Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Made-Up Words: win a week at Arvon

Despite the proliferation of arts retreats, writing courses, workshops and literary events in the UK, Arvon's programme of residential courses remains the best for keen writers of all levels, in all disciplines. Arvon are peerless in their course design, the diversity of the teachers and students, their ability to move with the times and the special combination of rigour, peacefulness, camaraderie and privacy (apart from the obligatory nutter in each group, but that's life) during the week-long courses. I've taught for Arvon alongside some of the UK's most gifted writers, including Hugh Thompson, Susan Elderkin, Hephzibah Anderson and Travis Elborough. I can say - as all teachers do - that I learn much more from the students, who are from all walks of life and are both richly talented as writers and richly experienced as people, than they possibly could from me. Surely every writer, whether they are new or established, published or just starting out, writing for the page or stage or screen, wishes for a week in a beautiful country retreat with books and walks on hand, time and fresh air, a break from the Internet and other distractions, guidance when needed and privacy when wanted.

Now English PEN and Arvon have joined together to offer a chance to win a place on an Arvon creative writing week. The competition's called Made-Up Words and the prize is a full place on an Arvon course at one of the three English Arvon centres, plus travel to the Arvon house (the equivalent of a 2nd train ticket within the UK - lovely!)

  • All you need to do is write a poem (maximum 14 lines) or a piece of flash fiction (maximum 100 words) with a title that is a made-up word. 
  • Submit your entry in the body of an email (no attachments) to by midnight 29th March 2013. Any entries that come in at any time on 30th March 2013 onwards will not be submitted.
  • You may only submit one entry and you may not alter or amend the entry once it’s been sent. 
  • Writer Femi Martin is the judge of the competition. Femi is a writer and performer who is best known for her flash fiction. She was appointed the Dickens 2012 Young Writer in Residence and has written some inspiring words for you to help you come up with your entry.
  • Made-Up Words is part of Europolyglot, an English PEN festival of events, workshops, night classes and roundtables that celebrates multilingualism and active ageing in the UK, in partnership with the European Commission Representation in the United Kingdom.
  • See right here for further terms and conditions.

In an additional note which I strongly suspect was written by a very gifted poet, PEN friend and colleague of mine, there is some guidance on your made up words:
All words, in a way, are made up, and we want you to feel as free as possible, but you might also be interested in exploring words that people make up and use in their families and friendships (think of Paul Muldoon’s poem Quoof, his family’s strange word for a hot water bottle) or nonsense words (think of Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky) or perhaps combinations from words of other languages, or onomatopoeic words, or words that are somewhere between sound and sense, or… 
I love those final three dots.