Monday, 28 November 2011

In retreat

The barn occupied by my werewolf

I've just spent two and a half days shut in a room with a werewolf.

Dinner time
 Let's start this again. I've just spent a lovely, peaceful, regenerative four days at Folly Farm near Bath with a clutch of other members of the SAS, some of whom are also ABBA bloggers. It was called a 'Winter Warmer' and was planned and organised by the wonderful Liz Kessler and Elen Caldecott to break up the long, bleak interval between the established retreats (or jamborees) the SAS has in the spring and summer. So I was there with a wimpy vampire, a shoal of mermaids and a lot of stroppy teens, as well as my werewolf.

Hot chocolate in the forest

Lots of activities and workshops were planned, but I'm afraid I can't give any details of those as I was a bit of a boring recluse and locked myself away to work for the whole time. Well, I did venture out for the many and large meals, and the evenings of book-related jollity.

Lucy Coates and Miriam Moss 

Why do writers need to go away? And why do writers, who work best in solitude, like to get together for a week?

Cindy Jeffries and Mary Hoffman
Well, going somewhere where someone else does all the cooking, where there are no bints to look after (or anyone else), where you don't have to do any cleaning or tidying, or answering the phone, or justifying anything you do, frees up a lot of writing time. I was doing some bits on existing projects and starting something new. I wrote 6,500 words of the new thing (the werewolf thing) in two and a half days. I wouldn't have got that much done at home.

Fungi in the forest
And that was as well as going to a fantastic workshop on plotting by Sally Nicholls and Liz Kessler, having hot chocolate in the woods, failing to see any badgers on a badger-viewing trip, eating five meals a day, stargazing with Lucy Coates and Liz Kessler, gossiping with lots of people, helping Mary Hoffman edit a video, and spending all evening drinking/talking/playing/sharing our work.

Fun guy (Tim Collins) in the forest
But it's more than a chance to do some solid writing. It's fantastic to spend time with other people who understand the groans and grumbles - and thrills - of the writer's life. People whose eyes don't glaze over at the mention of agents and contracts and royalty rates, good or bad editors, poor choices of cover, incompetent proofreaders, and so on. It's wonderful to share work and rediscover the huge range that is covered by the umbrella 'children's books', and be astonished at how we all write such very different things.

Pencils? No, there are no pictures of
us working
 Perhaps best of all, at least for me, was the chance to refuel - to have the wonderful, kind, caring support of so many other writers and to feel creativity seeping back into my spirit. It was a brilliant, validating, refreshing, energizing, endorsing and inspiring few days. I just wished I could stay there forever.

A house of sticks, waiting for a big,
bad (were)wolf to come along
 And as for that werewolf? I got to know him, found out what it was like to feel the frosty leaf mold under your pads as you walk through the forest in winter, and how when you are in wolf form you don't think about your wife at all. Until you have to stay a wolf, and then your man-mind invades your wolf-mind and you live in despair. And I saw that being a werewolf is the same as being a betrayed lover, or being a writer (or maybe both at the same time), and that somehow this werewolf's story needs telling in a way that makes that clear. So I just had to be in the forest...


catdownunder said...

Am jealous of everything except the werewolf. (We cats are cautious around werewolves but the rest sounds marvellous!(

Susan Price said...

So glad to hear the Winter Warmer was a success! Especially as I hope to take a band of reivers (or possibly futuristic pirates) down there some day.

Sue Purkiss said...

Sounds wonderful - and lovely pictures, too.

Keren David said...

Oh so jealous...sounds and looks wonderful.

Emma Barnes said...

just wish I'd been there...sounds (and looks) wonderful.

Liz Kessler said...

Lovely write-up Anne. It was a very special few days, and Elen and I were both absolutely thrilled by how well it went - which is down to the people who came and took part.

We're both fired up and planning to do another one next year, and look forward to seeing new and old faces there, so do keep a look out for information coming in the new year, and keep a space in your diaries free next November!

adele said...

Sounds fantastic! And thanks for all the lovely pictures too.

Celia Rees said...

Fangs for that!

Ann Evans said...

Sounds brill, only wish I'd been there. Lovely to see all the photos too - and loved your opening line!

Nicola Morgan said...

I'd love to do this! Maybe next year.

Celia.... *frowns*

Catherine Johnson said...

Lucky all of you! xc

Linda Strachan said...

Sounds wonderful! Well done for organising it Liz and Elen, wish I could have been there!

Ms Thuy trang said...

Festival Hue 2012 - travel to vietnam - tour to vietnam - tour ghep mien trung