Having never been on a writing retreat before, I was unsure of what to expect, I needn’t have worried it was great fun. This was the British SCWBI children’s writing retreat held at Pendrell Hall, Nr. Wolverhampton. The writers-in-residence: Julia Golding http://www.juliagolding.co.uk and Shoo Rayner http://www.shoo-rayner.co.uk The weekend started on Friday night with a wonderfully tasty meal and then in to a critique session. We were split in to two groups the 5+ and 8+. During these sessions we read, commented and developed ideas to develop each other’s work. I for one had missed a few changes with POV which were corrected and now I’m working through the MS to check for any more slips. After our two hour session, we met up with the other group and enjoyed a well deserved drink from the bar. After that sleep was easy coming.
Waking early, Saturday morning with many ideas on how to improve my MS I set to work. Making notes and scripting lines. Breakfast was the full English, as it turned out to be each morning. For a girl who normally only eats a small bowl of cereal to start the day this was a great indulgence. I had to put thoughts of my waist line out of my mind. After breakfast we had time to write before we went for our first work shop with Shoo Rayner. There were two with Shoo, both of which were informative. I’ve since written up mind maps for all my books and this technique added to my own trusted method has improved my understanding of plotting and character development. I was interested in the software ‘FLASH’ that Shoo uses to add elements to his illustrations. I’m going to see if I can save up for this. I liked the way he produced online books for his website. I think this would be great for the children at school to try and for me to produce my own online books for children to look at on my own website, once I’ve built it. Between the writing, workshops and food it was a very productive day. The food was delicious and they were kind enough to cater to everyone’s needs. The evening was spent writing then a quick drink at the bar before bed.
The following day, Sunday, I set about writing before breakfast then again after. Before our first workshop we met up for coffee/tea then went in to listen to Julia Golding, another inspiring writer. How she manages to do so much, I’ll never know. Again Julia shared her plotting, character development stages along with many other fabulous tips. She got us to work on our own pitch. This was to sell ourselves to agents or publishers. To start with I found this daunting, but after taking a moment to think, It came to me in a flash. After that we had to encapsulate our novel in just a few words. For the novel I was working on was easy, but for others I’m sure it won’t be that easy. We read some out and Julia gave us guidance on where we could alter and improve our pitches. We played a game of top-trumps with the characters from her current book; I was the slave with shackles. Yes real shackles - okay plastic look-a-like ones. The whole day was one of learning or reinforcing knowledge. After dinner we met up to read our reworked pieces. Thankfully everyone thought my piece was much better and heading in the right direction. Everyone’s work had improved some amazingly so. One member of our group had written a completely new piece – oh to have such talent. We all met up for a drink before bed.
On Monday morning, we had to check out by 9:30 then we set about writing in one of the upstairs rooms. This was quite a powerful session. A room full of writers, writing. There was an aura of creativity flowing through the air which made the writing seem more focused. After morning coffee/tea we joined Tessa Strickland from Barefoot Books http://www.barefootbookstore.co.uk She is a lady with vision, direction and drive. You couldn’t help being impressed and inspired by her. She chatted about the state of publishing in general, and about the direction Barefoot books are heading. We learnt a little more about booksellers and distributors along with the difficulties publishers have. It was quite illuminating. Then she told us exactly what she was looking for. Yippy! A publisher saying what they want. I can’t tell you what that is, but I am going to be writing something for her as will the other members of the retreat - quite a few of us really. Tessa wrapped up with a question and answer session and once again I was scribbling notes.
This was a wonderfully inspiring retreat, one I would do again.