26 Fruits


The Dark Angels effect

Of course Dark Angels is about writing. It’s not necessarily about helping people to write books but it’s always about giving people greater confidence in their own ability and desire to write. Once you have that, the writing of books might follow but we’re always pleased when we help people to write better emails, proposals, communications of every kind.

We often talk about the transforming effect of a Dark Angels experience and, to be honest, we say that a little diffidently. It seems such a big claim to make. But we wouldn’t say it if we didn’t have examples and evidence, and some of the best examples are when people are moved to write their own books.

For example, take the Dark Angels course held at Hawkwood in the Cotswolds in January this year. The course was held over a weekend in that marvellous country house, it was run by myself and Neil Baker, and we devised new exercises inspired by my novel The Good Messenger.

Neil and I thought the course went well. All the participants were fully engaged and they all produced some great writing (including the experiment of writing passages at different times of day to create a collective piece that we recorded – it’s on the Dark Angels website). As generally happens there was a flurry of immediate enthusiasm and communication in the days afterwards and then things settled to the normal silence as people return to their everyday lives.

But silence doesn’t mean that nothing is happening. Yesterday evening Elisabeth Hobbs, one of the participants, sent the group the following email that she has kindly allowed me to reproduce without any editing.

Dear all

Some time has passed since our Dark Angels course, but I wanted to share some news with you.

Dark Angels at Hawkwood was a crucial moment for me. After a couple of years of great personal trials, the course was my New Year’s resolution to find my feet again. And boy, did it do that!

I came back from Hawkwood inspired, and not long after, I wrote an actual book. I may have mentioned to some of you about my experiences as the mother of a transgender child. It occurred to me that this might be of interest generally, and the course unlocked something in me. In the space of eight weeks I wrote and wrote, and then one happy serendipity after another led it straight to the desk of a major London literary agent.

Today I signed a formal agreement with that agent, and in a few weeks’ time my manuscript, The Road To My Daughter, is off to the Frankfurt Book Fair, where my agent is confidently expecting international rights to be agreed.

It is a quite stunning turn of events – and Dark Angels was the start of the journey. I just wanted to share the moment with everyone, as it really was life-changing for me.

Now we await more news with some excitement. This week, though (congratulations to Johnny Lyons and Claire Bodanis) two more Dark Angels alumni have told me about books they have written or are writing for publication next year. It’s the Dark Angels effect and we’re always happy to hear news from those who have experienced such awe-inspiring results from our courses.

7 Responses

  1. Fantastic news. Congratulations to you all!

  2. Johnny Lyons says:

    Dear John,

    Thanks for sharing the wonderful story of Elisabeth Hobb’s new book The Road to My Daughter. I wish Elisabeth and indeed Claire the very best with their books.

    I liked what you said about the transformative effect of Dark Angels which rings entirely true. Having been fortunate enough to experience three Dark Angels events, I have observed such an effect before my own eyes and it’s rather magical to behold. You get the sense that people start thinking and feeling and imagining and, above all, writing things in ways they never did before and perhaps never thought possible.

    I myself felt I couldn’t write before I attended my first Dark Angels experience in 2016. Even though I worked in communications I dreaded writing which is a bit bizarre but there you go. Then the DA elixir worked its magic on me over three amazing days in Cornwall and I’ve never looked back.

    I am glad to say that my first book is about to be published by Bloomsbury next January. It’s a study of the ideas of my intellectual hero, a Russian thinker by the name of Isaiah Berlin. And now for some shameless self-promotion: you can purchase a copy in advance of its publication on Amazon


  3. Rowena says:

    Wonderful – congratulations Elisabeth!

  4. Jon Waring says:

    WOW! That is such great news 🙂

  5. Jan Dekker says:

    So exciting – well done Elisabeth and Johnny. And good luck to Claire too.

  6. Paul Murphy says:


    Congrats to Elisabeth. I know exactly how she feels. In September 11 I attended the Aracena Dark Angels School with much trepidation. Without knowing it at the time I wrote the first piece of my first ( to date) book on that course. 18 months later I completed an MA Professional Writing upon which I started a book which appeared in June 2014. The book was about the writer Laurie Lee ( who pops up often at Dark Angels gatherings) and was based around me retracing Lee’s steps across Spain as told in his classic As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning book published in 1971. As we all know writers can do magical things so I was able to weave my Aracena initiation into writing into my journey across Spain that took place 2 years later, thus immortalising in print John and fellow course participants.
    You can read more about my journey as a writer on my blog http://www.thelittlesummerofthequince.wordpress.com


  7. Jamie Jauncey says:

    Huge congratulations to all! I’ve always believed that Dark Angels encourages people to step across a line from which it’s impossible to go back; a step which may even lead to publication as this wonderful crop of news demonstrates.

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