(photo credit to The Writing Retreat)
I wasn’t going to attend another writing retreat this year, but Kath Morgan and Jane Moss enticed me by the subject matter. The hook was ‘The Narrative Structure’. I wasn’t disappointed.
In truth, I benefited long before I turned down the rough track to Rosemerryn. Having it in my diary made me focus. I wanted to get the most out of the week, so I chipped away at my WIP, and arrived with what I thought was a fairly fully formed project…
I enjoyed going back to Rosemerryn – the house is inviting, warm and comfortable. Thankfully I avoided the wisteria-climbing cat by being housed in the cottage in the grounds with a fellow-writer. It was a glorious space to spend time in, both with Alan, and alone with my WIP.
There were workshops every morning, working through different elements of narrative structure. We were encouraged to develop our own projects alongside the workshops, and Kath and Jane both provided excellent support when the mists descended over our brains. As with the last retreat, the attendees were free to attend or work on their own projects as they wished to. The content of the workshops was perfect for me, at my stage of my writing career, and my WIP. I attended every one.
Mid-week we had a session with a visiting tutor, novelist Emily Barr. Emily was generous with her own story as a writer, her process, and her experiences in being published. Her workshop was also well-timed. We were asked to leave our own projects to one side and ‘play’ with the craft of writing. Excuse the cliché , but it was a creative breath of fresh air. I think I have another piece of flash fiction in progress to go out for competition as a result. Possibly two. A Brucie bonus.
The afternoons were free to use as we wished. There were one-to-ones available with Kath and Jane (one 50 minute slot with each tutor for each of the eight attendees). I worked harder than I did last time, and only broke for the coast on Wednesday afternoon, when I was desperate to have a decent walk and feel the sea air on my face. I picked a wild day, so was not disappointed.
I’m pleased that Kath and Jane took on the feedback about the food – there was less food, and less cream, and no one went hungry. There were some complex dietary requirements (including mine), which were superbly managed. The menus were enticing, varied and the combination of chefs delivered. There is something wonderful about preparing and sharing food together, and I appreciated this as much as in March.
My highlights from the week:
- The one-to-ones. Simply golden time.
- The cumulative question throughout the week – ‘how does your project fit in?’
- The dedicated studio, separate from the house. It gave a place to ‘go to work’ to.
- Learning from others, and sharing my work with others, particularly the ‘wallpaper’ exercise on the four-part structure of a novel. Five of us were prepared to offer up our work. The feedback was invaluable.
My lowlights from the week:
- Hardly anything, but it rained so much that I never checked the chains were still on my inner critic in the Fogou. He must be, as he’s not reared his head in a while.
It was an up-and-down experience, as I wrestled with the whole of the project. I know this is part of the work. I felt frustrated at times, lost at others, but always engaged and motivated, and more importantly, supported. I thought my WIP was ‘fairly fully formed’, but I realised that it wasn’t. The story shifted in the week, as I found the motivation of my protagonist (thanks to Jane), and the key events that will shape ‘the whole’ better (thanks to Kath). Since the retreat, I’ve revived a character who I’d killed off, because she’ll serve the story better. I am half-afraid of what else will emerge.
If last time I left walking taller as a writer, this time I have far greater confidence in my work. I think I have a great story, I only hope I can do it justice.