At the end of February, I was fortunate enough to be a part of a unique endeavour in Ireland – The Story House course for children’s and young adult writers.
The course took the form of classes in the mornings and served as a writing retreat for the rest of the day.
When I saw this advertised a few months before Christmas, I jumped at the opportunity to spend a week learning from establishedauthors and meeting other like-minded writers.
From start to finish, I was made to feel welcome at Lisnavagh House with the other 11 writers. The Story House is the brainchild of Nollaig and Margaret, who run everything with ease and efficiency. Their efforts throughout the weeks and months leading up to the course and during the course were much appreciated by all who attended. I was especially touched by either Nollaig or Margaret quietly checking in throughout to make sure that everything was alright and they always had time for a chat. They, along with Ilona, went about their work quietly and effectively.
Nollaig and Margaret, aka founders of The Story House
Margaret laid out some suggestions to the group that stuck with me for the duration, namely that the week would feel like a long time and yet fly by in an instant. And also that we should not force the creative inspiration, but rather allow ourselves to be ‘bored’ and soak up the atmosphere of the environment, letting that ‘wibbly-wobbly’ time take hold. The setting itself was stunning, with classes taking place in the type of library room bibliophiles dream of having as their front room.
Behind the magic library doors…
The nature of the classes was informal, but intense. ER Murray and Sheena Wilkinson worked brilliantly as a team together, both bringing their own insights and experience of the writing process and the publishing world to the table (or more accurately, to the various chairs and sofas crowded around the fireplace).
Sheena and Elizabeth spoke about different parts of writing, from planning, drafting and editing, to dialogue, character and setting. Focused exercises on each of these areas helped me to think of ways in which my own work in progress could be improved from all angles, and gave me a basis for planning all future projects.
Added to this, each participant also had the opportunity to have a one to one tutorial with Sheena and Elizabeth. This took the form of a critique of submitted work and a discussion of anything else that came to mind. It was invaluable to get the thoughts of both authors and there was/is much to think about and process in a very constructive way.
with Sheena Wilkinson and ER Murray, our tutors…
In midweek, Patricia Forde visited imparting her wisdom of encouraging us to be good liars, as well as giving us an idea of her background as a television writer and a jack of all trades in writing.
The atmosphere at the course all week was one of excitement, openness and anticipation of the learning and the experience of attending. Everyone seemed to get something from the classes and tutorials and yet there was no pressure to share experiences or writing with the group either way.
All that was left from there was ample time to wander the grounds and get some writing and planning done. Evenings were relaxed, with readings from the group and from the authors, making for enjoyable occasions. It was great to spend some time chatting to the co-ordinators and the authors, even allowing for the odd glass of something warming on a stormy February evening! The authors really helped us in developing the tools that we have as writers and left us with some pretty big shoes to fill, in continuing to bring great stories to children and young adults.
A candle that stayed lit throughout…
I cannot recommend The Story House enough and would encourage anybody interested in writing to keep an eye on their various social media and websites for news of upcoming courses.
The brooding Lisnavagh House, complete with gnarly trees…