|The table set for dinner|
After dinner we made ourselves comfortable on the squashy sofas, the sun still streaming through the windows. Fourteen people – twelve participants and two tutors – Kevin MacNeil and Suchen Christine Lim – did introductions. I was almost the last to go. During that agony of waiting, while my fellow writers told of exciting lives and equally exciting writing projects, I still failed hopelessly to think of anything interesting to say about myself or my writing. ‘It’s a crime thing. New direction. Mumble, mumble.’ There followed general writing chat and a balmy night with little sleep – the heat-wave really had made it to Scotland. A strange bed in a strange house.
|One of the sheds|
I had a breather, thinking about what Kevin had said as I looked out into the beautiful landscape around me, and then stepped into Suchen’s shed. Wow. She gave me and my writing quite a welcome. While Kevin had given me an overall opinion and then focussed on choices of verbs, commas and dialogue - and emphasised the need to make a plan for the rest of the story, Suchen reached inside my protagonist’s heart and drew out her pain and conflicts. I was almost in tears. She said to let the story come to me and develop over a few years. It went from micro to macro, from Yin to Yang. I came out glowing inside and thought for the first time, this is something I can really do. This was quickly tempered by the fact that if I was going to get anywhere with it, I needed to follow through and deliver on the promises I had made in the early chapters; all those questions raised, all those mysteries to be solved.I was on the cooking roster for that day and reported for duty shortly afterwards. Kevin and Suchen’s comments swirled around in my head as I chopped and grated and layered, and then had to de-layer and layer again in the correct order, while also chatting to Ivor and Christian, my cooking buddies. That’s the other great thing about a writing retreat – all the lovely writers you meet. Fourteen people, all very different and from all over the globe and all walks of life - and amazingly, all writing about very different things.
So, day one was action packed. That left four more days of the retreat and the only structured activities I thought I had left to worry about were eating and drinking. Plenty of time to do what I came there to do...