Life in the Zoom Room
Fri 2 October 2020 / / Written by David John Lloyd

David John Lloyd was one of the ten writers who joined Literature Wales for our Virtual Fiction Reboot Course led by Cynan Jones and Vanessa Gebbie in September 2020. He shares his experience as a participant on one of Tŷ Newydd’s first ever virtual courses. 

The last week has been one of the best experiences of my writing life and it was spent in a Zoom room with nine other writers and two talented tutors, Cynan Jones and Vanessa Gebbie.

My last time at Tŷ Newydd was four years ago. After workshops and tutorials we would gather in the library as authors read aloud or we shared some of our own work over a glass or two of wine. We enjoyed meals cooked with loving care by Tony and took walks down to the sea and into Cricieth.

Knowing I had been away far too long I booked an August residential retreat back in the Spring. Then COVID blew in like an unwelcome guest and Tŷ Newydd had to do some nimble foot work and turn its courses into Zoom events.

I transferred onto the Virtual Fiction Reboot course and hoped that it would kick start my novel in progress again which had got stuck, badly stuck, indeed mired.

During lockdown I had read and read picking up new fiction and revisiting works from another time such as the novels and stories of Elizabeth Bowen and Patrick Hamilton. I am writing about the war and the 1940s so their themes and settings have always resonated with me.

While I can own up to reading a lot, my notebook contained more blank pages than I care to remember.

The course came at the right time for me. I put aside my reservations about a week on Zoom and it more than exceeded my expectations.

It was well planned down to the last detail. The Tŷ Newydd team provided a comprehensive pack. Cynan and Vanessa had prepared an excellent reading list of fiction in advance.

There were ten of us all up for a fresh start or committed to renewal of our writing.

Being on camera means you don’t get the side lines conversations, the chats over coffee, the discussions over meals but by day two we were all working together and learning more and more about the craft. The course was so well run we all found a new way of working together.

The week was led superbly by Cynan and Vanessa. It was structured in a way that meant we gained great insights and guidance. We also got words down on the page or on laptops through a series of exercises and jumping off points. We also wrote independently. Both tutors were hugely generous with their time. Everyone had four one to ones and received detailed feedback on their writing.

The course gave me a road map for my stuck novel alongside lots of inspiration. The guidance from the tutors also gave me a direction of travel.

We all learnt a lot and some of us are now setting up a virtual writing group so that we can continue to write, share our work and get feedback from each other. The next stage of the journey has begun thanks to Tŷ Newydd and Cynan Jones and Vanessa Gebbie.