Arvon were a tremendous help to me in my early days. I was struggling to write drama and went first on a beginners’ course, later on some specialist drama weeks. They all helped enormously, not just because of the great tuition (including one-to-one) but because of contacts made and the wonderful company of other writers.
If you’re anywhere near London, the Soho’s courses are useful. I started by trying to write plays for theatre and find that the skills I learned in that discipline have been invaluable in fiction, even if I didn’t manage to make it in that world. Drama writing taught me how to go really deep into character, how to think always about what a character is doing and about how interactions and dialogue work best.
I don’t know if Bernard is still coaching writers in the fine arts of writing drama but I wouldn’t be surprised. For two years, I learned skills from him – how to make a scene spin in unexpected ways, to make characters’ agendas explode against each other, to make minimal props magically eloquent, to look to the Ancient Greeks and Romans for big characters – and though he was always a merciless taskmaster, I learned more from him than from anyone else. Thank you, Bernard!
I didn’t find Maggie’s courses until after What You See Is What You Get had been published and The Most Intimate Place was very close to its final, published form. But I’ve seen writers flourish with her kind, painstaking approach.
I’m a great fan of coffpoetry.com (run by poet Anne-Marie Fyfe), not just for its fantastic poetry readings, my favourites in London by far, but because of the gentle way Anne-Marie brings the best out of poets in her excellent workshops.
‘Tammy used to run coffpoetry before Anne-Marie and both are excellent mentors. Tammy specialises in ekphrastic poetry inspired by the visual arts.