Arvon At Home: Five Days In A Writing Cocoon

In a Zoom mosaic of travel writers, nature writers and memoir writers, I felt like the odd tile out. However, the five-day intensive Arvon Foundation non-fiction writing course I treated myself to in August was an absolute fillip and worth every penny.

I have been a fan of Arvon since 2011, when I discovered an immersive food writing extravaganza called Find Your Culinary Voice nestling amongst a plethora of poetry and fiction courses. Each writer had a study bedroom in a beautiful 16th century thatched manor house in Devon with the magical name of Totleigh Barton. The centre director said it was the first time he didn't have to chivvy writers away from their desks to help prepare the evening meals each night. Every single one of us wanted to cook alongside Alastair Hendy and Sophie Grigson to soak up every possible moment of their generous teaching. The kitchen was always packed! I learned so much during those five days and made a bosom buddy of the lovely Joan Ransley who encouraged me to join our wonderful Guild.

There was no food element to my recent course, but the excellent teaching inspired me, and the safe creative bubble led me down all kinds of unexpected paths. It was five glorious days of thinking differently, of sharing personal stories and enjoying much restorative laughter together in front rooms all over the world.

‘Arvon At Home’ offers a way to take advantage of their resources from the comfort of your very own writing cocoon. Because accommodation and food are currently not included, these life-enhancing courses are about a third of the regular price. There are also are stimulating half-day workshops costing just £35 and many fascinating evening sessions that are only a fiver. Authors such as Will Self, Maggie O'Farrell and Simon Armitage read to you as you relax on your comfy sofa with salty snacks close at hand. What heaven!

Although the residential element of an Arvon course is currently missing, our writing group still forged strong bonds. We are planning to get together on Zoom once a month to discuss projects and share a cocktail or two, albeit remotely. If you fancy a little writing boost, check out the programme for Arvon talks, workshops and longer courses here – About Arvon – Home of Creative Writing since 1958 – Arvon.