eye for detail. Two exceptionally informative sessions.
Steve: A chat with Simon Hall.
The evening after-dinner slot was a chat show format hosted by Simon featuring as guests: Real life CSI, Kate Bendelow; Short story writer, Della Galton; and Editor of Writing Magazine, Jonathan Telfer. The questions were all suggested by delegates and submitted to former BBC Spotlight Crime Correspondent, Simon Hall, beforehand and he performed his friendly and light-hearted chat show host role to perfection.
Steve: Fancy Dress Disco
Party-Time!!! A fun forties frolic where Corporal Jones pulled two glamourous dames, a land girl and a Hollywood siren. Dancing the night away, Kate was amazing – on the dance floor from start to finish. Great fun even for a bearded Noel Coward look-a-like (not) with two left feet.
[There’s so much to talk about, we decided to split the week in half. Check back next week for part 2.]