A Writer’s Manifesto

Hawkwood College

Back at the beginning of June, at the start of that glorious golden summer, I took a trip to a magical place called Hawkwood College, near Stroud in the beautiful Cotswold countryside. A magical place not just for the fresh water spring that rises beneath the tree beside the labyrinth in its wild grounds. A magical place not just for the creative courses and wonderful fresh food served there. But forever a magical place because it was where I met a host of Dark Angels and spent time in their company, drinking in words.

Dark Angels is a series of creative writing courses for business writers who seek something deeper and more authentic than corporate ‘how to increase your audience and win sales’ type writing. Writers who want to tap into the power of creative writing to connect.

My first Dark Angels course gave me the confidence to say ‘I am a writer’. Subsequent time in this select company has enriched, encouraged and improved my writing both personally and professionally in more ways than I can measure.

Group of people talkingMy time at Hawkwood was no different. Inspired by exercises set by our tutors, I wrote alone and in collaboration with wonderful poet Susannah Hart.

I read, I listened, I enjoyed long conversations with fellow writers. Some of us took a pilgrimage to Slad, walking in the footsteps and drinking in the pub of writer Laurie Lee.

We were treated to moonlit scenes from a Midsummer Night’s Dream. And we sang together – around the piano in the evening, and on the grass outside the house. A choir of angels summoning sonnets of thanks to our surroundings and what we encountered there.

Each Dark Angels course is different. What each writer takes away is individual and personal. But I’d like to share something I wrote at Hawkwood. Its form comes from a exercise devised by writer Richard Pelletier which resonated strongly with many of the group.

There is much I could say about the writing process. But one thing I have learned from Dark Angels is to make room for the audience. As a reader, what you bring to the experience is just as important as what the writer presents.

Sonnet with sunscreen

  1. I wish to say true things in a voice that is true. 2. Nowhere worth going is easy. The path climbs but falls short of the summit. There are brambles. Scratches leave scars. 3. History is written by the winners. There’s always another side to the story. Ask the monsters. 4. Reading is the closest thing we have to time travel. Step back into another life. Imagine forwards into the future. Read. 5. No one is every truly gone as long as they are remembered with love. 6. Nothing bad can happen while you listen to your favourite music. 7. Music, drama, comedy, dance. See it live. There’s an emotional intensity that you can never really capture. It’s called the audience. 8. I am an introvert. Some of my happiest moments have been in crowds. 9. Be yourself. The people who belong in your life will find you. 10. Restless minds do well to be restful for a while, but not too long. Restless bodies do not. 11. Steal. Steal from everywhere. Books, lyrics, conversations, shopping lists. Forget what you have stolen. 12. There are books you will never read. There are stories that will never be told. 13. Writing is easy. Just crack open your breast bone and reach in for your heart. 14. The way out is the way in.

There are a few more Dark Angels courses coming up this year, in England, Ireland, Scotland, America and Spain. And there will be a book, currently being crowdfunded on Unbound.

If you’re interested in communication that’s creative, engaging and human and want to develop your writing skills in a fun, challenging and supportive environment, I can’t recommend them enough.

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