Tag Archives: Writers’ Retreat

Postbox Magazine Launch

2 May

Very excited to be reading at the launch of the first ever edition of Postbox Magazine. What’s more, it’s at the Scottish Poetry Library (don’t worry, I will be reading prose.) at 1pm on Saturday the 4th of May. Can’t wait to get my mitts on a copy, and delighted to be in the company of two other G2 Writers (Alan Macfarlane and Charlie Gracie), along with other great talents.

I am also just back from my annual writers’ retreat – this year we went south, to The Bakehouse in Gatehouse of Fleet – 8 of us read, wrote, slept, walked, ate and laughed. It gave me time to get some submissions off (still looking for a publisher for my short story collection) and to get my head back in gear for my novel. Putting what I’ve written into the right order, was a good start.

Big hooray also that one of my kids has now been discharged from their consultant’s care, while another has been well and at school for the longest period in 2 years. Phew.

Gatehouse of Fleet - Wickerman

Featured in the Wickerman – Gatehouse of Fleet

G2 Writers

G2 Writers (plus guest) enjoying the banter in Gatehouse of Fleet

Beautiful cherry blossom

Gatehouse of Fleet

Moniack Mhor

2 Mar

Where I’m going to be for the next few days – Moniack Mhor Writers’ Retreat.

Can’t wait – lots of reading, writing and fun with the G2 Writers’ Group.


#Moniack Mhor

#G2 Writers

#Writers’ Retreat

Writers’ Retreat – The Return Visit

2 Dec

Two years ago I took the long road up the A9 to the Writers’ Retreat at Moniack Mhor. In two days time I’m away there again. The Retreat is pretty much in the middle of nowhere and a city girl like me got a bit stir crazy after a few…hours, but I’m really looking forward to going again. I’m heading off with eight other writers (I think that was the final count) from the G2 Writers’ Group and we plan to do lots of writing during the day, and a little drinking at night.

The prospect of having 4 days with nothing to do other than read and write is really exciting, as my life hasn’t got any quieter, and my writing is still being squeezed into little spaces of time – very often in sports clubs’ cafes. It will be wonderful though to have a good chunk of time with my new novel and be able to really get my head around what I’m trying to achieve without also listening out to see if the washing machine has finished or answering the phone to yet another cold caller.

Before I go I need to pull the house into a little bit of shape so that the kids have clean clothes while I’m away. But also got to fit in another G2 meeting before we leave, along with reading about 6,000 words for it.

The view of snow capped mountains from Moniack Mhor, Invernesshire.

The view of snow capped mountains from Moniack Mhor, Invernesshire.

My messy monastic cell at Moniack Mhor.

My messy monastic cell at Moniack Mhor.

What works?

14 Feb

When I was at my writers’ retreat at Moniak Mhor I was taken by the fact that the journalists in the group just sit and write. It’s their job after all, so they seemed unaffected by the usual angst that surrounds the stereotypical writer. They had a story to tell and they had the discipline to sit down and tell it.

Today I was following a LinkedIn discussion about writer’s block. The question was Help, how do I get over it? so I thought I’d look at the problem here. While I’ve had spells of my life when I’ve not written much I don’t think I’ve ever had writer’s block. What I have had is a feeling that writing a novel is such a huge undertaking that it needs a very special day to be the right day to work on it. But what I’ve realised is that the only way to find that special day is to make it yourself. One of the journalists said (I think quoting someone else), ‘you’ve just got to keep typing until it turns into writing.’ So with that in mind I make my novel writing days special by typing. So what do I type – all those half ideas scribbled in notebooks and on pieces of paper, that once they become a Word document take on a better shape. That while they are being typed the ignite ideas in other parts of my brain, and take a more coherent form.

I type things that I’ve started for competitions and submissions, I type blogs and Good Reads reviews. I make writing my work, but also my play, and somehow, hopefully the big tasks get little nibbles taken out of them in amongst all this typing. And gradually the little nibbles turn into bigger chunks and the joy of writing comes back so that it’s not a task to be tackled, but a joy to be experienced.

I’m currently re-drafting pieces I’d scribbled on Reading and Writing for a potential publication for World Book Night which one of my fellow G2 writers is compiling, so I’d better get on.

If you’ve any tips to share on Writer’s Block that would be great.

Days 2/3 – Moniak Mhor

24 Nov

Evening 2

Two more sets of arrivals bringing our total to 13. One of the guys I’ve never met before and one of the girls I’ve met only once, but it’s good to mix things up a bit. They arrived just as we were eating another great meal – having a cook is fantastic and I would thoroughly recommend that anyone going away in a group investigates the possibility.

Five o’clock has been officially designated wine o’clock but I’m saving myself until dinner time. It’s not that I’m particularly abstemious, but I’ve found recently that if I start too early I just fall asleep by nine o’clock (which isn’t much fun). As with all large groups the conversations have had to splinter off rather than us all having one discussion, but it’s all good fun and good humoured.

We had a bit of a reading session which I kicked off last night, but one of the girls likes candles so I read just by the light of my laptop. If I’d been sober I might have chosen different pieces to read, but I got through two flash fiction pieces without incident, although the second one had an action which I think was invisible in the dark.

Got to bed at a reasonable-ish hour i.e. half twelve rather than half two, and up bright and breezy today.

Day 3

Had a good morning and knocked off the end of Chapter One of my new novel which I’m feeling reasonably happy with and did a bit of re-formatting of my next e-book 1000 Sleepless Nights (although it still requires quite a bit of editing). But since lunch I’ve been unable to settle. I’ve never really been one for sitting down for hours at a time – every job I’ve ever had has involved quite a bit of movement interspersed with some desk work, but whether I was a librarian, lecturer or supermarket assistant there was the opportunity for movement.

When I working at home there is always something domestic needing attention, so I can interrupt my writing with hanging up washing or emptying the dish-washer or the occasional (very) hoover of the carpet. But here I feel a bit more confined (even though there is the wild countryside around me – I’m much more of an interiors/civilisation person.

After lunch I went on the emergency run which we’re calling the milk run (and we did actually remember to buy milk), but was actually the wine and gin run to Drumnadrochet (???) a small village on the side of Loch Ness. I kept my eyes peeled for the monster, but this time didn’t see it (although I’ve got a good story about the last time I was here and something very mysterious emerged from the Loch). Just being in the car good – I don’t know if the fact that the house is busier today with our full complement of 13, or I’m feeling homesick, but I definitely needed to go to what I laughingly called civilisation. I did see some people, and was in 3 whole different shops – the search for tonic water was extensive, and I don’t even drink gin.

Anyway, now I’ve read a bit of The Guardian and spoken to my husband I think I’m going to try to complete a short story which I popped in my rather large bag of things-to-do this weekend.

Onwards and upwards before the wine gets opened again.

Moniak Mhor Writers’ Retreat Days 1 & 2

23 Nov

22/11/12 Left early yesterday to drive up to Moniak Mhor Writers’ Retreat in a terrible storm. Amber warnings abounded, and at one point we had to drive through a flood, but we made it here to the Highlands safe and sound by early afternoon.

This is my first time at a retreat of any sort while many of the rest of the group – Glasgow University Writers have been before. The place is everything I imagined it to be – monastic cell (although with nicer furniture and comfortable bed) and a view out to the wilds of Scotland.

I was a bit worried that the weekend would disappear quickly with lots of chatting over coffee, but the great thing about coming away with serious writers is that there is a lot of serious writing going on. So there is no way I’ll let myself squander this opportunity of time and space and no domestic concerns and not put in some major effort myself. It is after all what I’ve been dreaming of and what dear old Ms Wolfe recommended. It’s interesting though that some prefer to write with the other’s about and some, like myself have shut ourselves away.

By evening another three folk had arrived, and yes, there is drinking of wine and there is talking into the wee small hours, but that’s all part of the fun and part of being alive.


23/11/12 Today some of us managed a very quick walk after lunch and although we walked in the rain we made it back just as the rain was turning to something decidedly whiter, hopefully the five people travelling today get up here safe and sound. Still the house is really cosy and it’s great to have uninterrupted time to write – we’ve even got a cook, so we only have to worry about getting breakfast and lunch sorted ourselves.



So what of the writing. Well when we were talking about our writing last night I was still really unsure if I was going to tackle novel two. I’ve started and stopped it a couple of times before and there is so much that I want to do differently that I wondered if it wouldn’t just be easier to leave it forever and do something different.

Now though I feel totally different about it. I’ve had a good morning’s work on it, and I can begin to see that I can write it into the book I want it to be. There are many things that I thought I had written that have only existed in my head, and more that I’ve decided should go in now, to make it a more interesting story. So I’m feeling really good about things. It’s only half past two, and I’ve no school run to do, no clubs to take children to, just me and my laptop and dodgy internet connections and not forgetting a long-suffering husband at home.

Gave up about 5pm, totally burned out, but hopefully only for today. Photos tomorrow.

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