A day in the life of The Writing Retreat

Jane Moss shares a typical day at Rosemerryn, with a very special offer for spring 2016

‘What’s it like on your retreat?’ the man at the Christmas Eve party asked. ‘I suppose you have to be silent and sit in your room writing all day.’ He looked unimpressed. 
I took a sip of Prosecco, then looked him in the eye.
‘You can write all day to your heart’s content,’ I said, ‘but you don’t have to be quiet.’
He raised an eyebrow.
‘Writing makes noises; the rustle of paper, the tap of the keyboard.’ I made a typing gesture with the fingers of my free hand; I wasn’t about to spill my drink. ‘It depends on the week. Some are themed, so you learn about technique, others are simply about having the time to write’
He looked puzzled. Perhaps the word ‘retreat’ was conjuring visions of monks, plain chant and hard wooden benches. I fortified myself with another sip, then began to describe a typical day. 
I told him that a day on retreat begins with a leisurely breakfast any time between 7.30am and 9.00am. We help ourselves in the farmhouse kitchen, making whatever we fancy from the full cooked breakfast to a light bowl of fruit and yoghurt, juice, toast and cereals. The coffee is fresh and the tea is plentiful. We can breakfast in company or head back to bed, as we choose.
After breakfast we gather in the Studio, a light, bright building in the garden behind the main house. Here we have morning workshops, led by Kath Morgan and I, the two resident tutors, on topics relevant to the week’s theme. In a Craft of Writing week we’d have workshops on point of view, show and tell, and dialogue; food for thought and for the pen.
Midway through the morning we break for coffee and a little sweet snack (homemade brownies or flapjack to keep our strength up)  then we carry on until lunchtime. The workshops generate energy; 10 or so people gathered around the big table, learning and making discoveries about their own and others’ writing. It’s the active, collaborative part of the day. Of course, people are welcome to stay in their rooms and get on with their own project, but we encourage them to join in with the morning activities.
Then it’s back to the big table in the kitchen for lunch; home made soup, salads, tasty dishes such as Kath’s stupendous quiche, or a platter of cold meats, pates and cheeses. Our fruit bowl floweth over and the kitchen is abuzz with conversation.
In the afternoons the house falls quiet. From around 2.00pm until the evening people tuck themselves away to write, read, think and dream. Some work in their rooms, others settle down on sofas in the main room and the conservatory, others spread out at the tables in the Studio and sitting room. Some will go for a walk in the wooded grounds or down to the cove. Popping into the kitchen to top up on tea, I might find someone with their feet up on the Aga, reading or making notes in peace and warmth. Rosemerryn lends itself to relaxation and the feeling of being nurtured.
Kath and I spend the afternoons meeting our guests for one to ones. This is precious time devoted to their own writing, whether they want a close reading and critique, or to think through an aspect of their story. We meet each guest for 50 minutes; a luxurious almost-hour to focus on them alone. I love these sessions because they give me an opportunity to hear someone’s writing voice uninterrupted and to help them decide their way forward with a specific piece or with their writing in general.
By 7.00pm we gather in the main room for dinner, a sociable affair around the large table, with home-cooked food (Monday night’s fish pie is legendary) and wine, followed by a cheese board, port, coffee and chocolates beside the log fire. Writing sharpens the appetite and there is something wonderful about coming away to a place that feels so homely yet all the meals seem to appear by magic; no effort required other than to eat and enjoy the company. 
After dinner we have readings and talks. A guest author joins us midweek to discuss their work and run a workshop; always a stimulating moment and a fresh perspective. Bedtime is a moveable feast; some head back to their rooms to write or read, others linger by the fire, chatting. As the week goes on, the house and its people develop a rhythm. Our daily programme holds us like a hammock…
I stopped and drained my glass. Christmas Eve party man was listening intently. ‘Well,’ he said, ‘to be honest sailing’s more my thing but it sounds fantastic. I’ll tell the wife.’ I smiled.
‘You could write your nautical memoir. Now there’s a thought.’
‘I suppose I could.’
My work was done, all thoughts of monks and hard benches banished. Retreats are not for everyone, but for someone with a project clamouring to be started, continued or completed, they offer peace and quiet and the ideal conditions in which to make real progress. Our spring Craft of Writing retreat is the ideal combination of learning about technique and having time to put it into practice. Speaking of which…

Spring special offer

If this has whetted your appetite, you can still book for our 7-12 March retreat with a special offer of £630 for one of our large double rooms or £525 for a smaller twin room for one person. If you want to come with a writing friend, you can share for just £435 each. You’ll find more information about the March retreat here.

We hope we’ll see you at The Writing Retreat very soon.

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