Writing in the house of Zoom


The second in our series of The Writing Retreat Stays Home took place on Sunday 7 June. The focus was poetry, and especially how to write poems that draw on our own lives, experiences and memories. We can say now, with certainty, that the opportunity to enable writers to assemble via the magic of Zoom is more precious than we could have imagined.

When the Covid-19 lock down first hit us it seemed impossible that we would be able to carry on with activities that entail bringing people together. Since then, we have sorely missed the pleasure of sitting round a big table with everyone in the same room, but we have to admit that the sight of guests Zooming in from across the UK, Europe and even the Southern Hemisphere, is a delight.

As we gaze at everyone in their individual squares on the screen it has the effect of looking into the open front of a doll’s house, each room inhabited by a writer, gazing back at us.  It is a different kind of community, but it has its own feeling of intimacy and being connected.

While lock down guidelines keep public venues closed, and people are unable to meet others from outside their own  households indoors, residential retreats remain impossible. Here is a reminder of how it used to be:

And how we hope it will be again:

We hope to resume our regular progamme in 2021  but in the meantime, we are exploring the potential to do more online. As we ponder that, we welcome suggestions and requests, and invite you to let us know the sort of things you would like to see on offer via Zoom. Please do email us your ideas at thewritingretreat@btinternet.com. We’ll mull it all over and see what we can come up with.

Our next Sunday retreat is on July 19th and is about blogging. We can squeeze a few more into the doll’s house and you can find more information about this retreat here. Do stay tuned for news of further online retreat events later in 2020, and if you are not already on our mailing list, drop us an email to request to be added.

Stay safe and see you soon.

The Writing Retreat Stays Home

Drastic times call for drastic measures and yesterday, for the first time, we took The Writing Retreat online. And it was fabulous!

The theme for the day was Flash Fiction: what it is, what it isn’t, and how on earth to do it. This is a blossoming genre, with exciting potential for writers to not only experiment with form, but also practice skills that will benefit them in other genres. The novelist, for example, can learn a great deal from practicing the specific skills required for flash fiction; skills of precision and concision, otherwise known as ‘less is more’.

In another reality (remember that?) this retreat would have been held at The Yacht Club in Mylor Harbour in Cornwall, a beautiful place, which we thoroughly enjoy occupying for a few days each year. The session would have lasted the whole day, interspersed with tasty treats and an indulgent lunch. The move online meant we recast it as a three-hour morning session to which guests brought their own drinks and snacks. We missed the pleasure of meeting face to face but there was one very welcome bonus to meeting online.

Many of our guests, the ones who live in Cornwall, would probably have been at the Mylor venue sharing the day with us anyway. They came along on Zoom instead, which was fantastic, but the extra benefit of making the move to a Zoom room was that writers from further afield, even internationally, could join us at the click of a link. We spent the morning with writing friends from Cornwall, Bristol, London, Chichester, the Isles of Scilly, Denmark and South Africa.  It was a real treat to see everyone together, sharing in the session regardless of where they dwell. Thank you to everyone who attended, you were great!

Our next session is on Sunday 7 June and will focus on poetry; do join us if you can. Don’t worry if you ‘don’t do’ poetry – Jane is on a gentle mission to change that. We’d love to welcome you to one of our Stay Home Retreats soon. In the meantime, stay safe and well.

Kath and Jane

Opportunities for writers in the time of Lockdown

Things to do as the world changes…

The world has changed. For some of us it has become a juggling game between work, home and trying to make sense of lockdown. For others it has slowed down and become a challenge to make use of the time spent not working or moving around. For us writers it has opened up some unexpected opportunities. Suddenly, we can go to that festival hundreds of miles away in the middle of the working week, albeit virtually. We can attend talks laid on by the Society of Authors, or join in The Writing Retreat Sundays, despite living hundreds, or even thousands of miles away. As we each adapt to the changing state of the world, we want to share with you just some of the opportunities this situation has opened up for people who write.

1. We are moving our Summer Sundays series online. The first of our Stay Home Sundays takes place on 10 May, using Zoom. We are excited that writing friends from far and wide can now join us for these sessions, no longer separated by the reality of geography.

2. In another part of Cornwall, The Writer’s Block are offering talks and workshops online, as well as the chance to join in an online Speakeasy. There are plenty of stimulating workshops for all those kids who love writing too – a great way to keep them constructively occupied during lockdown.

3. The Society of Authors has opened up its online talks to non-members, with a whole list of author talks and workshops coming up. Do check them out and see if anything grabs you.

4. If you are on Facebook, check out The Daily Haiku, a group started by Amanda Wright, a local writer in Cornwall, which has attracted some 1,400 followers and helped raise funds for the NHS. Jane recently had one of her contributions read on Radio Cornwall, which was a lovely surprise.

5. Get your fix of true stories at Stozzys.Com. It feels particularly poignant to be reading about each other’s life experiences at this moment in history, when we are all going through the same thing but often so differently. Why not write your own story and post it here?

6. Now could be the perfect time to dust off your stories (or write new ones) and send them out into the world. Have a look at the competition listings at Creative Writing Ink or Neon Books. Type ‘Writing Competitions 2020 UK’ into Google and you’ll find plenty more potential homes for your work.

7. Nobody ever has enough time to thoroughly research agents and publishers, so why not make this a lockdown task? The Writer and Artist’s Yearbook is a great place to start. While you’re there, pull that novel out of its bottom drawer, cast a critical eye over what can be fixed, and send it off.

8. Platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams mean that we can still meet online so why not form a critique group and get together online to work on your novels, short stories, travel pieces? If you don’t have a group of your own, Kath runs several and is now hosting them online. Or you could contact your local writing group and see if they are offering online get togethers.

9. If you have a novel or memoir that you’ve been meaning to submit, now is the time to polish it and get it out there. Nobody comes searching for your novel, you have to get it right under agents’ and publishers’ noses and wave it about. Kath also offers editing and appraisal services, and is planning some workshops on the submissions process. Do get in touch to find out more.

10. If you don’t feel like engaging with writing at the moment, that is fine. Read a book, stare at the grass, watch caterpillars doing their thing. It’s all grist to the mill, and while your outer self is busy doing nothing much, or just trying to keep work and home life in some sort of order, your writerly self will be composting away, ready for you to get back to it when the time is right. Just breathe.

Whatever you choose to do with this unexpectedly strange summer, stay safe, stay well, and stay in touch.

Warmest wishes,

Kath and Jane

Congratulations to Cass Grafton

Very pleased and proud that Cass was able to get this novel finished at our writing retreat at the Old Sawmills last year. Our copy is on order.

If you’ve got a writing project that you want to get on with, why not join us at the Old Sawmills this March? Who knows, it might be your novel in print this time next year. Find out more here.


The Cottage in a Cornish Cove by Cass Grafton – Book Review

Retreat to The Old Sawmills in March 2020

Do you need something fabulous to look forward to on these long winter days? Do you need to nurture your inner writer while indulging in excellent company, fabulous food, stunning scenery and plentiful supply of wine? Perfect. We have a few spaces available on our five-night writing retreat from 23-28 March, and you can book your place right here.

This retreat focuses on the craft of writing the short story, and takes place at the gorgeous venue of The Old Sawmills near Fowey.  This is our most unusual  venue,  accessed only a woodland walk or motorboat ride along the Fowey river from Golant. The peaceful setting adds to the sense of blissful seclusion. It’ll be a week in which to relax, reflect and rejuvenate your writerly self, or to discover your inner scribe for the first time. All levels of experience are very welcome.

Find out more about this retreat here.

The perfect Christmas treat for a loved one, or yourself

Treat yourself or a loved one to The Writing Retreat in 2020 

Book now for our 2020 retreats

Our programme for 2020 includes our Winter and Summer Sundays, and two fully residential five-night retreats, one in the gorgeous surroundings of The Old Sawmills near Fowey, and the other at Bosloe, overlooking the Helford estuary near Durgan.

Winter and Summer Sundays

Our Sunday retreats were hugely popular in 2019 and we have more treats in store for 2020.

We kick off our Winter Sundays at Devoran Village Hall on 12 January with ‘New Year, New You: how to kick-start your writing year’. Then, on 9 February, we have more inspiration to keep you writing  with ‘When a Writer Isn’t Writing: how to keep your writing larder well stocked’. We round off this winter series on 8 March with ‘Choosing the Form: when you know what to say but not how best to say it.’ You can find out more about the Winter Series here and can book your place here.

For our Summer Sundays, we return to the scenic setting of Mylor Yacht Club and start off with: ‘Flash Fiction: full on fiction, but fast,’ on 10 May. Then ‘Poetry: making the personal poetic,’ will be our theme on 7 June, followed by ‘Blogging: the art of online storytelling,’ on 19 July. Find out more about the Summer Series hereand book here.

 Cost: £45.00 each with a discount of £120.00 when you book for all three in either the Winter or Summer series. The price includes all refreshments and a delicious home-cooked lunch.

Residential retreats 

We offer two fully residential retreats in 2020. The Old Sawmillsis our venue for ‘Crafting the Short Story‘ from 22-28 March, with Tom Vowler returning as our mid-week guest author. Those of you who have attended our weeks at The Old Sawmills in 2018 and 2019 will know that this is an unusual and very special venue, with access by boat or by foot from Golant, which is the nearest village. There is no road access, which gives the house a magical ‘away from the world’ feel. You can book this retreat here

In the autumn, from 24-29 November, we return to Bosloe, the beautiful Arts and Crafts property overlooking the Helford. This elegant and spacious house is in fact three linked houses set in stunning grounds close to the famous National Trust gardens of Glendurgan and the neigbouring Trebah (not National Trust). Our theme will be ‘Time to Write‘ and we are delighted to welcome award-winning author Nina Stibbe as our midweek guest author. You can book this retreat here

We recommend speedy booking to be sure of your place at either retreat. 

Warmest wishes for Christmas and the New Year. We look forward to welcoming you to The Writing Retreat in 2020.

Kath and Jane.

Getting ready for an autumn retreat

Summer has left us much faster than we would like but we have the pleasures of an autumn retreat to look forward to in the far west of Cornwall; our fifth anniversary return to Rosemerryn.

On that first Retreat, held at Rosemerryn in November 2014, we drastically over catered. Yes, even for us! Guests from that wonderful week still giggle about how they’d waddled home fatter, happier, and further along with their writing projects than they’d ever imagined possible.  It is hard to believe that was five years and twice as many retreats ago.

Now, of course, we’re old hands, so as we sit here today, checking through our guests’ dietary details and planning the food side of things, we know exactly how to put together a menu that will have everybody feeling indulged and  satisfied without the need to purchase a new wardrobe. Those who have been on retreat with us before will find  a blend of old favourites and new tastes to enjoy. Those who are joining us for the first time are in for a treat.

It’s not all about the food of course (actually it sooooo is). Next week, we’ll be working on the workshops. But for now, bring on the wine list and the cheese board…

Kath and Jane

Summer Sundays 2019 – starting soon

The Writing Retreat is getting ready for our Summer Sunday series of day retreats at Mylor Yacht Club, and we wanted to let you know that there are still some spaces at the table. We’d love you to join us.

Sunday 19th May     –     Finding your story through theme

Sunday 16th June    –     Finding your story through character

Sunday 14th July     –     Finding your story through setting

The day includes lunch and all refreshments. We look forward to sharing a day of stimulating writing, delicious food and fine company.

If would like to attend, please fill in the form here or drop us an email at thewritingretreat@btinternet.com. We hope you have a productive and enjoyable summer and that we can catch up again soon.

Warm wishes,


Kath Morgan and Jane Moss

Sister Scribes: Cass Grafton on why it’s good to talk

Recently, I was on a writing retreat – one that lived up to its name, being only accessible by boat at high tide (or after a hike through the woods from the nearest village). Hosted by Kath Morgan and Jane Moss of The Writing Retreat, the theme was simply ‘Time to Write’, which we had in abundance.

There were only 6 of us, and we soon developed our favourite spots for contemplation and scribing: at the wooden table by the creek, in the large window seat in the sitting room or even on the pontoon jutting out into the river.

I wrote in my room during the day, either in my own window seat with its fabulous water views or at the desk I’d tugged into place between the window and the extremely large bed (known as Robert Plant’s bed – long story, but there’s also a recording studio under the main house)!

Despite the obvious benefits of a retreat – that longed-for chance to focus on nothing but writing, allowing your mind to wander, your characters to fully take hold of you and the story in a way they often can’t when you’re surrounded by the minutiae of daily life – I was able to indulge in something else: time to talk, not only with fellow writers (usually over the yummy lunches and dinners) but also during one-to-one sessions with Kath or Jane.

These sessions brought answers to dilemmas I’d spent months battling with: what’s my hook; how do I finish this book that’s been almost done for months; what do I write next? Talking it through, being heard, was all it took for solutions to come, often prompted by the tutors’ insights. I left every one-to-one on a high, inspired and raring to get back to the writing.

This hasn’t been my only chance to talk face-to-face with other writers, of course. Aside from get-togethers with my fellow Sister Scribes, I’ve been co-writing with Ada Bright (for her guest post on being an author, see link below) for years, and despite the thousands of miles and 9-hour time difference separating us, we talk when writing 3 or 4 times a week. We discuss plot, why a character is behaving in such a way, battle out the things we’re struggling with, and we laugh. There’s a lot of laughter!

Do you begin to see the benefit of the talking? Writing can be such a solitary profession. Things go round and round in your head, we hit stumbling blocks, trip over our own words, lose faith, regain it, sometimes question whether we love what we’re doing, whether we should even continue.

Living in Switzerland, as I do, can also be isolating – I can’t meet up with my Sister Scribes as often as I’d like – so imagine my delight when I connected with 3 other British writers who regularly meet up for ‘writerly lunches’! They all pen fabulous psychological suspense novels, with Louise Mangos (@LouiseMangos) published by HQ Digital, Alison Baillie (@alisonbailliex) by Bloodhound Books and Linda Huber (@LindaHuber19), who has a wide portfolio, by Bloodhound Books and their imprint, Bombshell Books. She also writes light romance novels under the name of Melinda Huber.

Aside from lunch and laughter, we share our thoughts and feelings on the sort of things writers value talking about: practical experiences, both in writing and publishing, our ups and downs, our current challenges and our plans for ‘what next’. Oh yes, and there’s the odd glass of Prosecco too!

So write and enjoy it. Embrace it, but if you get the chance, talk to other writers, preferably face to face. You won’t regret it!

Winter Sunday Retreat – Playing With Point of View

Roll up, roll up! Our next Winter Sunday is on Sunday 17 March and our theme is Playing with Point of View. The question for the day is, whose story is it anyway? Learn techniques to help you try on different voices and to judge which point of view will serve your story best.

Venue: Devoran Village Hall, 9.45am-4.00pm.

You can book your place here.

See you there,

Kath and Jane

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