Looking Back at The Writers’ Summer School at Swanwick 2022 by Allison Symes



I’m thrilled to share Looking Back at Swanwick 2022 this week. This post was a sheer joy to write. It shares a little of what it is like to be at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. I look at taking part in workshops and fun events such as the Open Prose Mic Night and share a little of the joys of being immersed in the world of writing for a week, especially when you are always made so welcome whether it is your first visit or your 50th. Hope you enjoy the post and maybe see you there for Swanwick 2023.

It was fabulous to be back at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School this year. I had to cancel and apply for a refund on my train tickets due to the strike but a dear friend, who is another Hampshire regular at this event, June Webber, provided transport and it was lovely travelling with her on the way up. Many thanks to my other half, Adrian, for being my chauffeur on the way home.

This year’s Swanwick was especially interesting because I went as a delegate and as someone taking part in various items including running a one-hour workshop here for the first time.

Taking Part

The first thing I took part in was a Lift Up Your Pens session which is a pre-breakfast series of short creative writing times where those leading it set writing exercises designed to get those creative muscles working. I shared some thoughts and set creative writing exercises based on three random generators I use regularly.

I also took part in a Lift Up Your Hearts which is a pre-breakfast series of short devotionals. How did that work out then given these were on at the same time each morning? Simple. The former I did on the Sunday, the latter on the Monday. I was only sorry we weren’t in the lovely chapel at The Hayes, Swanwick for the devotionals. The Hayes had more than one group in this time (and I suspect this policy has helped them keep going) but I hope we can get back to the chapel next year. It is very peaceful in there.

My theme here was on favourite words. I took just two from the Bible and picked a favourite hymn which has one particular line which always resonates with me (O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go – and my favourite line from this is I trace the rainbow through the rain. Many hymns have wonderful poetic qualities to them and this one has especial meaning for me.

My One Hour Workshop

I also ran a one-hour session on Editing – The View From Both Sides of the Fence.

In 2020 as I awaited the publication of Tripping the Flash Fantastic, I was on both sides of the editing fence at the same time so my talk took in what an author can do to make the most of working with an editor. I also looked at what editors often see in submissions.

In the last couple of years, I’ve also been a competition judge so I could also share common mistakes authors make here, again the idea being to get your manuscript in as near perfect a condition as possible before working with said editor.

The funny thing is I used to use Microsoft PowerPoint years ago and have come back to it again in recent times thanks to giving Zoom talks. PowerPoints are easy to share on screen and they are useful for workshops.

I was pleased (and relieved!) the workshop went well, and I would like to do more of this kind of thing at The Writers’ Summer School.

Open Prose Mic Night

It was great fun to do all of this, and I did take part in the Open Prose Mic Night again. Flash fiction works beautifully for this. You can’t be more than five minutes. What I did this year was pick a couple of pieces to hopefully make people laugh and ensure I came in at under the time allotted. That always goes down well with an audience – it is always fine to come in under time!

For the prose night, I picked my linked flash tales – Mishaps and Jumping Time from Tripping the Flash Fantastic this time. Pleased to say they did get laughs but then my hapless time travelling alien in these stories does have that coming. Honest!

Being a Delegate

It doesn’t matter if it is your first visit or your 50th, you will get a warm welcome here. Other writers understand the drive to write. They understand the hard work behind the scenes. They also appreciate the joys when things go well. And I have learned so much chatting with other authors over the years. It is also lovely to give back in sharing information I have discovered which I know will be useful to someone else.

As well as going to the Open Prose Mic Night, I went and listened to the poetry equivalent which was wonderful. I took part in a literary quiz as part of the Prosecco Queens. No prizes for guessing the origin of that name! Am pleased to say my team won!

I love listening to the after-dinner speakers too as, regardless of what part of the writing world they come from, they inevitably share something which will either be useful information or a word of encouragement. It is good to know that successful authors do know the length of time it can take to break through.

I loved the courses and workshops I went to and learned so much from them. These ranged from Creative Non-Fiction led by Simon Whaley to How to Write a How To Book by Bettina von Cossel.

Plus, it was a joy to meet up in person with Val Penny, who I interviewed recently, and enjoy her Promoting Your Work workshop. There is always plenty to learn there as there is about the world of Social Media for Writers which was led by Jennifer C Wilson.

The World of Writing

What is lovely about The Writers’ Summer School is getting to immerse myself totally in the world of writing for six days and in lovely surroundings with wonderful company. One of the big advantages to any kind of networking is you are talking to writers who understand the drive to write. They know the ups and downs of the writing life. And I’ve learned lots of useful information over many years chatting with a writer over a cuppa. What’s not to like there?

No one writer can ever know it all. I’ve also found the writing community to be so generous and supportive with useful tips and information. It is also lovely to be able to give back on that. I am a firm believer in what goes around comes around principle (and in the pay it back, pay it forward school of thought too).

The Joy of The Writers’ Summer School

One of the things I love about The Writers’ Summer School is that you don’t have to decide on what course or workshop you want to do in advance. Okay, it is fabulous fun going through the programme and highlighting possibilities. We all do! But you can leave deciding until the day of the course, workshop or social event itself. The Fancy Dress Disco is not to be missed!

The Writers' Summer School offers a range of one-hour workshops but also four-part specialist courses, separately shorter two-part courses, and a range of evening entertainment including quizzes, which are always a good laugh. Do writers dread doing the literary quiz? Oh yes. It quickly shows up what you have read and what you haven’t! Also, everyone pays visits to the Book Room (whether or not they have books on sale there. Many of us do and it is a thrill to see mine out there).

If you pick a four-part specialist course and you find it is not quite for you, then move on and pick another one. You don’t have to see that first course through. Same goes for the workshops. You also decide how many of these you want to go to. If, for example, you want an afternoon off to work on your own project, that’s fine too.

The accommodation is lovely and the food… well let’s just say you’re not going to go hungry here. I suspect the diet for all of us starts again on the Saturday after we’ve got home again!

Naturally after dinner there are guest speakers and these are a joy to listen to because you’re listening to people who were once new writers and hearing how they got their breakthrough, I find, is enormously encouraging.

Socialising

The best gossip? Naturally that’s to be found at the table where you’re sat for dinner or coffee as you chat with friends and those who have become firm friends on meeting for the first time at The Writers Summer School. There is a Facebook group and many of us keep in contact throughout the year on that. Social media does have its uses and here it is very sociable indeed!

Coming Home

It is always a wrench to leave The Writers’ Summer School and the beautiful grounds of The Hayes Conference Centre in Swanwick, but we all go home inspired and enthused. That matters. The writer is so often alone at their desk. It is too easy to become discouraged. A little encouragement goes a long way here. Inspiration strikes too and writers can always find a use for that!


Allison Symes

Delegate and Workshop Leader

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