Deborah Swift - the Lakeland author opening her Warton school house home to writers

PUBLISHED: 23:39 02 September 2012 | UPDATED: 21:49 20 February 2013

Deborah writes her novels in the summerhouse, formely the girls’ toilets

Deborah writes her novels in the summerhouse, formely the girls’ toilets

Deborah Swift is using an old village school house to help others hone their writing skills. Amanda Griffiths reports

For nearly a century, it was a place where young minds were educated. Now, the basic skill of writing is once again being nurtured at Archbishop School House in Warton, just north of Carnforth.

Historical novelist Deborah Swift and her husband bought the property some years after it was turned into a private house. Shes also made the decision to open it up for a number of writing workshops for other writers to develop their craft.

The school house was converted into a private home when it stopped being used as a school in 1991, says Deborah, whose second novel, The Guilded Lily, is released later this month.

The lady who owned it also happened to be a storyteller, although she worked in schools, so I have carried on the tradition. I thought it would be nice to keep teaching creative writing here. Being a writer myself, its natural for me to offer writing workshops.

When writing her novels, Deborah often works in the summerhouse, which used to be the girls toilet block.

Theres already one writing group meeting at the schoolhouse but Deborah also plans to open her home up for writing weekends specifically for people with an interest in her genre, historical fiction. The first is planned for October 5-7 with the idea being people can come and stay here as a writing retreat.

I enjoy teaching and writing is an area I feel I have some skills to pass on, says Deborah. Whether its to help people struggling to start their novels or those that just need help with approaching publishers or editing their work, the weekends aim to give people whatever help they need.

Shes certainly got the qualifications to do so. Her first novel, The Ladys Slipper, has five star reviews on Amazon and has sold in the UK and America. The first few chapters saw her being shortlisted for a national award while completing a creative writing course at Lancaster University.

The sequel, The Guilded Lily, published by Pan Macmillan and due out on September 13, follows two characters from the previous book, Sadie and Ella.

They flee troubles in their fictional home of Netherbarrow, a Westmorland village with echoes of Troutbeck, to seek their fortunes in London.

After getting involved in a seedy underworld and with disreputable characters hot on their heels, the girls realise they are better off back in Westmorland.

Living in Warton which dates back to the Domesday Book does help when youre a historical writer, says Deborah, a former set designer from Manchester. I knew I would find a lot of history here for future books and I do find that writing seems to be a part of the building.

Learning is in the fabric of this building wherever you look theres evidence of its previous life as a school. Weve got the original fire bell, the beams and original light fittings, even past pictures of classes here which reminds us of all the children who came through the doors.

I find Ive always been interested in writing about my locality. I would love to write something about the history of the school during the war they had 161 children on the roll. We struggle to find room for a few writers!

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