The Course

What’s in a Story?

Kickstart your writing winter in the inspirational landscape of North Yorkshire. Away from everyday distractions, you will be inspired to put pen to paper, (or finger to keyboard) in the company of fellow writers within the luxurious surroundings of The Castle House boutique B&B in the historic market town of Richmond. Your literary guide will be, Forward Prize nominee and Hawthornden Fellow, Mary-Jane Holmes.

Mary-Jane, Chief Editor of Fish Publishing, is running this luxury, full board, four-night writing workshop in the historical market town of Richmond in North Yorkshire from 28th November to 2nd December.

As the nights draw in and the weather turns wintry, what could be better than a creative break to engage the mind and fire up the imagination? This four-day workshop is perfect for those who have always wanted to write creatively and nev-er got round to it and for those emerging writers who wish to expand their knowledge of the craft and want some delicious, dedicated time to focus on their work-in-progress. The techniques and aspects of writing we will be looking at can be applied to all genres including the novel, memoir, short story, flash fiction, playwriting and narrative poetry.

Each day we will explore the substance of story. In the mornings there will be an in-depth study of technique through close reading, discussion and in-class writing exercises. In the afternoons there will be dedicated writing tasks associated with the day’s theme, and the opportunity for peer-critiquing and individual tuition all in the picturesque town of Richmond in beautiful North Yorkshire.

Day One: What’s a Story? 

We will look at the main elements needed to create a story and explore how to generate seed ideas and begin our own stories. We will also look at what makes a compelling opening and what keeps the reader reading.

Day Two: Whose story is this? 

Characterization and point of view. We will look at how to create memorable characters and discuss the advantages and disad-vantages of different points of view. We will also look at dialogue. Dialogue is never just about the talk but instead is a vehicle to bring us closer to the character and the central conflict. Some-times what isn’t said is more important than what is. We will look at how to produce layered, en-gaging dialogue.

Day Three: Shape and Structure and visualization.

We will explore the ins and outs of plot, the concept of setup and payoff and how to tie in begin-nings, middles and ends in a dramatically satisfying fashion. Fiction operates through the senses so we will also be discussing how to create a world of weight and emotion.

Day Four: Handling Time.

The last day will be spent looking at how to show time passing, how to slow time down and speed it up and how to handle emotion and how to COAP: Cut/order/add/polish.

Go on Treat Yourself!


About Your Tutor

A Forward Prize nominee and Hawthornden Fellow, Mary-Jane won the Live Canon Poetry Pam-phlet Prize 2020, Bath Novella-in-Flash Prize 2020, the Bridport Poetry prize, Mslexia Flash prize as well as the Bedford Poetry competition. She has also been shortlisted for the Beverley Inter-national Prize for Literature and longlisted for the UK National Poetry Prize. Mary-Jane’s poetry collection Heliotrope with Matches and Magnifying Glass is published by Pindrop Press. Her award-winning pamphlet Dihedral is published by Live Canon Press and her novella Don’t Tell the Bees, is published by Ad Hoc Fiction. Her Lockdown poem ‘Letter from Baldersdale’ joins 20 other poems in the National Poetry Archive on their 20th anniversary. Her collection of Flash Fic-tion 'Set a Crow to Catch a Crow will be published by V press in 2021. 

Since 2009 she has served as chief editor of Fish Publishing Ireland, an organisation committed to supporting emerging writers. She also is an editorial consultant at The Well Review, an interna-tional poetry journal based in Cork, Ireland.


The Castle House B&B

The Castle House is a beautifully restored 18th Century townhouse in Richmond, North York-shire, situated in the shadow of the famous 11th Century castle, overlooking the historic town square. A superb position from which to explore the ancient town. The Castle House B&B is a luxury boutique B&B offering 8 be-spoke en-suite rooms, featuring roll top baths, four poster beds, log fires, flat screen televisions, bathrobes and tea and coffee making facilities to make for a relaxing and comfortable stay. Free Wi-Fi is available in every room. 

Five nights full board Residential Course Prices:



Richmond Room : Single Room with en-suite (shower) £975
King bed rooms with slipper bath ensuite £925
Superior doubles with slipper bath ensuite £910
Standard doubles with either slipper bath or shower £890

Bookings on first come first served basis.

Dates :

28 Nov - to the 02 Dec

Arrivals between 4 and 7pm on the 28th November, and departure after breakfast on the 2nd December 

Please contact Nigel: for booking or ring 01748 823954 

For questions regarding the course, please contact Mary-Jane on


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