Thursday, September 11, 2008

Retreating into writing

I don't know how I fell across this blogger but she's a voracious and thoughtful reader, and an English nurse, who is currently doing a memoir-writing course in France. For all those memoir writers out there it's worth a look at her current posts for a. some tips b. some inspiration and c. a course you might like to go to yourself. Look at where you get to stay!

And if a French cottage isn't to your liking, how about a castle? There are some interesting looking writing courses at West Dean College near Chichester (see photo). They are run by the effervescent Kate Mosse of Labrynth and Sepulchre fame - whom I met at the Christchurch Writers' Festival - and her husband Greg.

Despite her superstar status as a writer - something like a million copies of her books sold in 36 territories - she is hugely generous about sharing her skills through writing courses and her website, and supporting women writers through the Orange Prize (which she was involved in founding.)

So castle or cottage?

Or bach?

You'll find the NZ equivalents of West Dean College, here and here. One of my favourites is the Foxton Bach owned by Peter and Diane Beatson. Two hours out of Wellington, looking out over an estuary, and only something like $12 a night to a writer who belongs to the NZSA, it is a gem. There is no magic course to attend, you just get to write to your heart's content.

To inspire you, there's the expansive and peaceful setting (see photo of the beach below) and a bookshelf filled with books by the writers who've used it over the years, with Wellington writers featuring strongly. My English friend Julian Earwaker stayed there for a couple of months last Summer working on his novel and was completely delighted with it.

There is a fellowship attached to the bach whereby you can be PAID to write for a month, but outside of that you can book it to suit yourself. Here's the advertisement below.

Foxton Beach, near Palmerston North. Two-bedroom bach with view available for pleasant, peaceful writing. Nominal charge to cover power only. Ph (06) 356-8251
I'm writing this, I now realise, because I am yearning to retreat into writing again (blogs are good like that - you start out posting to get the brain going and then realise what you're really writing about.) I can't go off to a bach or a castle or anything like that, but I do need to make time and space to 'leave' my daily life each day and inhabit my book. It's been 18 months since I did that, really. The every day thing.

I needed the break (The Blue took four years of concentrated effort), it's been rather difficult to find the space to write properly with my family the way it is right now and there was the ongoing promotional work for The Blue. I also needed to wrestle with what Precarious (novel no. 2) is really all about.

And now Precarious has become precarious. If I piled everything up: scribbled-in notebooks, hand-written chapters, a few good typed chapters and all that un-catalogued research material, it would be a teetering thing barely able to keep itself upright. It really is time to get the tools out and shape it into something.

I've been building up to it since the Montanas, but reading Denis Welch's astonishing review of The Blue yesterday gave me another shove.

Eldest son is walking the dog and cooking today, middle son's driving test isn't until early afternoon, and daughter's back at school after a tummy bug. Wish me luck.


Rachael King said...

I certainly can't complain because I have an office to go to every day, but I still fantasise about what I used to do pre-child and that was to go away by myself somewhere phone and internet free by the sea and write madly for a few days. Sigh.

harvey molloy said...

Hi Mary, I don't have your email address so I'm warmly inviting you to to the Launch of Moonshot. Details are over on my blog. All the best. Harvey

Vanda Symon said...

I could really do with a week to myself at a crib (the Southerner's bach)

I'm starting to realise part of my struggle with the writing thing is that I'm straight out tired. I've had a rollercoaster few years, and oddly enough these things catch up with us.

So yes, walks along deserted beaches, evenings snuggled up with a book, or indulging the writing muse, or just staring out the window would be bliss