This painting of Lumb Bank was hanging in my room
Just got back from Ted Hughes' house on Lumb Bank
five days with 16 other writers interested in writing for teenagers - 16 rather GOOD writers, I hasten to add. One of my fellow students was 17 years old, still a teenager herself, possibly the next Zadie Smith if she decides this is her thing.
I thought Lumb Bank was in the Yorkshire Dales but it turned out it was just East of Manchester, up the M1 and turn left, through Halifax and up some hilly bits. Miriam
drove (thanks Miri!).
We were told to look out for these benches at the top of a little lane We stopped for pictures before winding our way down the hill. This was the bit of the house looking down a hill at a magnificent view, with disused mills, woods, and a river. I had room number one at the top of the stairs.
Our tutors for the teenage writing week were Melvin Burgess (Junk
, Nicholas Dane
) and Malorie Blackman (Noughts and Crosses
, Double Cross
Malorie and Melvin.
Melvin and Malorie alternated mornings teaching us about plot, character, dialogue with writing exercises that started out at 10 minutes each and by the last day was reduced to three minutes each ... they didn't want to give us the chance to think, to resist, to give up. We submitted samples of our writing to M&M and had one-on-one meetings with each of them in the afternoon to discuss our work and prospects in publishing.
We sat around a massive tableView outside door as we worked on a rare sunny day.
Malorie made ALL of us read, recalling one tutor's sage words in the early days when she was reluctant to share her
Tutor: Malorie do you want to be a writer?
Malorie: More than anything else in the world.
Tutor: Well You’ve got to shit or get off the pot.
The sunshine on the day we arrived turned out to be a red herring. The heavens poured throughout the week. On the few hours when there was no rain, some of us managed to go for walks and visit the nearby village of Heptonstall where Sylvia Plath is buried in a sad, untended plot adorned with tacky souvenirs from her fans.
A rare sunny day.The Village of Heptonstall.Ancient tombstones laid out in the churchyard.Sylvia Plath's headstone. (my camera mysteriously switched to monochrome)
It was a heady week for me. I'd been deep in the mangle of making a living and writing had not been coming easily. Melvin and Malorie opened my rusty tap and allowed the words to flow.