Writing for children

I can’t believe it’s almost five years since my Arvon course. It was one of those things I very much wanted to do, but felt I couldn’t use up funds while there was no money coming in. But I felt it so very strongly that in the end I signed up anyway, when there was just the one place left at Lumb Bank.

Arvon, Lumb Bank

Of course, I didn’t do writing for children. Mine was a sort of non-fiction, general course, which suited me just fine. I see that in this year’s programme they have something for people wanting to get started on blogs and other online writing.

In 2007 I think they offered one, possibly two, weeks for hopeful children’s writers. This year I was impressed to see they do four, and that’s before I discovered it’s actually six weeks. Three of writing for children, two for young adults and one for young people. That’s a lot. It must be due to popular demand, and why wouldn’t people want to come and spend a week in the company of real children’s authors tutoring a group of likeminded budding writers?

I heard about Arvon when Caroline Lawrence reported on having just taught at one of their centres. And I believe she had previously done one of their courses herself. That seems to be the way it is. Lots of current authors have been, and many are now taking up tutoring as the next step.

Just look at who you could rub shoulders with in a kitchen in some beautiful countryside setting; Julia Golding and Marcus Sedgwick, with Mary Hoffman as the midweek special. Or there’s Malachy Doyle and Polly Dunbar, with guest star Anthony Browne. It’s not everywhere you get to hobnob with Children’s Laureates, ex- or otherwise. The two MBs, Malorie Blackman and Melvin Burgess, with Aussie special Simmone Howell. Now that one would be really interesting!

You could have Joan Lennon and Paul Magrs, with yet another Laureate, Julia Donaldson. Martyn Bedford with Celia Rees, and Bali Rai doing the star turn. And finally Gillian Cross and Steve Voake, with guest dramatist Christopher William Hill.

If laureates are your thing, there is always the hope of a week with Carol Ann Duffy, but then you really have to be good. At poetry, I mean. That one is decided on the quality of your poems. Which is not going to be me.

Plus any other kind of writing. All with people who know their stuff. It isn’t cheap, but there are schemes for financial assistance. No internet, and you have to cook your own dinner in groups, so better hope for budding writers who can peel potatoes.

Ms M at Lumb Bank

(We had our own laureate connection – on wall, above – during my week. That’s as well as the house having belonged to a former Poet Laureate.)

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5 responses to “Writing for children

  1. Agree Bookwitch. Had a wonderful week with Celia Rees, Linda Newbery and special guest Gillian Cross in November at the Hurst. Mixture of people from already published to beginners (like me). Inspiring, useful and very good fun!

  2. Yes, I highly recommend any of the Arvon Courses. I’ve done it as a student and a tutor and both were inspiring experiences. Idyllic settings, great teachers and wonderful fellow would-be writers, all of us at different stages of the same journey: to understand this world through storytelling.

    There is also something powerful about paying money, giving up time and going away to do a course like this. You are telling the universe I AM SERIOUS! And the universe usually sits up and takes notice at such gestures.

  3. That is breathtakingly beautiful. Where is the location shown in that photo?

  4. Kathy, it’s the Arvon house ‘garden’, which is a few miles outside Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire. House used to belong to Ted Hughes.

  5. There is nothing like an Arvon course. I’ve taught a couple and one at th Welsh equivalent, Ty Newydd which is held in Lloyd George’s house. They (Arvon courses) are the most wonderful things ever. I went as a pupil to a poetry course with Christopher Reid and Vicki Feaver and it changed my life and was the very best kind of holiday ever. If you can possibly manage it, go. They do bursaries for those who would find payment hard. Worth asking!

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