A couple of weeks ago, an email arrived in my inbox informing me that I was a lucky winner of the Wine, Women and Song competition run by Choc Lit. My prize was a weekend of writing workshops in beautiful Devon with authors Jane Lovering and Mel Hudson.
I was of course super excited at the amazing opportunity to meet two authors whose work I very much enjoy and to be able to spend the whole weekend with them talking about writing. And my enthusiasm remained undimmed despite my 6 hour train journey ending up being closer to 8 hours…
We were hosted for the weekend in Mel’s picture-perfect thatched cottage near Bideford.
Even though my fellow winner Lynn Forth and I were both tired after our epic journeys, we still managed to find the energy for a first night party celebrating the publication of Jane Lovering’s new book, I Don’t Want To Talk About It.
And once we’d partaken in the wine element of the competition prize, we moved onto the song part. Thankfully Mel’s house is in the middle of the countryside so the wider world was spared our perhaps less-than-tuneful renditions of popular classics.
On Saturday, we got down to work. Jane led a really useful session on characters, looking at how names influence our expectations. We picked names out of an envelope and worked out the personalities behind the names, giving them likes, dislikes, secrets etc. I decided my ‘Jasper’ had a fondness for red trousers, a rabid dislike of cheap alcohol, and that he’d lied on his CV to get his job. A bit of a rogue! Mel also talked about her route to publication and we chatted about the editing process.
I think the most useful (and most terrifying) part of the weekend was when we had one to one sessions with Mel and Jane. They read our first chapters and gave us their honest opinion on our work. Their advice was invaluable and I was so chuffed with their enthusiasm for my writing.
We polished off the weekend with a picnic in the sunshine at Hartland Quay and of course a traditional Devon cream tea.
All in all, it was a great experience with some lovely people. Thank you so much to Choc Lit, and to Jane and Mel for their generosity with both their hospitality and advice.