Sunday, 23 January 2022

The Weekend that Almost Wasn't

It was just my luck to volunteer to organise one of the annual Scattered Authors get togethers just as a pandemic broke out.

None of us thought the Folly Farm Winter Warmer 2022 would go ahead, even while we were planning it. The 2021 retreat was postponed twice and then cancelled, and when omicron hit, I was checking my emails every morning, braced for the cancellation notice.

But the notice never came and on the 15th January, a small group gathered. There were just ten of us, and two extras who dropped in on the Saturday. We were tired, jaded, hungry for social interaction that wasn't via a screen or with the people we lived with. We were missing several regular attendees, including Kit Berry, who'd sadly died last year (we miss you, Kit.) But we'd made it.

Folly Farm has been lucky to survive the past year. Many other businesses had to close. We arrived to a log fire in the refurbished lounge, upgraded rooms and copious quantities of tea and cake. The food kept coming all weekend - vast amounts of it, catering for every possible combination of every possible diet. 

As always, workshops were led by volunteers and, as always, content was varied. From writing prompts to meditation, historical research to watercolour painting.

I was rather worried about the painting session, led by Rachel Ward, who generously donated her time and art materials. My memories of art classes in school consist mainly of being yelled at for not trying hard enough and ever after I labelled myself as 'not good at art'. But, reassured that ability was not a requirement, I took my seat next to Tracy Darnton (another self-confessed non-artist) and attempted to paint a tree.

You can tell it's a tree, right?

I actually found a strange satisfaction in doing something I knew I was bad at, and not even trying to do it well. I brought the rest of my paint kit home so I can have another go, so who knows, I may have found a new hobby.

As always I ended the weekend feeling sorry to go home, but eager to write, with a head full of ideas. There's something about being in the company of other writers, sharing highs and lows, working out plot problems together. A large number of our published books started life on a retreat. I went along this year not intending to do any writing and then, while we were talking about fairy tales, an idea stirred and I spent the rest of the weekend inflicting it on everyone. I think it may become my next story.

The great thing about the Folly Farm retreat (apart from the food, the friendship, the fresh air) is the relaxed nature of it. You don't have to go to all the workshops, or write every day. You can sit about and talk, go on walks, read, stay in bed, whatever you want. I always get a lot out of it. 

If you've ever thought about joining a Scattered Authors retreat, please do. We've already booked for next January - look out for details later this year.

(Thanks to Jo Franklin for the photo.)

See you all next time!

Claire Fayers



Anne Booth said...

I would definitely like to come next year!

Penny Dolan said...

Sounds so inspirational - and wonderfully relaxing too.

Kelly McKain said...

Thanks so much for your write up Claire - it was a wonderful weekend and your story is amazing! No inflicting going on LOL!