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2024 Summer School Programme

Specialist Courses

Our selection of specialist courses forms the backbone of the Swanwick programme. 

Choose from four specialist courses running 9:30-10:30 Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday. You can even pick and mix. 

These in-depth courses provide the opportunity for you to learn more about your chosen subject and develop your skills over the four sessions.

Simon Hall

Simon Hall

The Secrets Of Storytelling

Storytelling is the very soul of writing.

Whether it’s romance, crime, science fiction, history, or horror, to be a successful author, you have to know how to tell a story. And not just tell it but tell it well. Which requires twists and turns, ups and downs, characters and complications, ecstasy and angst, places, and plots.

In this course, we’ll cover all those and more to equip you with everything you need to become a master of the beautiful art of story writing. 

Alison Chisholm

Poetry: Going The Extra Mile

Anyone with a rudimentary interest in poetry can write a competent poem. Anyone who studies the craft can write a good poem. But by going the extra mile, we can write a brilliant poem and turn the reader experience into something amazing.


We will concentrate on the elements of surprise and enrichment, bringing a fresh eye to our writing while expanding and extending our skills, and consider a new form during each session.

SESSION 1: Surprise!
We'll begin with a brief overview of how the various ingredients of a poem can be enhanced by going the extra mile. The value of surprising the reader will be considered, and we'll think about how it can be achieved. 

SESSION 2: Stirring the Words
With the vast and nuanced vocabulary of the English language, we can push our wording choices in every direction. We'll look at not just the pick and mix of vocabulary, but at how we can find better imagery, eye-catching metaphors and other memorable examples of figurative language.

SESSION 3: Saints and Sinners
We'll start by thinking about the poet's good and bad habits, then discuss the development and fine-tuning of our writing, focussing on aspects of the poem that aren't working and putting them right. We'll look at spotting and correcting these 'sinners' but also at how to identify the good bits — the 'saints'—and make them even better. 

SESSION 4: So How Far's a Mile?
For a poet, fantasy and imagination are more important than the laws of physics. Our extra mile, then, may be leapt or limped over whatever distance the poem demands. We'll discuss moving forward with our work without losing sight of the joy, practising new techniques, and keeping the Muse fresh throughout the journey. 

Allison Chisholme

Vivien Brown

Vivien Brown

From Conception to Completion

This course is suitable for anyone who loves short stories and wants to start writing them or develop and improve existing skills. It will guide you towards creating believable characters, realistic settings, and plots that work, and show you how to weave them together into a readable (and hopefully saleable) story.


There will be opportunities to explore published examples, partake in group exercises and discussions, develop your own ideas, and share short extracts of your work.

Topics will include:

  • What is a short story? Word counts, time spans, genres, and what makes its creation very different from that of a novel

  • The five elements that make storytelling work

  • Attention-grabbing openings

  • Creating characters that readers care about

  • Point of view, and why it matters

  • Choosing your setting, from Caribbean beach to kitchen sink, and making it feel real

  • Dialogue, and the jobs it has to do

  • The problems your characters will face

  • The obstacles that get in their way, and how they deal with and overcome them

  • Emotional impact—writing about love, sorrow, hope, fear, and everything in between

  • Writing satisfying (but not necessarily happy) endings

  • Exploring seasonal, topical and unusual themes and angles to help your story stand out from the crowd

  • Finding your readers—researching and submitting to various markets and competitions

Jacky Gramosi Collins

Exploring the Genre of Crime Fiction

Academic Charlotte Beyer observes that the demand for crime fiction is higher than ever. This genre is continually reinventing itself with vigor and ingenuity, as can be seen in contemporary crime fiction (2021: 1).

This specialist course will focus on the crime fiction genre. Over the span of 4 sessions, we will examine the different aspects of the most popular subgenres in crime writing, assessing the various elements deemed essential. For example, in the police procedural, the psychological thriller, cosy crime, and the spy thriller. We will also explore more recent genre trends such as environmental crime writing and crime fiction focusing on social justice perspectives.

Our aim will be to consider the roots of crime fiction and examine how the genre is undergoing a transformation in the last 20 years. Our findings will then suggest how we might move forward with our writing to construct texts for the 21st century, even when writing historical crime. We will also look at attitudes, audiences, and festivals regarding crime fiction and consider why it is felt to be the most popular genre at present.

The format of our time together will take the form of a mini-lecture, and we will then engage in some practical exercises, more typical of a seminar or workshop. There will be ample time for questions. From each session, you will take away some practical suggestions and some thought-provoking questions to wrangle with, in and beyond our sessions. Whether you are an established crime author or someone who is contemplating taking their writing in this direction, these sessions are for you.

Jacky Gramosi Collins
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