Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Wednesday 26 June 2013

Writers’ Retreat or Busman’s Holiday?

The husband and I have been talking about running a writers’ retreat for a while now.

We have our reasons. My reasons are not necessarily the same as his.

I like staying in really groovy buildings, mostly those owned by the Landmark Trust, and lots of them are too big for us to justify visiting them a deux, as it were. So, if we were to choose one of those for a writers’ retreat, how cool would that be? I also like a lot of the writers I know, but don’t get to socialise with them as much as I’d like, because... well... because we’re all busy people.

We do socialise, mostly by having people down to stay, but that generally means they have to travel a fair distance, and there’s only so much room at the house. We could throw a bigger party if we just all stayed together, couldn’t we? And, we could do it more centrally, too.

You might be beginning to wonder why on Earth we’d bother having a writers’ retreat at all. Why not just have a big old weekend party and invite whoever?

Well, there are reasons for that, too.

We don’t do down time. We don’t really stop or rest. We have to justify everything, and, you know what? We actually like to work, and we love the stimulus of new environments in which to work. We also like talking about work, and sharing what we’re doing, and we love the company of other writers. 

There is no greater buzz than sitting in a room full of almost-like minds, throwing ideas around, riffing off one another. It’s a thrill... And writers are talkers, in my experience. When we party, we do it with our mouths and our minds. We don’t turn up the music and cavort about the place, we sit on our backsides with glasses in our hands, gesturing and talking non-stop. 

It was date night last night, and it ended with the husband and me sitting side-by-side with our laptops open, looking at possible venues for our first ever writers’ retreat to take place some time at the end of November or the beginning of December. It looks as if we might actually do it. We’ve got a beautiful building in mind, and a long list of guests. We’ve got some ideas about how we’d like to structure the weekend, what it’ll cost, and what we might all expect from the experience, including a fair amount of mucking in with the self-catering element.

I’ll be very interested to see who takes us up on our invitation, and it’ll be even more interesting to see which writers have what expectations of a retreat. I’ve never been on one, but I’ve never attended a writers’ group or sat in a creative writing class, either, so what the hell do I know? 

I have been thinking about this a good deal, and I think I know what I’d be interested in doing, and why, and I think I know the sort of writers I’d be interested in spending some time with, both professionally and socially.

I suspect this is going be quite a learning curve, though, for the husband and me, and for any writer who has the bottle to join us on our proposed adventure. I do hope we get enough interest to actually have a crack at this. 

I’ll keep you posted.


  1. Hell yes. We've done retreats every year for several years now. They're amazing. The creative atmosphere and camaraderie are a real shot in the arm (and this is me saying it - Mister Introvert Poster Child).

  2. Get enough interest? Tish and pish! I'd be interested! ;-)

  3. I've done creative writing classes, found them a bit of a mixed bag (as you'd expect). The best one I ever did was one paid for by the lunatic millionaire who owned a Magazine I was editing. I arrived deeply sceptical, having only been on shit ones before.

    The teacher came in to set up early; we were doing it in the art gallery owned by the lunatic millionaire (which was where he based his magazine, of course) and as a result, I could see her set up. She was a tiny woman, with enormous hair, she began gently laying out a huge selection of crystals and setting up incense to burn.

    Obviously, at this point I expected it to be dreadful, but once I actually sat down to do it, she was full of incredibly useful advice and the exercises she set us - mostly free writing around interesting, stimulating images and topics. The group was very good as well, but it benefited hugely from having someone great in charge.

    That said, have never been on a retreat. Have heard good things about them though....

  4. That sounds awesome! I've tried sitting through creative writing classes (in college) and seminars (hosted by English departments at universities) and I found them to be quite painful, at best.

    I'd much rather a Kris Kringle approach on a writers' workshop, to be honest. It saves we of little faith in ourselves from speaking in public and ye of professional aptitude from having to listen to our amateurish work :D

    Unless of course, It's only open to published writers, in which case I shall work frenetically* and hope for the best!

  5. my family would always like to go on holidays because it is very enjoyable;