Feature article

Do Your Own Thing

How six writers organised their own writing retreat - written by Linda Hooper

Wednesday 21 October 2015 ~ Romance Matters

Linda Hooper, Jenny Haddon, Lesley Cookman, Melanie Hilton, Catherine Jones and Janet Gover

A few years ago, at an RNA conference (drink having been taken), Janet Gover started to plan a writers’ weekend. ‘50 Shades’ had just taken off and getting a few like-minded souls together to ‘have a go’ at erotica seemed like a good idea. The erotic workshop never materialised but the idea of a writers get together remained.

We needed a suitable venue, not too expensive, where we would all be comfortable and write without interruption. Janet and I tossed around a few ideas until we hit upon a hotel on the stunningly dramatic North Devon Coast. It was reasonably priced, with a little-used residents’ lounge and the scenery awe-inspiring.

Energized to take this further, Janet and I contacted a few friends who might be interested, and earlier this year six intrepid writers – Lesley Cookman, Jenny Haddon, Melanie Hilton and Catherine Jones, Janet and myself – convened at the Hartland Quay Hotel for our Writers Retreat!

The original idea had morphed into a Monday to Friday event. We met for breakfast each morning and agreed with the hotel manager to keep out of our rooms between 9am and 10am so the cleaners could do their work undisturbed.
After that we had the rooms to ourselves.

In reality, most of us gravitated towards the lounge to write for at least some part of the day, where the unwritten rule was write, write, write. Knowing how authors like to chat, we were extremely disciplined about this! Thankfully it was the quiet season, so we did not inconvenience any other guests who might have wanted to avail themselves of board games or the piano.

We all worked until about seven o’clock each evening, when we met for pre-dinner drinks before heading to the bar for an evening meal. We had of course warned the hotel of our propensity for red wine, but as regular conference-goers will know, management always underestimate the number of bottles required. In this case our favourite tipple was exhausted by the second day, but thankfully alternatives were available, so we never had to go teetotal.

The number of writers proved to be important. Too many and we would not be able to talk together. Six was just right.

I have to say a word, too for the three writers’ partners who were in attendance. They made themselves scarce
during the day, supported us in the evenings and even acted as chauffeurs when necessary.

We met up on arrival to discuss just what we wanted from the event, and held a final get-together after breakfast on the Friday to assess our progress, agreeing the four days had been an outstanding success. We had all worked hard and came away feeling energised by the company and support of other writers.

Not only that, we have decided to put together an anthology of short stories inspired by our retreat.

Would we do it again? You bet. The only negative was the hotel is a little inaccessible but we have overcome that and found another brilliant venue for next year. Bring it on!

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It's a fact

The movie adaptation of EM Hull's romantic novel The Sheik, published in 1919, established Rudolph Valentino as the top male actor of his time.