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2024 Summer School Programme

Short Courses

You have twenty short courses to choose from this year, led by expert tutors. Each consist of a morning session followed by an afternoon session on one of the following days: Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

The courses cover a range of genres and subjects, such as from crime to scriptwriting, and pitching to the editor to writing for children. You can stick to your favourite area or branch out and try something new - the choice is yours.

Lynne Hallett

Lynne Hallett

Writing Young Adult Fiction

Want to write a YA novel that stands out from the crowd? Already have a draft but want to improve its chances of publication? Come along to this course where you will learn how YA differs from middle grade, crossover, and adult fiction and how this determines choices about theme, characters, language, and point of view.

Interpretative and writing exercises will help you flesh out your characters and create settings in which they can operate, as well as giving them conflicts to overcome. There will be an opportunity to share your work and ask questions.

Liz Hurst

Talking Taboos

Taboos have been around for as long as humans, and some have changed beyond recognition since we were living in caves. For the most part, we live in a fairly liberal and permissive society, but in writing, there are still things with which we feel uncomfortable. You might be unsure how far to go in a sex scene, especially if your work is not specifically romance. You might wonder how much is too much when using profane language in your writing. You might want to address a certain taboo head-on, with the sole purpose of challenging your readers, to try and make them think differently. (If this is you, kudos!)

In my course, I am going to discuss just two of these taboos – sex and swearing – and how to use them effectively in writing. I hope to help writers feel more confident using more adult language when it is appropriate for their stories.

This is a course for all levels of writer, from complete beginners to more experienced scribes. The only thing I would ask is for you to leave your inhibitions at the door – you can collect them on the way out!

[WARNING: contains discussions of a sexual nature, as well as profane language.]

Elizabeth Hurst

Jo Fenton

Jo Fenton

Write Your Novel the Snowflake Way

Are you somewhere between a plotter and a pantser but haven’t quite found the method that works for you? Have you tried doing detailed outlines or pantsing and got frustrated? Would you like to tighten up on your plotting technique and intersperse plot development with character development?

The course discusses plotting a novel, starting with the single sentence elevator pitch, building up through a 3-disaster structure to a synopsis, then expanding to a scene-by-scene summary. There are 10 steps, and from the 3rd, the author starts working on character, looking from a ‘goals, ambitions and values perspective’ at each character in the story, and then building through stages to a full character bible for each one.

There will be exercises throughout each session to enable you to start plotting your novel the Snowflake Way, so please come armed with pen and paper.

Zana Frood

Writers and Conversations: Your Lines in Their Hands

Do you ever find that once the writing is finished, you then encounter difficulty in communicating exactly how you feel and what you wish for your work, as you roll hopefully towards publication? More than once I have read or heard tales of writers being railroaded into what their agents, publishers want, and ultimately not what the writer wants. Ever had any experience of this?

We will explore what helps and what hinders conversations and creativity. There will be plenty of time for writing, reflection, and discussion. The course will have a certain fluidity, due to its nature and format, but will include:

1. A short ‘Arriving’ Exercise to allow us to disengage, briefly, from the busy-ness of the Swanwick day and be fully present.

2. Two Writing Exercises. I have ideas about what these may be, but they could change on the day depending on who and what is in the room, but may be:

  • What do you feel are the essential components of a successful conversation and how would you prepare for it?

  • How would/do you respond to a rejection?


Two Reflective Practices 

  • What would a successful outcome or a rejection feel like for you? Does your Inner Critic ever get in the way, and if so, when, and how?

  • Opportunities to discuss in twos or threes and share back to the group.

Zana Frood

Bea Hutchings


Performance Poetry & HOW TO TRAIN YOUR EYEBROWS!

A fun filled, interactive session to get your word juices flowing and introduce you to the
amazing world of Performance Poetry. (Also known as Spoken Word). We will explore
avenues that take you from the initial wriggling worm of an idea to a stage performance.
We’ll look at what performance poetry is (including the use of eyebrows) and how it is
introduced, constructed, and performed. Themes, character, titles, genres, wordplay,
expression, tempo and acting can all be used in Poetry Performance. And not forgetting the
wonderful confabulation of storytelling it involves.

SESSION ONE: Writing a performance poem. Where do you start?
It starts with an idea. One which we can find everywhere, in our everyday lives, memories,
photos, overheard conversations (those are the best ones) sound, imagery—the list is
endless. We’ll be looking at Kennings, mind maps, unfamiliar words, sundial word searches,
and the Hadron Poetry Collider to help us construct the bones of a short poem.

SESSION TWO: The Performance. What does it involve?
We’ll look at stepping up to the mic and how the poem is introduced. Emphasis on tone of
voice and change of speed while you are performing. Voice projection. Showing different
characters whilst performing and the use of props.

Maggie Cobbett

Making Money Writing Fillers

Whether you’re a new writer unsure where to begin or an old hand going through a dry patch, success with fillers might provide just the confidence boost you need. By mining your own or others’ experiences, you’ll find a wealth of material just waiting to be exploited. Written in as few words as possible, your observations on current issues, anecdotes, useful tips, jokes, and so on can provide an extra income stream for very little effort and next to no expense.

The trick lies in knowing where, when, and how to submit them, as well as avoiding being sued and keeping on the right side of editors and the taxman.

Maggie Cobbett

Neil Zoladkiewicz

Neil Zoladkiewicz

The Art of Suggestion in Scriptwriting

Have you ever toiled over the start of a script? This interactive course may be able to help you. The course will explore the importance of Exposition in plays and the Set Up in screenwriting. It will also outline some basic rules for writing a script’s opening moments and give some ideas for shaping and focusing those moments. Examples of different kinds of possible openings will also be given.

By examining extracts from screenplays and plays, the course will also explore how situations and relationships can be set up in the opening moments of a play or screenplay, through dialogue. Current theatre practice will be referred to throughout the course.

Be prepared to be suggestive!

Lizzie Chantree

The Road to Self-Publishing Success

Each session will cover different aspects of self-publishing, from the decision to self-publish, through to some choices that could help you find a wider readership for your writing.

Topics covered include

  • Why self-publish? 10 benefits of being your own boss.

  • Self-publishing challenges.

  • Handling rejection.

  • Finding your readership.

  • Book marketing—it doesn’t have to be scary.

  • Networking for writers.

There will be an opportunity for questions.

Lizzie Chantree

Julian Unthank

Julian Unthank

Use Film and TV Structure to Write Better Novels

Two fast-paced and fun sessions: using examples from film, television, short film, and commercials, including a screening of his Oscar shortlisted short film LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT starring John Hurt, Julian will examine the notion of the Mono-Myth, a single unifying story structure that, once learned, can be used to help shape and create 'blockbuster’ style novels ripe for adaptation onto the big and small screen.

Maddy Proom

Improving your Writing with Tabletop Roleplay Games

So, you’ve probably heard of Dungeon and Dragons. Maybe you’ve even heard of Vampire the Masquerade, Pathfinder, Call of Cthulhu (the game not the book), or any other tabletop roleplay game (or TTRPGs). But it can be a very intimidating world to get into.

If you’re curious about what a TTRPG is and how it can help make you a better writer (especially if you’re working on a fantasy, sci-fi, or adventure), why not come along? So, beware of mimics, look out for the Camarilla, and cross your fingers for a nat 20.

Maddy Proom

Sumaira Wilson and Nikki East

Sumaira Wilson and Nikki East

Pitch to The Publisher

This course will cover the importance of pitching to the right publisher for you. One that publishes the genre you write. Also, how to prepare your synopsis, cover letter, blurb, and elevator pitch.

There will also be an opportunity in the second part of the course for some delegates to pitch their books to SpellBound Books Ltd with a view to securing a publishing contract.

Tim Taylor

Rhyme and Rhythm in Poetry

The course aims to give participants an understanding of what rhyme can do and how to make good use of it in their own poetry.


It will help them to

  • Appreciate what rhyme, in combination with rhythm, can offer the poet.

  • Understand the different types of rhymes and near-rhymes, and their potential uses in both formal and free poetry.

  • Be aware of the potential pitfalls associated with rhyming and how to avoid them.

The course will begin with an introduction to rhyme—what it is; its history; current uses of and attitudes to rhyme. Using examples, the session will explore what rhyme can do for poetry: its relationship with rhythm, especially in metered poetry; its effect on the sound of a poem; its role in emphasis and making key lines memorable, and the opportunities it offers for humor.

The course will look at pitfalls of rhyming—common mistakes that can make rhyming poetry sound clumsy, monotonous, or predictable. It will examine ways to avoid those pitfalls and make sure rhyming serves the content and sound of the poem, rather than the other way round.

We will also explore the potential roles of rhyme and near-rhyme in free poetry. It will end with a short Q&A.

Tim Taylor

Karin Bachmann

Karin Bachmann

No Fluffy Bunnies: Writing for Children

Today’s market for children’s books is as varied as never before. What’s more, several tens of thousands of children’s books are published every year. What does it take to break into that market? How do you plan and write for children? What’s the difference in writing for Middle Grade and Young Adult compared to writing for grown-ups (if any)? What ups and downs of today’s technology do we have to face?

One thing is certain: for the 8+ market, you’ll have to pull more out of your top hat than a fluffy bunny.

In the first part of the course, we’ll look at

  • Possible topics for your story (Are there any no-goes?)

  • The old adage: know your market

  • How to address difficult subjects

  • The difference between Middle Grade and Young Adult

  • Technology and how it affects your plot

In the second part, we’ll get our pens/laptops out

  • Structure your story in accordance with your chosen age group

  • The right tone and style

  • Concentration span or how to keep them hooked

  • The importance of research – and what not to use

  • Fluffy bunnies in the 21st century

The course will be interspersed with exercises, writing activities, and time to discuss and ask questions.

Note for possible participants: If you haven’t read any children’s books lately, it might be a good idea to read a book (published no earlier than in the last ten years) in your chosen age group in preparation for this course.

Esther Chilton

Competitions from the Judge’s Viewpoint

There’s something special about short story competitions. Doing well in one changes how you think about your writing. It gives it authority, whether you’re shortlisted or the winner.

As well as winning competitions, I have also had the pleasure of being a short story judge, so over this two-part course I’m going to give you an insight into what’s required to elevate an entry onto the shortlist and beyond.

In the first session, we’ll look at elements you need to consider before you start writing your story, including reading previous winning entries and judges’ reports if they’re available. The importance of reading the rules is another crucial factor before you put pen to paper. Then we’ll move on to ideas for your story and how thinking outside the box and offering the judge something a bit different can make your story stand out.

In the second session, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty. We’ll look at how crucial it is to get the opening spot on and how characters are everything in a story, so the judge needs to connect with them. The impact of dialogue on your story will also be covered and the role tension and obstacles play. Even if your tale dazzles all the way through, the ending can bring everything crashing down, so it’s vital you get it right. And do mistakes matter? Will the judge mind if your dialogue punctuation isn’t quite right, or you’ve missed a few words out?

It’s something we’ll explore further.

There will be writing exercises to try out and an opportunity to share your work with other course participants, as well as a Q&A session.

Esther Chilton

Val Penny

Val Penny

A Twist in the Tale

Let’s take time to study the popular format of the Twist in the Tale for short stories, flash fiction but also important in the structure of crime fiction. Why is a plot twist important?

How is it created? Learn how to write a satisfying and compelling plot twist to raise the excitement in your fiction. There will be the opportunity to share your work and ask questions.

Calvin Niles

Through the Sensory Gates to Better Storytelling

Take a guided journey through your sensory gates and open a whole new world of expression. In these transformative sessions, you will be invited to listen deeply to the stories that surround us everywhere we go. Your experiences aren’t just in the mind; they come through your senses. Further explore your sensory landscape to enliven your narrative, awaken your creativity and enrich your work in new ways.

For sighted people, vision often takes precedence. Let us embark on a deliberate journey into our other senses and identify the channels where fresh stories are waiting to be found. Turn your discoveries into new words or edit your existing work and share your narrative developments within the group.

The sessions will be novel for many, fun for most and engaging for all. Leave feeling reinvigorated and ready to channel new energy into your projects.

Calvin Niles

Della Galton

Della Galton

Writing Memoirs – Make Yours Marvelous

How to Write the Story of Your Life!

Session One

  • Memoir or autobiography, what’s the difference?

  • Pick your audience: personal satisfaction, posterity, or publication.

Session Two

  • Planning your memoir – where do I start?

  • Publishing your memoir – ways to do this?

This is an interactive course, workshop-based. Be prepared to have fun.


Suitable for beginners or more experienced writers.

Graham Bartlett

Research in Fiction Writing

Graham has over ten years’ experience in supporting writers to achieve authenticity within their crime drama. They offer two adages: ‘You don’t have to get it all right, but don’t get it wrong’ and ‘Every word, every paragraph, every scene, and every chapter must earn its place on the page.’ In this course, they will teach you how to access the best experts, ask the right questions, challenge the real world, and apply your newfound knowledge to strengthen your story and characters.

Research in Fiction Writing will not be crime-specific, although some examples will come from that genre. By the end of Session 1, you will understand the principles of procedural advice, what makes good drama (and what doesn’t), models of research used by well-known authors, how to turn research into drama, how to source experts, what to expect from them, how to treat them, how to use sensitivity advisors, and how not to be overwhelmed.

In Session 2, the instructor will illustrate how they have advised others in their writing, using real examples of their work and their needs prior to the session, and how their finished article looked. They will show through different formats how they used psychologists to sharpen and more authentically depict their protagonist’s arc and the impact of her trauma.

Both sessions are interactive and supportive, and questions will be taken throughout.

Graham Bartlett

Allison Symes

Allison Symes

Editing as an Author, Editing as a Competition Judge

Allison Symes offers a comprehensive look at editing from the perspective of an author, editor, and competition judge – roles she embodies. Throughout the course, she shares invaluable tips on how writers can maximize their collaboration with editors. Allison delves into what competition judges seek, including their ability to discern the quality of editing in a piece. Drawing from her own experience of being edited by a professional book doctor, Allison provides insights into preparing manuscripts for critical feedback. She explores the multifaceted role of editors, emphasizing that their focus extends beyond mere typos.

Participants gain insight into the three main types of editing – structural, copyediting, and proofreading – along with Allison's own journey of honing her writing and editorial skills through collaboration with a professional book doctor. She also sheds light on her publisher's three-stage editing process and offers practical tips for writers to enhance their manuscripts and effectively collaborate with editors. The session includes examples of writing before and after effective editing, along with editing exercises for participants to practice. Allison concludes with a Q&A session, addressing common questions from both writers and editors, and providing guidance on editing in the realm of online writing.

Andrew Roberts

Writing for Roleplaying Games

In this workshop, you'll embark on an adventure of your own as you learn the art of crafting a short adventure for a tabletop roleplaying game. The interactive nature of roleplaying games adds an exciting twist to storytelling, requiring flexibility and adaptability from the Gamesmaster to keep the narrative flowing smoothly despite the unpredictable actions of the players.

During the first session, we'll delve into the structure of a well-crafted adventure using a six-part model. You'll learn how to effectively scale encounters to suit the number of players involved, explore the concept of branching paths to accommodate player choices, and consider external factors such as licensing requirements.

In the second session, we'll put theory into practice as you embark on the creative journey of building your own adventure. You'll have the opportunity to develop an adventure in a setting of your choice, applying the principles learned in the first session. This hands-on experience will allow you to refine your storytelling skills and create an engaging and immersive experience for your players.

By the end of the workshop, you'll be equipped with the knowledge and tools to confidently write and run your own tabletop roleplaying game adventures, ready to guide your players through epic quests and thrilling challenges. So gather your party and prepare for an adventure like no other!

Andy Roberts
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