• Picture:  Kristina Banholzer
“Last week I had the privilege to take part in the life writing course at Tŷ Newydd”
Tue 15 October 2019 / Written by Jo Blackshaw

Start writing, no matter what, the water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.

— Louis l’Amour


Life Writing at Tŷ Newydd Writing Centre, October 7-12, 2019 with Helen Jukes and Paul Kingsnorth.

Last week I had the privilege to take part in the life writing course at Tŷ Newydd. It was an incredibly valuable time for me and also an extremely interesting one with 16 fascinating individuals attending each with their own stories and different writing styles to bring to the table.

After our first taste of Tony’s delicious food on the Monday evening, we traipsed upstairs to the wonderfully inviting and cosy library.  We learnt that this building belonged to David Lloyd George and that Clough Williams Ellis had updated the original building.  In particular he had created a curved ceiling in the library that induced a strange and unsettling echo.   In the evening Helen and Paul first introduced themselves and explained how they saw the week developing.

Each day would often begin with a short free-writing exercise to stimulate the creative juices. Then a theme would be explored via some pertinent readings. Next it would be our turn go away and produce something before returning to the fabulous dining room with its old beams and huge table.  Here we would each read out what we’d produced and then receive feedback – always positive and constructive.  I would say that I got as much out of the  week from hearing other peoples readings and learning about their personal experiences and seeing their different interpretations of the task we’d been set, as I did from exploring my own.

The afternoons were spent working on our Friday evening piece – to be read out to the group as a celebration of the week. We also had an opportunity for a one-to-one session with each of the tutors. And there was the time to walk along (or swim?!) in the beautiful wooded river, the sea in the other
direction or the temptation of the ice-cream parlour in Criccieth.

Other evening activities included the treat of hearing Helen and Paul reading from their own work. On the Wednesday we were visited by Neil Ansell who read out from his books Deep country and The Last Wilderness.  Both these readings gave us an intimate view of nature through Neil’s eyes and also touched on his experience of diminishing hearing.  He answered questions about these books and gave us an insight into his relationship with the writing process.  Thursday evening we had off and a bunch of us made it down to the recently community-bought and now run pub.  Here we had some lively discussions, a short joke-telling session and an exploration of the words pompous and pomposity!

The week culminated in a fabulous evening of readings. Everyone had worked hard to create something that they were happy reading out and the result was a kaleidoscope of different stories and explorations, each unique, eloquent and interesting.

I’d like to wholeheartedly thank Helen and Paul for the energy and passion they brought to the week. They guided us skilfully through the exercises giving us many different ways of approaching our chosen subjects. The were always positive, supportive and encouraging and I have come away with bags of enthusiasm and renewed motivation for my own writing project. Thank you so much!