A bit of a funny story ...

Dear All,

I sat down this afternoon with the intention of updating this page, but possibly because I’d just had lunch, or possibly because it was a warm and sunny day, or possibly both, I couldn’t think where to start. The more I thought about it, the more hopeless the task became. I just couldn’t think of anything … except this, what appeared to be at the time a rather obscure memory, which I wrote down:

I remember once as a child, at the height of summer, turning off from the main road into the street where I lived, and glancing over my shoulder, noticing that the sky behind me was dark and heavy with rain. It was a fair walk to my house and as I walked along the footpath bordered by strips of parched grass, I felt the first soft drops of rain on my shoulders. They felt warm and welcome and I tipped my head back to enjoy them. As I did so, I became conscious that I was walking in front of a raincloud. I could feel the sun on my face and smell the moist earth drifting up from the grass behind me. I felt as if I was somehow leading a vast column of nourishing rain along the street. If I slowed down the cloud did too and if I quickened my pace I could see fat gouts of rain appearing and disappearing on the hot pavement in front of me. It was like that all the way home. I remember opening the door and, still perfectly dry, stepping inside and watching the rain sweeping across the dusty street, the bright sunlight picking out the details of everything in intense and vibrant colour.

It’s funny how things happen and how the mind works. I was trying to think of an interesting way of leading into a résumé of what we have been doing on the Creative Writing Programme over the last couple of years and I ended up with this seemingly irrelevant evocation of a long-forgotten childhood experience. But then maybe it’s not so irrelevant? There is something about the sentiment of the piece that chimes. The elation and excitement that I felt, that I was caught up in something much bigger than me, something that was providing nourishment and growth, vibrancy and colour. That, it seems to me, is absolutely relevant. Because that is how I feel. Running the programme for the last few years has been a real privilege. I have been working with the most brilliant tutors, with a fantastic team at New Writing South and together we have seen so many writers come through our programmes and courses, producing writing of the highest quality and amongst them we have had the enormous pleasure of working with writers on stories, novels and collections of short stories that have gone on to publication.

The Creative Writing Programme, over the last few years, has established itself as the most innovative, popular and affordable course of study for writers in the South East. Nudged and inspired by our writers we have set up the Autobiography and Life Writing Programme as a separate programme for writers who want to come at the writing process through the medium of personal or researched experience and who therefore need the time and space to consider the relationship between the writer and the text. We have set up the highly successful Advanced Writing Workshops where writers with some experience of working at a higher critical level and who are committed to writing projects they hope to get published, can come together on a monthly basis to read and offer constructive feedback on each others’ work. And this year we are also offering the Dramatic Writing Programme, where writers who want to learn the art of stagecraft or writing for the screen, or who want to translate fiction into vision and sound can learn the requisite skills.

We are also now keen to take what we have tried and tested in Brighton and the surrounding areas further afield. We have made a commitment to supporting writers in up and coming Hastings and this year we will be offering the Autobiography and Life Writing Programme there for the first time along with our Advanced Writing Workshops. We will be getting involved in the Hastings Book Fair during the Hastings Literary Festival this year and on 31st August will be running a stall and event at Sussex Coast College. On top of that we are planning on holding readings over the summer in Waterstones, Hastings as well as ‘Introducing the Creative Writing Programme’ sessions, in which we will offer a mix of writing workshops and talks and discussions around our innovative ways of teaching creative fiction and creative non-fiction. If you live outside the Hastings or Brighton areas we are planning ways of bringing our courses and programmes to you, using a mix of tutor-led sessions and our interactive learning platforms. So, if you are keen to nurture your talent as a writer, don’t forget to sign up for our e-letter on the home page to find out when we will be offering courses in your part of the South East.

Finally, to Brighton, where this year we are re-structuring the format for our annual Publishing Day for students coming to the end of our two-year programmes. Publishing Day is an opportunity for writers (who by the time they have finished the two-year programme, have a novel or book planned) to talk to visiting publishing professionals and to pick up the professional skills they will need to ensure that, when they want it, they can get the best possible representation for their work.

We’re very happy in Brighton at The Writers’ Place, which is both a work place and hub for writers to connect to regional writing networks through New Writing South. It also functions as an end of the week venue for our popular readings and ‘In discussion’ sessions with local writers. Many writers on our courses and programmes value the informal feel of The Writers’ Place, which although it functions well as a working space, also brings people together socially. I think everyone feels a sense of ownership and enjoys the fact that it is so close to the heart of Brighton with the Lanes and Brighton coffee houses close by for after session meet-ups. I, for one, definitely prefer it to the characterless and austere seminar rooms of university campuses!

All best

Mark

Creative Writing Programme Director

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