Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Writing Friends, Old and New - Elen Caldecott

This blog came about because a group of children's writers who were feeling isolated and remote (in the days before t'internets) formed a society. Members of that society later went on to invent An Awfully Big Blog Adventure. Later still (if this were a film, I'd do a montage), other members (including me!) established the Winter Warmer.
This is an annual retreat in which relaxation and creativity are the main focus. It takes place in the Somerset countryside amid hills and sheep and such. You have to be very careful on the drive in not to hit something cute and furry. And even more careful on the night-time drive out, on a desperate booze-run after the group has - literally - drunk the bar dry, (naming-no-names, but you-know-who-you-are!).

I set off to Somerset this year with a little trepidation. I was one of the organisers and heavy rain was threatening to make the event a wash-out. In the end, one dramatic night of gales brought out something of the Blitz spirit. And the muddy trousers after tramps in the hills were more of a badge of honour.

The studios we stayed in
The weekend is made up of optional talks and workshops; lots of good food, and quiet spaces to work. Though, if you'd like to spend the whole time in bed, re-reading all of Harry Potter, then no-one will mind.
Equally, you can attend all the talks. This year, I found them to be hugely entertaining, and even moving.
The focus on creativity means that no business talks are planned. There's nothing on the schedule about working with agents, or honing your pitch, or managing self-publishing. (By the way, I have nothing against such talks, they can be incredibly helpful and other Scattered Authors' conferences do include them). Instead, people shared tricky writing experiences; suggested ways to inject a bit more fun; shared tips on things that had worked for them. They were open, honest and frank in a way that felt like a stiff broom brushing out brain-webs.

I particularly enjoyed Liz Kessler's poi workshop. At the end of which, I was battered, bruised in some odd places, but with the new-found ability to twirl a ball on a string. Proper playtime.

Proper playtime

There appeared to be a bottomless vat of cake, which is terrible for the diet, but certainly made me feel snuggly and wintery.

In between workshops, there was enough free-time for me to work on a proposal I have for a play script. I wrote the lyrics to six songs, I wrote one long monologue and also collaged the main character's living room (is that actually work? It didn't feel like it, but it was ace).

I met up with what feel like old friends, made lots of new ones and came away enthused and refreshed.

I felt like a part of an extended family of very generous writers - thank you, all!

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Twitter: @elencaldecott 

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