Claire King

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Claire King Edited Choices (10 of 10)

Posts Tagged ‘Writing Retreats.’

A writing retreat with the whole family?

Posted on: June 26th, 2012 by Claire - 15 Comments

Our travelling companion  - Jung.

So, I’ve been working away from home a lot for the first six months of this year. It’s my job, it’s a good job, maybe one day it will give way to actual income from writing but for now that’s how it is.

Summer, though, is about spending lots of time with my family. That’s the payback. And summer is here and we are all very happy about that. We never go away on holiday, because summers here are very smashing, so we do things in the region instead: visit places, have day-trips, that kind of thing.

But…summer is also the time when I can really get into the zone with writing. And this year that means editing the manuscript of my second novel – Candice – which I want to have with my agent by autumn.

The Canal du Midi and a houseboat upon it feature prominently in this novel, and whilst I had done plenty of research I had not actually set foot on a houseboat in over 20 years. And never one in the south of France. I was missing something – the smells, the textures, the sounds, the sensations, the peculiarities that an author needs to know about if you are really to transport someone into that world.

So, somehow I had to combine my need to get myself away onto a canal boat for a couple of days (and be inspired and make notes) with my need to spend time with my family (and just having them in proximity while my husband babysits doesn’t count)…

I needed to organise a writing retreat with the whole family.

Cue the Magical Mystery Surprise Family Weekend Away.

List of things required:

  • Internet to find suitable boat owner willing to accommodate leggy, exuberant family of four.
  • Own chequebook and email account for secret booking of smashing weekend on the canal.
  • Teasing build up to surprise trip, including maddening hints and knowing smiles.
  • Something for everyone to do:
  • Claire – Pencil, Paper, 5 senses.
  • Husband – Camera.
  • Small daughters – pencils, paper, puzzle books, reading books, travel board games (draughts, chess, back-gammon, cards etc)

And off we go.

It was brilliant! We had an absolutely wonderful and relaxing weekend, taking the boat down the Midi and onto the étangs (salt-water lakes) of the Mediterranean where we moored in a little port for the night, and back again. We spent much more time with the children than we would on a normal weekend, and yet I got much more writing done too. Our hosts were friendly and laid on wonderful food and good conversation. We all came home inspired, zen and somehow exhausted. I declare a success!

What are you writing about now, and how do you fit in research with your other commitments?

Want to see our photo album?

5km an hour is fast enough. You have to imagine the cicadas and the smell of the pine.


Yes, I am writing.

Like mother, like daughter.

Fresh water on one side, salty water on the other!

Arriving at the étangs.

Moored in a port for the night, playing hangman and drinking aperitifs on deck.

15km of oyster beds on the étangs.

Nothing to see here.

Captain Jean-François allowing a 4 year old to take the wheel.

And the 6 year old!

(In fact, the forty-somethings also got to drive, but we’re not quite so picturesque)…

Thanks to the photographer!

Note: If you’ve come across these photos through a search and would like to use any of them, please ask us via the contact page. Thanks.

Note 2 (tiny plug): If you like the look of our region, come and stay. We run gîtes, excellent for writers wanting to retreat, discounts given to readers of this blog.

Room of One’s Own.

Posted on: September 20th, 2011 by Claire - 16 Comments

I’m just back from a two day writers’ retreat at Tilton House in Sussex. Having never done a writing course/retreat/anything before I blogged about having booked it…and now as promised, here are my thoughts on how it went:

The setting at Tilton House is sublime. Very spacious, clean and comfortable. Hammocks in the sunshine, crackling log fires and comfy sofas and many, many nooks and crannies perfect for writing in. Books everywhere. Healthy and delicious food morning, noon and night and a yurt at the bottom of the garden for yoga before breakfast. The location undeniably was a great foundation for our writing.

Vanessa Gebbie, who was running the weekend had put together an ambitious schedule of workshops, one-on-ones and individual writing time, as well as some opportunities to get out and about. During the two days we talked about where stories come from – the internal and external stimuli that prompt us to start writing. We tried some visualisations and other creative exercises to spark off ideas that really grabbed us. We also talked about the things that can block us from writing and how to get around them.

We also had two exceptional guests over the weekend. On Saturday evening Carole Hayman regaled us after dinner with tales of her writing life and advice on how to succeed (including how having a rasher of bacon festering down the side of your cooker is perfectly normal). And then on Sunday, Helen Garnons-Williams, editorial director at Bloomsbury (who also happens to be my editor) brought her passion and enthusiasm for great books, talking about the world of publishing, how literary agents fit in, how she sees e-books evolving and answering our questions.

What did I personally get out of it?

I was one of a diverse group of eleven women who had jumped at the opportunity to put our writing first for a change. We included playwrights, poets, creative non-fiction writers and novelists and some writers who were just starting off on their writing journey. The virtual writing community has been a life saver for me over the last couple of years, but it was truly lovely to meet people face to face and I’m sure I’ve made some friendships that will stick.

The workshops that Vanessa ran were great fun and very informative. I found that some of the exercises really clicked for me, and others less so. So I’ve learned something about my own creative processes and I have some new ideas, tips and tricks to keep things moving and, I think, bring some new life to my prose.

At the start of the retreat we talked about our objectives (mine were very vague, but involved writing a lot!) then afterwards we had a chat about how we had done versus those objectives. Perhaps I was expecting to write thousands and thousands of words on my novel over the weekend. What I actually came out with was a surprising piece of flash, a poem, the beginnings of a short story and some work on my novel…but not the work I’d been expecting to do.

I think the biggest benefit is yet to be seen. By actually allowing myself some down time, time to think, sleep, do some yoga, be inspired, try new things…the nourishment that that provided, along with the seeds of inspiration will see me in good stead for the writing I do over the next few months and I suspect will bear fruit when I’m least expecting it.

Thanks to Vanessa Gebbie for conceiving and running this weekend, from a very happy writer!

Time to Write – Fancy that?

Posted on: August 2nd, 2011 by Claire - 18 Comments

In September I am going on my first ever writing anything.

I’ve never been on a course, a retreat, or a workshop. Never been to a festival or a book show. Never been in a writing group or book club. But in September, finally, I am. Along with a small group of other women writers, I’ll be spending two days at Tilton House in Sussex, at a writing retreat led by Bloomsbury stable-mate Vanessa Gebbie, whose novel ‘The Coward’s Tale’ will be published this November.

Yes, this one is just for the ladies. A chance to retreat to the beautiful and peaceful surroundings and “leave behind those other roles women accumulate, just enjoy being a writer and find your own, personal “room to write”.

There is a big part of me that is saying how much of a huge luxury this is, me sloping off for a weekend on my own, just for me, all about writing. But another part says I deserve this, that what with all the years juggling three jobs and two children and one husband and writing in the cracks, a weekend away is a just reward. I can pay for it out of my novel advance, after all. And on top of all that I feel I need a boost to my own writing, I want to learn and develop, and I’ve not done that, except on my own, since school!

I’m not sure who the other participants are yet, but am told we’ll be a mixed group of writers from poets, to academic writers, novelists published and unpublished…a playwright too.

The two days includes six writing workshops geared to creativity, shedding worry and ‘roles’, character, voice and lots of flashing, as well as some one-on-one time with Vanessa. Sharing what you write there is entirely optional, the aim is to help you on your writing journey not embarrass anyone unnecessarily! There are also walks, yoga, time for chatting and plenty of time for your own writing. How perfect does that sound?

And if that’s not enough, Saturday night dinner has the award winning Carole Hayman as special guest and Sunday Lunch includes a Q&A with the lovely and talented Helen Garnons-Williams, Editorial Director at Bloomsbury, and indeed my (and Vanessa’s) editor. After lunch Helen will give a talk on the subject of literary agents, the world of publishing and what editorial directors are looking for.

If you can’t make this one, have you ever been on something similar? Do you have any tips to share about how to make the most of it?

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