In the depths of a cold North Welsh January, replete with storms, fourteen writers and three tutors met at Ty'n y coed in two consecutive groups of seven students to celebrate a year of intensive mentoring and to look at how far the work had come over that year.
The mentoring scheme is now beginning its fourth cohort and has become a vital part of our author development at Cinnamon Press. To date, around 70% of participants have gone on to publication, some with Cinnamon, others finding small or medium presses or even, in the case of one novel series, a three-book deal with a press in Scotland.
It's not only about publication, of course. The writers on the mentoring scheme write because they have to; they write for the joy of it; they write because they are creative, inventive people and it's a joy to work with manuscripts that result.
We meet at the end of the process to rejoice and look forward. The spin-offs are a few precious days making new connections with other writers and taking part in workshops to stimulate words; a few days of eating well, walking to beautiful places (including treks to a mediaeval chapel up a steep and muddy path in rain), and taking time away from the world.
For Cinnamon, the residential signals a crop of new titles to slot into the forward list while we continue supporting other manuscripts on their journeys. It's always a joy to meet mentoring students, some of whom we've only known via email, and to take stock of how much development has taken place in a short year. It's a stimulating and productive time for everyone, and it's a tribute to the writers that very quickly a small community forms, one that is intellectually challenging, but also safe and supportive.
One of our forthcoming authors, Lizzie Fincham, wrote a response poem to the place, a taste of a superb collection to come:
Suddenly on that last morning
with no warning at all
January sun turned the nine windows
of that empty farmhouse high on the hill
into gold foil.Those who glanced up
at just that moment
from work in kitchens in other farms
were startled into memory.
The man walking across neighbouring fields with his dogs
the knotted stories of how it was before
or how it might have been.