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A Wonderful Week With Wonderful Writers

As we say goodbye to our latest eight retreaters, and look forward to welcoming them back again before too long, it's time to take stock before we go again in mid-April. It's been a wonderful week with wonderful writers and there are many ideas and innovations we are taking away from it - not to mention a wonderful sonnet in which past retreaters might see some familiar themes (thankfully the leak on the carpet was an easy fix before it grew too large!)

Anyway, firstly I want to recognise the fantastic group of retreaters that Annie, Joanne, Kate, Kathleen, Robyn, Ellie, Ijeoma and Victoria turned out to be: lovely people who contributed to a wonderfully enjoyable week for everyone, and a hugely inspiring week for all. I am mindful not only of their thoughtful input into the writing workshops and one-to-ones, but also their contributions to the happy chatter at meals, the laughter each night during the after-dinner 'activity', and the wonderfully supportive atmosphere of our final night candlelit readings. It was a joy to host such a perfect mix of personalities.

group of eight writers standing outside Bron Y Graig (the main house at A Place to Write). The writers are aged between 25 and 65, wearing casual clothes and smiling to camera in the sunshine
March Tutored Retreaters (sadly minus Ijeoma, who had to leave on Thursday)

A comment made several times, by different members of the group, was that they felt accepted and welcomed as a writer, regardless of their previous experience. We know, and some of the group repeated, that embarking on a writing retreat can be daunting as you wonder whether everyone else will be a published author, will know more than you, will look down on your chosen genre or style of writing. That is absolutely NOT what A Place to Write is about: we welcome, recognise and applaud ALL writers, wherever they are on their journey and however confident, or otherwise, they feel about their writing. The goal here is to encourage, motivate, inspire and provide appropriate support for any writer - whether they are attempting their first story or looking to make their millionth sale. Feedback across the past year suggests we are doing this, and we know we are getting better and better at it every time. Which brings me to some innovations we will be trying out in our retreats later this year...

Firstly, we are going to take a look at making the lunchtime meal a less formal affair: a buffet with the option of taking food to the lounge, or to the stables or even to your room. Extending the time when the buffet is available will also allow writers to be more flexible around the middle of the day, regarding when they eat. It's a small change - and it might affect the group dynamic - but it's also an easy change to trial and that's what we plan to do.

Secondly, on tutored retreats, I will be creating an hour each day in the middle of the retreat for a drop-in session: if any writer feels something has cropped up that they want help with, advice on, or simply to share... a drop-in (in addition to all the one-to-one sessions and workshops on offer) will plug a little gap in the programme that affects not all writers, but does definitely restrict the odd writer whose journey is taking some unexpected turns.

Thirdly, we are going to look at organising a zoom meeting for all the participants at a retreat - a couple of months after the retreat has ended. This will not be compulsory but it is hoped that those who attended would a) enjoy the chance to have a catch-up with friends they made at the retreat, and b) benefit from knowing that a couple of months after the retreat they will be able to share what they have newly achieved since the retreat ended. Of course, this element will no doubt make some retreaters quake with fear - whether due to the potential accountability issue or because they feel their life has moved on since the retreat - but I will remind everyone that if they can get through a candlelight reading (as EVERYONE on EVERY retreat has, with great success) then a little zoom-call catch-up should be no problem.

Three ladies standing on a hillside with storm clouds behind. Each lady is standing in a pose with their head turned towards the horizon, deep in thought
Robyn, Kate and Victoria posing as a new girl-band, while out on a walk to Caer Drewyn

This week, aside from receiving great feedback and suggestions from the retreaters, several other things of note also happened: Henry the Pheasant made the acquaintance of almost everyone over the course of the five days, and Joanne became our expert on the two female pheasants (as yet unnamed) who appeared to be vying for Henry's heart! Elsewhere, in our workshop on creating sophisticated dialogue tagging, Kate began calling the process 'Rosifying' after Rosie Andrews, the author of the award-winning novel The Leviathan (which I use to illustrate the concept in the dialogue sessions). Kate's phrase, in turn, led me to contact the wonderful @rosieandrews22, a friend from my previous career, and inform her of this new verb. Today I am delighted to report that Rosie is up for joining one or more of our upcoming retreats for a Q&A session with the retreaters. With her first novel having created such a stir, and her second novel ( on the way this May, Rosie is exactly the kind of guest speaker we want to welcome to A Place to Write.

Apart from Henry and Rosie, this busy, busy week has also highlighted another unique feature of our retreats here in North Wales: the food. Here, we prepare and cook everything for you, using the guidance you give us about your individual dietary preferences and requirements. A bespoke menu is put together by the wonderful Wendy and caters for all retreaters. This week, for example, we have catered for a mixture of vegan, vegetarian and omnivorous (!) eaters - as well as taking account of a couple of individual allergies too. We're learning that this is somewhat unusual and another point of difference at A Place to Write. A couple of the retreaters this week were astonished that we can provide what we do at the price we do: full board for five days in your own ensuite bedroom with plenty of places and spaces to write and a full programme of workshops and one-to-ones to support you. As the demand for our retreats has grown, so has the programme of each retreat and, it's true, we will have to review our prices for 2025 to match what we provide. So if you are looking to join us in the future, book today while our retreats are at current prices!

Finally, there is the wonderful Annie's freshly written sonnet: a fitting tribute to a wonderful week with wonderful writers - although it contains references to things which may need a little explanation. For example, Annie saw and took a picture of an inscription on a gate post which she wanted to understand. No-one had seen the inscription previously and, lo and behold, the next day in sunshine there was nothing there! The photo, too, was inconclusive... We haven't got a ghost story of our own at A Place to Write - despite the property having been originally built in 1888 - but perhaps Annie is onto one? Another reference in the sonnet is to William Morris, because much of the decor in the main house is pure art and crafts, with expensive Morris wallpaper and delightful fabrics too. Retreaters tend to love it. Finally, the 'nightly humiliation' refers to the evening after-dinner activities which, previous retreaters will recognise, are invariably tremendously enjoyable, but also provide copious opportunities for everyone to fail at things that they can't believe they have failed at! All in all, a wonderful week. with wonderful people, the spirit of which is summed up by Annie:

Shall I compare thee to another retreat,

Cosied against the belly of a Welsh hill

And every last inch of wall space replete 

With the dizzying designs of Morris, Bill?

Inscriptions in stone seen solely in the rain

(Which also sadly fell on an upstairs carpet);

Evening activities whose delights wax and wane

Causing, by turn, laughter and sweaty armpit.

Our wordy journeys ably shepherded by Nic,

Our palates and bellies attended to by Wendy,

All make Bron y Graig the easiest pick

— Nightly ritual humiliations notwithstanding.

One parting thought, before we all do go:

Just pause and ponder before shouting ‘Perudo’!

Hoping to see you soon at A Place to Write,

Have a great April (places still available on our retreat starting on 14th) ,


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This retreat was amazing, I cannot thank Nic and Wendy (and the other ladies who work for them) enough or everything. Not only did I learn a lot about writing but it also helped my mental health too. My fellow retreat ladies were so friendly and great company, the fun and laughter we shared at meals and activity times were unforgettable - I will never see Perudo in the same light again, or “Normal Milk’”. I would recommend these retreats to anyone and will definitely be back for more.

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