In Miss Jean Brodie mode “My gals…”
The premature autumn chill finds me on the sofa in front of my faux flame fire with my laptop. It’s cosy but not conducive to putting the final touches to my thriller with its sultry Jamaican setting. That’s one of the many reasons why I am so happy to be heading off to Puglia then Andalusia for Chalk’s annual writing holidays, with long-range weather forecasts hovering between 22 and 28 centigrade. I’m sure my creative juices will flow more prolifically in these temperatures but it’s not just the heat or the inspirational views and fabulous wine that make creative writing holidays work.
The sheer luxury of having nothing to do for a week except write or do writing related things is efficacious for both students and tutors. Of course there are distractions in the shape of swimming pools, tapas bars, mountain walks, interesting old castles and medieval churches but it’s surprising how dedicated writers get, away from the demands of bosses, kids and D.I.Y. They realise what a rare privilege it is to be surrounded by other people who want to write, who share their experience and advice, who talk about ideas, words, books and movies all day and all night.
In fact every year, the lazy, self-indulgent side of me wars with the dedicated tutor gene as I realise that I am not going to get to sneak off for a boozy paella lunch on the coast with Jo because our students are producing reams of writing – new short stories, entire chapters, whole collections of poetry – for us to read and critique. It makes me feel proud and spurs me on to write more of my own – one cannot play at Miss Jean Brodie with her crème de la crème without extolling Mussolini if you get my metaphor. Writing holidays create mental space for the imagination to blossom and time for you to shape those ideas on paper. A retreat is definitely a creative hothouse rather than a chill out zone.
There are still a few places left for our Spanish courses starting 29th September and 6th October…