Friday 14 October 2022

Getting Together - by - Lynne Benton

 Most writers spend a great deal of time on their own, in front of their computers/laptops/notebooks.  Even if surrounded by loving partners and/or boisterous children/demanding teenagers, they still need to spend a lot of time alone in their heads in order to write their books.

Kulikov, writer

And it’s for this very reason that it is so important for writers to be able to get together with other writers sometimes, others who are doing the same things, who understand the ups and downs of being a published author.  Some may be lucky enough to have a group of fellow-writers living close enough to meet regularly, while others may feel very isolated, with no other writers living in the same area.  Most of us are, truly, scattered authors.

On its website the Scattered Authors Society describes itself as “A network of children’s writers who share the highs and lows of publishing, along with quite a lot of cake”.  Membership is open to all traditionally published writers for young people.  It was started by fellow-author Anne Cassidy in the 1990s, though I didn't join till later when I was inspired by someone I met at a big writers’ conference.  At the time of the conference I’d had only three books published, and felt very much a newbie among all those confident and talented people, but my inspiring fellow-attendee, who has since become a real friend, persuaded me to join the Scattered Authors – and I have never regretted it!  At the time, she said, there were two opportunities for members to get together every year: one weekend conference (in Coventry at the time, later Peterborough, though that has now been dropped), and one four-day retreat at Charney Basset in Oxfordshire.  I tried the weekend one first, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and then the same friend said I would love the Charney retreat, so the following year I went to that one too.

Relaxing at Charney

She was right – it was an amazing, fulfilling time, meeting fellow-writers from all over the country, including Northern Ireland and Scotland, people I would never have had a chance to meet any other way.  Several of them have since also become good friends, with whom I can exchange emails and phone calls.  There is something about the combined creativity of a whole group of writers in a relaxed atmosphere that is second to none, and many fellow-attendees have gone on to write books that began, or were inspired, during one retreat and subsequently went on to be published.  Whenever I go to Charney, I come back fizzing with new ideas and inspiration – “filling the well”, if you like.  The retreat at Charney became so popular and oversubscribed that when the Coventry/Peterborough weekend stopped, another annual weekend “retreat” began in Folly Farm, in Somerset.  Charney is in the summer, while Folly Farm is in the winter, so Scattered Authors wishing to attend can choose which one suits them best.  In fact the word “retreat” is perhaps a misnomer, conjuring up (as it does) a group of people silently and solemnly communing with themselves and ignoring the world around them and everyone else.  The reality is very different.  There is plenty of chat and much laughter, as well as sessions (which can be useful, inspiring and/or hilarious) led by the members themselves which everyone can attend if they like, or maybe only the sessions that particularly appeal.  Alternatively some prefer to spend their time in their room working on their latest book and only joining everyone else for meals.  Either way, it’s a unique experience.

Somehow both these retreats managed to keep going all through Covid (with restrictions), missing only one year in 2020.  Now, however, with lockdowns over, leading to everyone catching up on all the trips they were unable to do for two years, and with the current financial problems facing us all, it appears that their days might be numbered if not enough people want to attend.  I feel it would be a terrible shame and a grave mistake if they were allowed to wither away and die.  Both Charney and Folly Farm are worth fighting for. 

Re the expense: it is interesting to note that other, big, writing retreats/conferences charge a great deal more than these Scattered Authors breaks, but as far as I can gather they are still going ahead as before, some even putting their prices up but still getting customers.  The Scattered Authors, of course, don’t have (and don’t want) that corporate structure, whereby there is always enough in the management pot to cover unexpected absences – we all pay for ourselves.

But it is so well worth it!  As I said at the start of this blog, writers need to get together occasionally – and long may they continue to do so!

Scattered Authors website:

My website:

Latest book (inspired by a session at Charney!)


1 comment:

Rowena House said...

I feel bad about never making either of the retreats. I'd love to talk to writers around a fire! But never feel I can justify the money. Mad, really. Will go and take a long hard look at Folly Farm. It would be fab to have it to look forward to.