Monday 28 November 2016
Wall to Wall by Julie Summers
I have just spent a magical, exhausting but immensely rewarding week as a tutor on an Arvon Foundation non-fiction course. As I write I am sitting up in bed in what used to be John Osborne's study at the Hurst, his home for the last years of his life. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever spent time in though I have scarcely been beyond the front door. The study is large and sparsely furnished. The only true reminder of his presence is his leather topped writing desk at which I have sat every morning and evening reading work submitted by the students. While I am no believer in ghosts or spirits, it certainly feels slightly unreal and mystical to be inhabiting the same space as the great man. I suspect that much else in the room has changed since his day and I am sure there was no green Exit sign with a running man and an arrow on the wall... But I digress. Arvon course would be a good one but I had no idea beforehand just how rewarding it would be. I cannot remember enjoying the company of a dozen or so fellow writers as much as I have this week and I return to my desk and the second half of my book - now known thanks to my 'colleague' (as he always addressed me) Ian Watt as the Shitty First Draft. If you ever fancy an indulgent sojourn with fellow writers, I cannot recommend an Arvon course highly enough, either as a tutor or a student. The staff at the centres are wonderful, supportive and unflappable and make the whole experience easy to enjoy. But it is the writers who make it special and memorable. It has reminded me of the joys and pitfalls of writing historical non-fiction and how the joys win every time.