On Retreat

August 18, 2019 | No Comments

An aerial view of Gardoussel, near St Andre de Valborgne, France

My mind is filled with sunshine, cicadas and swimming. I’ve just spent a week in the mountains of southern France. I go to a small retreat in the Cévennes National Park each year to work on books-in-progress, to reconnect with nature and summer heat and a love of wild swimming. My first time visiting Gardoussel was at a retreat lead by Roselle Angwin. Since then, I’ve created my own retreats and written with folks like poet Sharon Black, and writers Lucy Whadham, Zoe Lambert and Tom Vowler. It’s inspiring to be in a room with other writers, especially when you’ve all taken trains and buses through winding mountain roads to come together for a week or two of writing and sun.

Swimming spot on le Gardon near Saumane, France.

A month ago, I had the good fortune of attending a tutored writing retreat at Ty Newydd in North Wales lead by Patience Agbabi and Jonathan Edwards. They’re both brilliant poets and brought with them loads of exercises, insight and encouragement. And did I mention swimming? I took a dip in the sea nearby, and a seal decided to swim near me. Magical. Worthy of its own poem.

Cardigan Bay, near Ty Newydd.

Have you ever thought of going to a retreat to write? If you’re not convinced, read this excellent blog post from Brevity magazine on taking the time away to do one thing: write. It doesn’t need to be far away. Groups like Writers HQ organise local, inexpensive writing days all around the UK. Or maybe you could organise something for yourself and a few friends who like to write? A sunny garden or a kitchen table on a rainy day is a great place to join with friends and write. Sometimes, when I meet with other writers, we make up exercises for each other, or just talk about our projects and get to work. And because we’re all together for a brief time, the working hours are often extra productive. And we often add a ‘sip and share’ in the evening—after a quiet afternoon apart, we come back together for a drink in the evening and read out some of the day’s progress. There are so many possibilities! If you have ever thought of writing with friends, I encourage you to send out invites and see what happens.

And because I always like to end with a song, here’s something from Hang Massive that I love writing to, their viral music video ‘Once Again’.

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