Ways to get Started
The Residential Course
About Residential Courses
Whether you are a writer with some experience of writing and are looking for an intensive creative experience or an absolute beginner, residential writing courses can provide a thoroughly unique and very exciting opportunity to develop and hone your skills with the help and guidance of professional writers. Residential courses are live-in, take place over a brief but highly concentrated period of time (usually around six days or less) and offer the opportunity for study, group discussion and creative work, as well as one to one tutorials with writers. Courses have the built-in bonus of allowing you time away from day to day commitments and distractions, a chance to concentrate the energies and focus on the creative process. Residential courses are extremely popular and there are a number of programmes available and from a variety of sources.
Tŷ Newydd, which is part of Literature Wales, is the National Writers’ Centre for Wales, situated in Llanystumdwy near Cricieth in North Wales, and is the chief provider of creative writing courses in Wales. The former residence of Lloyd George, Tŷ Newydd is set in idyllic countryside around Snowdonia National Park and since 1990 has offered creative writing residential courses in both English and Welsh which are available throughout the year. The house dates back to the sixteenth century and has recently undergone a major refurbishment. Tŷ Newydd boasts a national and international reputation, with an enviable roll call of past and present tutors from both within Wales and beyond, including present National Poet for Wales Gillian Clarke, Robert Minhinnick, Gwyneth Lewis, Owen Sheers and Niall Griffiths, alongside the likes of Carol Ann Duffy, Lynne Truss and Celia Rees.
Types of Course on Offer at Tŷ Newydd
Courses at Tŷ Newydd typically take place over a six day period and offer the chance to live and work with distinguished practitioners in your chosen genre(s). Courses on offer cover a wide variety of specialisms, including Poetry, Fiction, Creative Non-Fiction, Storytelling and Scriptwriting. Some may straddle two or more genres at once, giving you an excellent chance to experiment between disciplines.
While many courses will be suitable regardless of the stage you are at in your writing, some courses are specifically tailored for those starting out and can provide a very useful introduction to key skills and help to build up your confidence, while others are aimed at more experienced writers and offer a ‘master class’ type experience to extend existing skills still further. Due to the enhanced level of ability expected and the greater competition for places, this latter type of course will probably require you to send in a small sample of your work before you are offered a place. But for all other courses, places are offered on a strictly first come first serve basis. You do not need any academic qualifications or any publication record whatsoever to enrol on a course.
What to expect
Key to the residential experience at Tŷ Newydd is communal living. As such, accommodation is modest but comfortable. The centre offers a mix of both single and double rooms. Students are expected to prepare their own breakfasts and lunches, and to take it in turn in groups to prepare the evening meal for the other students and tutors. Students on a typical course often come from a very different range of life experiences and ages – united by a shared passion for writing.
The precise format of a course will depend upon the two writers leading your group. But you can generally expect an invigorating mix of writing exercises, lively group discussion, a look at what established writers now are doing in your field, one to one tutorials, quiet time to write and the opportunity to workshop material you’ve developed on the course within a supportive and non-intimidating environment. Alongside the chance to work with leading practitioners, you’ll also enjoy a reading from a guest writer during the stay which is included in the cost of the course.
Costs and Bursaries
Courses at Tŷ Newydd remain very popular, and many students regularly return. As a result, it is advisable to enrol as soon as possible for the course of your choice to avoid disappointment as demand for places is often high.
As at 2008, the typical cost of a course at Tŷ Newydd is £480 for a single room and £420 for a shared room. This price includes both accommodation, meals, the course itself and a reading by a guest writer. You are expected to make your own travel arrangements to and from the centre, and these costs are not included in the course fees.
Literature Wales is unable to provide funding for courses at Tŷ Newydd.
However, if you are unwaged, are on unwaged, on a low income, are a student or are otherwise unable to cover the full cost of a course, you can apply for a bursary from the centre to help you cover up to half the fees. You can apply for a bursary either online or by post. Larger amounts may be granted by special application only, and you should contact the centre for full details on how to apply. Priority for financial support is given to those who have never attended a course at Tŷ Newydd before, and bursary funds are limited so the award of a bursary cannot be guaranteed. Tŷ Newydd also offers the opportunity to pay by installments. Again, contact the centre for details.
In addition to the six day course, Tŷ Newydd also offers ‘taster’ courses, running over a three day period. The current cost of these courses is £245 for a single room.
Discounts are also frequently offered if you book on two or more courses at Tŷ Newydd.
Further information on Tŷ Newydd, the course programme for the year and advice on how to obtain financial support can be found by visiting the Tŷ Newydd website.
Outside of Wales, the Arvon Foundation has been running residential courses for 40 years and currently has four centres based in England and Scotland. Courses are run along the same lines as Tŷ Newydd, with centres based in peaceful countryside, and offer the opportunity to live and work with professional writers of distinction in their field, combining group discussion, creative projects, one to one tutorials and workshopping. Arvon runs courses from March to November across the genres of Poetry, Fiction, Scriptwriting and Playwriting.
Costs and bursaries
As at 2008, the cost of an Arvon course is £550 for a single room or £499 for a shared room. A grant of £300 may be available if you are unable to meet the full costs of a course. Priority for financial support is given to those who have never attended a course before.
Further information on Arvon, the course programme for the year and financial support available can be found by visiting the Arvon Foundation website.
In addition to Tŷ Newydd, there are a number of other opportunities to enjoy the residential creative writing experience in Wales.
Some LEAs, universities and Institutes of Higher Education run summer schools, both residential and day attendance, with creative writing course options. Details on these can be found by contacting their Lifelong Learning Units.
The Ceridwen Centre, situated in the Teifi Valley in West Wales, offers a number of creative writing courses to develop your technique and stimulate your creativity during the year. The Bleddfa Centre in Powys offers residential courses specifically tailored to storytellers.
In addition, many other ad hoc residential courses are privately run throughout the year in Wales, such as those organized by Cinnamon Press or the Writers’ Holiday, specialising in a variety of genres and approaches and tailored towards creative and professional development.
Literature Wales cannot provide financial support towards the cost of attending these courses.
Current opportunities to study on privately run residential writing courses can also be found under Opportunities for Writers page. Please note that Literature Wales accepts no liability for the content or quality of privately run courses advertised on its website.
Your local library or arts centre may also advertise details of private residential courses, so check out their noticeboard.