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Swanwick 2013

Maggie in the sunshine at Swanwick

It’s a real pleasure to be back at the Writers’ Summer School, known affectionately as ‘Swanwick’, and hosted for every one of its 65 years at The Hayes Conference Centre. The main buildings were bathed in sunshine as I arrived but, rain or shine, I know that I’m in for a stimulating and challenging week. Placing copies of my short story omnibus in the Book Room for others to purchase (I hope) was only the first of many pleasures.*

Once again allocated a comfortable en suite room in Lakeside – yes, there actually is a lake in the grounds of The Hayes – I set off to meet old friends and make some new ones. There are 47 ‘white badgers’ this year, also known as ‘Swanwick virgins’, so that will be interesting. Chances abound to mingle; on arrival over tea and cake, in the bar before dinner, during dinner (no set places, thank goodness), in the bar later on …

James Moran

Our opening speaker this year was screenwriter James Moran who, among many other things, has written episodes of Dr Who, Torchwood, Primeval and Spooks. He shared with us his ‘journey’, from weird paintings he produced at primary school, where he was already obsessed to some degree with horror, through winning a Sci Fi Channel script writing competition and then to being taken on by an agent and scripting the 2005 film Severance.

James made the point that a freelance screenwriter, however successful, is never ‘home and dry’. The more pitches you make, the more rejections you leave yourself open to and you will certainly meet many infuriating people along the way. Everyone connected with a production thinks that he/she knows better than the humble writer, who (if wise) quickly learns the art of lip biting. However, the writers who make it are those who don’t give up. Now how many times have I heard that at Swanwick!!!

The adrenalin was still flowing at ten o’clock when, after a swift trip to the bar and assured that no previous drama experience was needed, I joined the inimitable Julia Pattison’s ice-breaker. The warm up exercise, where everyone stood in a circle to reproduce the sounds of the Brazilian rain forest was fun and very effective. Later on, our little group’s attempt to reproduce a Japanese fairy tale – cast of 80+ characters required and there were four of us – left a lot to be desired. I’ll draw a discreet veil over my own performance as a windy mountain top!

*A copy has already been sold (before the official opening of the Book Shop) and I was delighted to pen a dedication to the lady concerned.

10 August, 2013 - There are 2 comments on this story

  1. Sounds like it will be another great week. Wish I was there. Hope you find lots of inspiration, I’m sure you will.

    Shirley -

  2. Thank you, Shirley. I’m sorry you’re unable to attend this year. Inspiration is certainly flowing at the moment, not all of it alcohol fuelled!

    Maggie Cobbett -

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