Tag Archives: Writing course

A birthday in Italy!

Having a birthday while teaching a course for Arte Umbria, in Italy, was a lovely experience.

2015-07-23 12.09.56It seemed odd to take my birthday cards with me and stand them around my room, where nobody would see them, but word had obviously gone around regarding the significance of the date – possibly aided by nearly 500 Birthday messages on Facebook! – and there were more cards, hugs and birthday wishes. And there are far worse ways to begin your birthday than sitting on a sunny terrace with your e-reader while you sip a cup of tea and wait for someone to make you a scrummy breakfast.

IMG_3490One of the course participants had even brought me a present, a patchwork table runner made by his clever wife.

2015-07-23 16.44.09The courses are held on an Umbrian estate amidst a rolling landscape of trees, the village on the next peak, stone houses and olive groves. I claim the huge terrace as my classroom, and we began work after breakfast, as usual. More important than some old birthday – it was the first day of the course.

As luck would have it, the guests went on a trip on my birthday afternoon, to La Scarzuola. I had visited this amazing restored monastery on a previous trip, so I felt justified in staying behind. I worked for an hour – honestly, I did! My work in progress was calling me – and then I took myself down through the gardens to the swimming pool to dangle my feet and soak up a few rays. As I found the chef just finishing her swim, I chatted to her about how she’d come to work in such a fantastic venue. It’s a good story. I’m not going to tell you because I want it for a future book. (Sorry.) As with many conversations with novelists, the chat may have taken the form of me interrogating her, but she didn’t seem to mind.

2015-07-23 20.21.11When the guests returned, a little gentle work rounded out the day, until it was time to get ready for another fabulous meal, including prosecco jelly as a birthday treat.

I ate two bowls full.

Don’t tell anyone.

Here are a few of my favourite pix from Arte Umbria 2015, include those from our day off, when we went to Perugia. If you fancy joining me on next year’s course it’s 13-20 July 2016. (It won’t be my birthday!) Go to www.arteumbria.com for more information.

Arte-Umbria-15-collage

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A Course with Wow!

Fizz on the terrace on the last evening

Fizz on the terrace on the last evening

I have just spent the most amazing week leading a one-week residential course for Arte Umbria in the Umbrian hills, Italy.

I’m not sure why I should be amazed – I taught there last year. But somehow I’d managed to forget some of the majesty of the views from the terrace on the Poggiolame estate, a little of the history and luxury of the stone-built house. ‘Gorgeous’ doesn’t do it justice.

The pergola on the terrace

The pergola on the terrace

Being at a venue so secluded is novel. The estate has 200 acres, most of it wild countryside but dotted with olive groves, fruit trees, tracks to wander around. Oh yes – and a swimming pool within the lovely gardens close to the house.

Flip chart and table on the veranda

Flip chart and table on the veranda

But my function at Arte Umbria isn’t  to admire the venue, it’s to lead the writing course. There’s something special about my classroom being at a table under a veranda or lounging comfortably beneath a vine-strewn pergola, the sun beating down around. It’s almost a shame to break for (yet another) delicious meal when the bell sounds. It’s a small course so it’s possible to provide a friendly and productive atmosphere and give individual attention to each student and their work in progress.

The students were fantastic. They got so much done and moved their work on so far that I was truly impressed.

Il Duomo - the cathedral at Orvieto, where we went on our day off

Il Duomo – the cathedral at Orvieto, where we went on our day off

Sunset on the terrace

Sunset on the terrace

I even got a chapter of my own WIP written, too! It was a bit of a challenge to write about Camden at Christmas when I was in Italy in July but every day of writing teaches me something new.

I haven’t yet heard what courses Arte Umbria will be running next year but if you’re interested in a course in art, sculpture or writing in fantastic surroundings, go to http://www.arteumbria.com and book.

My room

My room

The pool

The pool

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Publication day!

ITL?_new packshotToday is publication day for ‘Is This Love?’

I was going to say that a publication day is like Christmas and my birthday all rolled into one – but, actually, it’s more fun.

The lovely publicists at Choc Lit have lined me up a lot of online interviews and blogposts to go live today, fantastic friends on Facebook and Twitter are sending me nice messages, and I’m on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire this afternoon, after recording a segment for Bookmark at Community 105. And I’m going out with friends this evening to celebrate. (I’ve even been able to arrange for somebody else to drive.)

Publication Day is Publication Day, even though the ebook came out a month ago and the online bookstores shipped the paperback copies last weekend. Mere details! Publication Day is the marker, the day I pause in my usual work to enjoy the moment. It’s also a good excuse for a bit of hoopla.

Happily for me, Publication Day more-or-less coincides with the Festival of Romance, which begins tomorrow, in Bedford, so I have an interview on the Nick Coffer show on BBC 3 Counties Radio at 12.30 and a booksigning at Waterstones 1.30pm till 3.00pm tomorrow (Friday 8th November). Then I can relax and watch other authors do their stuff at the ART AND ROMANCE EVENING, The Higgins Museum & Art Gallery.

Saturday is a chance to be in two places at one time as 10am to 3pm sees the ROMANCE FAIR at the Harpur Suite, Corn Exchange, but I’m appearing and reading 10.30am to 12noon at the COFFEE AND CAKE MORNING at The Lane … and 12.45pm to 3.45pm myself and Christina Courtenay are leading the IRRESISTIBLE HEROES WORKSHOP at the Central Library. Other Choc Lit authors Jane Lovering and Laura James are being so kind as to sell my books at the Romance Fair. Of course, they’re busy with their own events so Jane’s partner has kindly volunteered to take over. I’m not sure if he knows this yet.

Don’t anybody expect any real work from me until Monday! Because today is Publication Day and I’m managing to make it stretch over the weekend.

Even Amazon is celebrating with me – ‘Is This Love?’ is available at a special price for Kindle users because it’s part of the 100 Kindle Books promo.

A few of the first blogposts, interviews etc:

Bookgirl of Mur-y-Castell

Female First

ARRA (Australian Romance Readers Association)

Mark West’s Strange Tales

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“How to Write Great Fiction” with Sue Moorcroft

News of a one-day workshop that I’m running soon at a gorgeous venue.

Portrait of Sue MoorcroftLimited places available on this WriteStars workshop
led by award-winning author Sue Moorcroft
at the George Hotel, Stamford, Lincolnshire PE9 2LB

Sunday, 15 September, 10am – 4pm

Book at info@writestars.co.uk, or call 020 3078 7825

Introductory price: £99. £85 if you book before 7 September
(£2.50 from each booking will go to the literacy charity Children in Crisis)

Also, coming soon from WriteStars: ‘How to Write the Perfect Press Release”, an afternoon workshop led by a senior national-newspaper journalist. Venue: Fleet Street, London. Date: October. Details to be confirmed. Register at info@writestars.co.uk, or call 020 3078 7825.

http://www.writestars.co.uk

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What do you get from a writing course? Part 2

Celia and Laura arrive at Perugia Airport.

Celia and Laura arrive at Perugia Airport.

I promised to blog about my week leading a course for Arte Umbria, in Italy. So here it is.

I was on the same flight as four of the participants and we either travelled together or met at Perugia airport, where we were met by one of our hosts and driven through Umbria to the fabulous Tenuta di Poggialame, a 200-acre estate of woodland and olive groves. Greeted by the rest of the household, an amazing view and several glasses of ice-cold prosecco, I felt instantly at home!

The terrace, and its view, at Poggiolame.

The terrace, and its view, at Poggiolame.

A residential course at Arte Umbria is like being at a select, luxurious hotel, where all the guests have been specially chosen for their appealing qualities (they’re writers).

The house from below the terrace

The house from below the terrace

The house is a Sixteenth Century hunting lodge, built of stone and wood, that was renovated only a few years ago. There’s a mixture of rooms/small apartments to choose from but, though I loved my room, I used it only for sleeping or changing. I spent most of my time, whether leading the course or snatching a few minutes at my WIP, on the terrace or somewhere in the fantastic grounds. Whether I was in a sun-loving moment or needing a little shade, there was an appropriate spot.

We spent a lot of time working:

– workshops on the story arc, analysing your novel, interviewing your characters etc, before focusing in on various writing techniques

– writing exercises and group feedback

– works in progress and group feedback

A welcome break in the day

A welcome break in the day

– one-to-ones

Between times, we swam, or just chilled out.

And we had some great trips. In nearby Orvieto,  we admired the cathedral (duomo), ate gelato and wandered around the shops in the pretty streets. We also saw a wedding where the groom trod on the train of the bride’s dress, prompting a hissed argument between broad smiles for the photographer. Most of the hissing came from the bride, while the groom just waved his hands and said, ‘Scusi! Scusi!’

Interior of the church at La Scarzuola

Interior of the church at La Scarzuola

We also went to La Scarzuola where Francis of Assissi hung out in the Thirteenth Century and built a pretty church. Gorgeously restored, it’s decorated with paintings on plaster of martyrs having knives thrust through their necks. And I learned the difference between painted plasterwork (painted on dry plaster) and frescoes (painted on wet plaster so the colour is absorbed, which is why

Some of the theatres at La Scarzuola

Some of the theatres at La Scarzuola

frescoes can last for centuries).

In the Twentieth Century La Scazuola was bought by an eccentric architect, Tomaso Buzzi, who had an interesting take on garden

ornaments and built a collection of mini theatres in his back garden. These take the form of a pile of buildings replicating various monuments and wonders of the world. Captivating. And a little mad.

Marquesi. Sorry the pic is a little blurred. Can't think how that happend.

Marquesi. Sorry the pic is a little blurred. Can’t think how that happend.

Lunch on the terrace

Lunch on the terrace

Our final trip, one evening, was to Castello di Montegiove, where Lorenzo, the Marquesi, talked us through their wine-making process. For hand-picked, first pressings wine, ten or fifteen euros a bottle was a snip, but current security measures wouldn’t allow me to take it home so, sadly, a few sips and I had to leave it there.

To complete the post, I’m just going to post a few pix that appeal to me. Oh, yes, and say that I’m delighted to be returning to Arte Umbria next year, 2-9 July, and we’ve already had our first booking.

And I’m not going to say anything about the singing on the final evening – except that my suspicions have been confirmed. I dance better than I sing.

The terrace leads around to an apartment

The terrace leads around to an apartment

Olive grove

Olive grove

Fab scenery

Fab scenery

I found somewhere to hang my swimwear to dry

I found somewhere to hang my swimwear to dry

Laura, working hard

Laura, working hard

Photo 05-07-2013 15 27 03

Mother Earth. One of the, erm, displays at La Scarzuola.

Photo 06-07-2013 09 41 32

The Duomo

The Duomo

The salon, Poggiolame

The salon, Poggiolame

Dinner on the terrace

Dinner on the terrace

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What do you get from a writing course?

The pool and rear view of Chez Castillon

The pool and rear view of Chez Castillon

As I’ve kept it no secret that I’ve been lucky enough to be invited to run two courses abroad, this year, I thought that I’d report in on the first – Chez Castillon in the gorgeous Dordogne, SW France, which took place last week.

The way the course is (loosely) structured is that we worked in the mornings, had a break after

Castillon-la-Bataille lies on the banks of the Dordogne

Castillon-la-Bataille lies on the banks of the Dordogne

lunch and convened again in the late afternoon. The first day or two, I also managed to write 1200 words here, 700 words there. But my energy flagged slightly on the writing front, probably because I was just enjoying myself so much.

The house, Chez Castillon, is gorgeous. Three hundred years old, the town house is part of a sweet little shopping street in Castillon-la-Battaille. Stepping through its doors is stepping into a quiet, cool world of high ceilings and ornate plasterwork, with a huge friendly welcome from hosts Janie and Mickey Wilson. From the front door you can see right through to the wrought iron doors leading to the secluded oasis at the back of the house. The pool,  sun loungers,  tables, umbrellas, warm stone and rampant greenery. Further into the garden is the gite, which includes the course room. Whether we actually used the course room or settled ourselves

The pool

The pool

outdoors, in the sun or shade according to preference, we found it a wonderful place to work.

For those interested in the course content, we created characters, analysed structure, sorted out whether everyone in our books deserved to be there and what their function was, worked on settings, dialogue, viewpoint and all sorts of technical stuff. Participants were offered one-to-ones and I was able to pretty much structure the course around the requirements of the individual.

The structure of the days allowed plenty of time to write or to wander through the quaint streets of Castillon, lounge around the pool or settle down for a coffee or a glass or something stronger at Monique’s bar.

As I was in verdant wine-growing country, it would have been rude not to try a drop ...

As I was in verdant wine-growing country, it would have been rude not to try a drop …

A little drop of champagne in the cloisters of St Emillion, a few kilometres from Castillon

A little drop of champagne in the cloisters of St Emillion, a few kilometres from Castillon

And for those interested in food and drink … let me just say, ‘Wow!’ Gorgeous. Long, relaxing meal breaks filled with chatter and hilarity. I could understand why Janie said that running courses is just like hanging out with mates.

A residential writing course is a fantastic opportunity to not only try fresh techniques and swap feedback, but to really move a project forward. Groups are small so the tutor can tailor courses to suit participants.

Thank you, Janie and Mickey, for inviting me to run a Chez Castillon course – and inviting me to do so again next year.

So now I have just over a week and I’ll be setting off for Italy and fabulous Arte Umbria, in Umbria, Italy – the next course. I have every expectation of it being another fabulous experience.

Can’t wait … I’ll be posting again to let you know how it went.

Wandering through Castillon

Wandering through Castillon

Facing camera, one of our fantastic hosts, Janie

Facing camera, one of our fantastic hosts, Janie

The cloisters at St Emillion

The cloisters at St Emillion

An interesting way of raising money for St Emillion church - you pay a couple of euro and hammer a pretty pin into the wood

An interesting way of raising money for St Emillion church – you pay a couple of euro and hammer a pretty pin into the wood

Looking out over St Emillion

Looking out over St Emillion

Market day at Castillon-la-Bataille

Market day at Castillon-la-Bataille

A gorgeous detail of a gorgeous house

A gorgeous detail of a gorgeous house

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