I recently returned, exhausted but happy, from one of Alex Keegan's face-to-face writing courses. For three days we wrote, and discussed craft and all sorts of other things, into the early hours. There is nothing nine to five about these courses. Alex is ready to work until the last person says enough. Generous with his energy and writing expertise, he never instructs then sits back. He writes alongside the group, usually with enviable ease but sometimes, reassuringly, he struggles like anyone else.
I was apprehensive beforehand, thought I wouldn't be good enough, but needn't have worried. The ethos is one of respect for anyone who's serious about improving, whatever their current level. I got lucky when Alex used one of my stories to illustrate the editing process. His blue pen slashed through words, sentences, paragraphs - highlighting my particular weaknesses, and showing us all how we can strengthen our writing.
There's flexibility in what's looked at (Openings, Dialogue, etc) but also in how much writing is done. One evening I was too tired, my mind a blank, so while the others wrote I sat on a sofa in the corner, browsing through books of photographs.
The spaces within the Chapel have been created to allow withdrawal from the group whilst still being able to listen in to any interesting chat. There's the large table, great for laptop users or anyone who prefers sitting upright to lounging, and then there are several comfy seating areas with low coffee tables. The Chapel is well-supplied with all mod-cons, beds, computers and showers, a great place for any writing course, retreat or holiday. Just across the road is the very reasonably-priced café in which we ate most of our meals. Down the road is the sea and behind the village are hills and mountains, including Cader Idris.
I left on Sunday afternoon having learned a huge amount about writing, and sorry to have to say goodbye to new friends. I will definitely be back, just as soon as I've done enough writing to deserve another great weekend away.
Margot Taylor, Somerset