Wednesday, 14 August 2013

The 'Magic of Swanwick'

 The Writers’ Summer School is held at The Hayes Conference Centre, Swanwick
 August 10th - 16th, 2013
Writers, published and unpublished, have been going to The Writers’ Summer School, at Swanwick, for 65 years. It is thought to be the oldest residential writers’ school in the world. 
The 'magic of Swanwick' is legendary.  Every August, over 200 writers across all genres gather together to renew old friendships and forge new ones.
On Saturday August 10th, at 3.30 in the afternoon, I arrived at Swanwick.  After parking my car I went to The Alan Booth Centre to meet my good friends, and fellow writers, Jayne Curtis and Vikki Thompson.  As stewards they arranged a room for me (I'd slipped through the net because I had only booked for three days.)  Before going to my room I went up to the main house, met lovely Lois Maddox who's in charge of the book room, and made a display of thirteen copies of Foxden Acres. I also put a framed poster of FA on the mantle-shelf in the information room along with a dozen postcards and book marks. 

Saturday night speaker.  TV and film script writer
James Moran

Fabulous Guest Speaker on Sunday 
Author Syd Moore  

Syd Moore is the author of The Drowning Pool and Witch Hunt.  She takes facts and turns them into hauntingly frightening novels.  Her course, Fashioning Fiction From Fact, was amazing.  Syd split us into groups of six.  Then she gave each group four non-connected facts, which we had to write into a story.  We all contributed with the storyline, which was incredible, and Lorraine wrote it down.  After lunch two people from each group read the stories. I read out the facts and Lorraine read the story.  Then we moved to different groups.  We each wrote a description of one of the characters - and had to do a fast Q & A session.  It was brilliant.  I described the priest, who will appear in the third novel of my quartet about the Dudley sisters, China Blue.


My first Short Course was, Business Skills for writers, with Kate McCormick. Part one of the course covered tools and techniques that can be used by writers to sharpen business skills, take the pain out of paperwork and free up more time for writing.  The second part took a look at finance systems from simple to complex and how to choose the most appropriate.  Excellent for newly published authors.  It taught me new things and reminded what I need to do before the Tax Man sees my accounts.

Left to right: Me, Kate McCormick, Jayne Curtis and Lorraine Hall


My Specialist Course was Literary Novels with Alexa Radcliffe-Hart. I didn't really want to go but it was the only course for novelists.  I don't always enjoyed reading literary fiction.  I sometimes find it snooty.  As if the writer thinks he, or she, is a cut above the rest of us.  I've occasionally been in awe, as literary writers are considered to be wordsmiths in a high-brow sense, but I've often found it self indulgent.  However, am I glad I went!  The exercises were fantastic. I loved writing in the literary style, and what I wrote wasn't bad - according to others.  But the best is, I can use what I wrote in Applause, the second story of the Dudley sisters, which I am currently writing.


Monday night's After Dinner Speaker was, retired Chief Constable and writer
Michael O'Byrne 

The Vinery
The perfect room to relax and write 

Vikki Thompson took this photograph.
All the sweets and puddings were this rich - and fattening.

My bedroom was very spacious. But the twin beds were quite narrow.
I'm used to a double and twice I turned over and almost fell out

The lake in the grounds at Swanwick. 
Lovely first thing in the morning - lovely anytime.


Fabulous writer friends, Jayne Curtis, Lorraine Hall and Vikki Thompson
Missing them already

             Katie and Jayne                                                                                   Maddie and Lorraine


Fun in the Swanwick Bar  
Later at Buskers Night
 The Poetry Open Mic Night was fantastic too. 
I am only sorry I wasn't able to take any photographs.
Collecting unsold copies of Foxden Acres and receiving a cheque for sales from Lois Maddox (Right) in the book room
Goodbye Swanwick until August 2014


  1. Great posting Maddie. Nice to see it all in one go, rather than in chunks. Last Saturday already seems a long time ago.

    1. Thank you, Elizabeth. I've saved your daily blog posts, Vikki’s too. And next week, when I have filed the copious notes I made at Caerleon and Swanwick, I shall sit down and read them again. Yes, the time went very quickly. I've been back a couple of days, and already the amazing time I had is fading into a memory. I’m hoping the 'magic of Swanwick' lasts while I'm editing Applause. Have a lovely weekend. Speak soon. xxx