Well I'm back from my first, and probably only, writing retreat this year.
It couldn't have come at a better or worse time!
I really was ready for a break and was so looking forward to meeting up with people who wanted to talk about reading, writing and, as it turns out, dragonflies, space exploration and football but then Liverpool FC went and got into the Champions League final and I had to travel back on Saturday night to watch the match before returning for breakfast at the retreat on Sunday.
That's enough said about the football but, on the plus side, I was forced to finally drive on the motorway and I did it four times in three days.
Anyone who knows me will appreciate what a big achievement that was. Whoop!
The retreat was held at Northern College at Wentworth Castle and Gardens, Barnsley. and was organised by a member of the National Association of Writers' Groups (a big shout out to Chris). Whilst I am a member of this lovely charitable organisation (www.nawg.co.uk) I am not part of a writing group and so I'm an 'associate' member of NAWG and I turn up on my own. It is such a friendly group, though, it is not a problem. I have only met many of the people a couple of times but we all keep in touch online and I definitely consider them friends. I arrived at lunchtime on Friday and headed to my room to get settled and work on my novel for a couple of hours before meeting up for a pub dinner in the evening.
On Saturday, professional writer and all-round good-guy, Marvin Close, ran a short workshop designed to get our creative juices going. It's all very relaxed and some people headed to the library rather than the workshop, others attended to their own work whilst sitting in the workshop and the rest of us did Marvin's exercises (writing - not physical!) which were perfectly pitched to get us thinking, and in a good frame of mind to then work on our own material in the afternoon. Marvin was available after lunch for one-to-one sessions, providing advice and assistance with whatever writing-related issue we wanted to discuss with him. He is a great person to be around - always encouraging, enthusiastic and ready with good, experienced advice, I wish I could have him on speed-dial for whenever the doubts hit me.
During Saturday afternoon I managed a walk with my lovely writing gal-pal, Emma. We found a sheep which looked like a camel, vibrant, heady azaleas and rhododendrons and a gnarled old tree right out of A Game of Thrones (well, in my head, anyway). We didn't make it up to the castle but it was a beautiful walk nonetheless. I can't believe that the venue is now closed to the public. Truly sad and I hope it can be reopened soon. It is still in immaculate condition and my kids used to love running up to the castle and then mucking about in the playground. This weekend we had it all to ourselves.
After the walk I managed a couple of hours of writing before a quick dinner and a drive home.
The Sunday morning workshop was taken by Leonora Rustamova and it was a hoot. Like Marvin she guided us deftly through two writing exercises which got us all into our grooves. There was no pressure, plentiful humour and encouragement, and we all surprised ourselves with what we produced. The vibe in the room was wonderfully conducive to creativity and I was so glad that I attended. I had nearly missed the workshop to spend more time on my own projects but I definitely made the right decision. Everyone shared their work and we all listened and clapped and cheered each other on. By the end of Sunday's workshop we really were a little band of writers sharing a special bond, even if just for that moment.
All in all it was a productive, restorative and positive experience and at a great price (£157 including all workshops and meals on Saturday and Sunday).
Shame about the football.
I love most types of fiction - crime, mystery, fantasy. Oh, and historical fiction of course and middle-grade books and, well, you get the picture.
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