Claire King


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are yet, but am told we’ll be a mixed group of writers from poets, to academic writers, novelists published and unpublished…a playwright too.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?

18 Responses

  1. Sounds so wonderful. Wish I could be there.

    I have never been to writing anythings, either. Do hope that I can do this soon.

    Enjoy yourself at the retreat, and can’t wait to read anything you want to tell us about your experience there.

  2. Martha says:

    That sounds very luxurious — enjoy! It’ll be a wee while before I go anywhere without my horde (I think if I went somewhere quiet now, I’d sleep…) I thrive on my home routine but will probably try a retreat ‘at some point’. Do let us all know how you get on, and we look forward to reading the final product/s.

  3. The course/retreat sounds wonderful. If it wasn’t so far away and it wasn’t the weekend my duaghter gets married, then I’d seriously consider it.

    I attended an Arvon week long residential course – Ali Smith was one of the tutors and it was magic – I came away believing I was a writer.

    Advice – shed your inhibitions and make the most of it. Enjoy !

  4. Ooh, yes! I went on an Arvon Foundation course for popular fiction writers tutored by Mavis Cheek and Paul Sussman.

    It was inspirational. Be careful, after living in a stimulating and bonding environment, you can feel a little sad flying home…

  5. Oh how exciting! It sounds wonderful.

    I treated myself – very extravagantly – to two weeks on my own by the sea last year. It took me a couple of days to adjust to being so isolated with such a big writing project ahead of me, but once I did, it was wonderful.

    Although I didn’t have the opportunity to talk to other writers or take part in any workshops, I think the effect of knowing that this time – be it two weeks or two days – is set aside for you and your writing is very powerful.


  6. dora dee says:

    I’m sure it will be wonderful and of course wish I could be there. I’ve attended a couple of “creative circles” aimed at shedding one’s writing inhibitions. Belief in one’s self is paramount to any work of art. I haven’t participated in a true writing workshop” in a long time. One day I hope I’ll graduate to attending one!

  7. Rufus Evison says:

    Have fun. I am not sure I could do it but it sounds like it should really suit you. Let us know what comes out of it?

  8. Catherine says:

    Enjoy! I went to my first writers’ conference in Matera in southern Italy last year after my novel was accepted, and finally let myself feel I was a writer. I still found it very daunting hearing ladies announce they had had novels on the NYTimes bestseller lists and there was one distinguished Booker nominee, but it was useful and inspiring and set in the most beautiful place! ciao cat

  9. Oh that sounds like absolute bliss! When I get my first advance, I know what I’ll be spending it on! 😀

    Enjoy! x

  10. Rebecca Emin says:

    Oh wow, that sounds absolutely wonderful. I will look forward to hearing all about it.

  11. Frances Kay says:

    Yesss! This is a supremely good thing you are doing. Vanessa was at West Cork Literary Festival a few years ago and ran a great flash fiction competition. Then she won second prize in the Fish short story competition. That same year I did a novel workshop with Carlo Gébler, as a result of which I made a FIRM PUBLIC COMMITMENT to keep sending it out till it got published. Which it did, eventually. So have the best, most inspirational, congenial time!

    • claire says:

      Oh brilliant, thanks for the encouragement, Frances. I’m getting very excited now, only a couple of weeks to go. Even the train journey fills me with anticipation! x

  12. […] 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 […]

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