The return of the purple folders

Isn’t it funny what you miss? In pre-pandemic times the purple folders in which we carry our workshop notes and essential information for our retreats are a familiar sight. They sit on the table with us during workshops and by the fireside in the evenings after dinner during our residential weeks. Whether the retreat is a fully residential five days or a Sunday one-day event, the folders never leave our sides.

Since lockdown we have been running our half day Sunday retreats online from home, and the purple folders have been forgotten. When Jane discovered hers in a pile of papers, gathering dust,  she commented on how much she had missed it.

‘Well,’ said Kath,’ why not start using it again?’ A good question.

Some of our traditional ways of working may be on hold at the moment but we are slowly making plans for the future. Having run three online half days now, we see how easy it can be for people to gather from all corners of the UK and well beyond, via Zoom. While we will certainly be offering more events online, we recognise that being able to meet face to face is as important as ever. Events in real places will continue to be a valued part of our programme.

The purple folders are coming out of storage as we plan our next steps, and we intend to offer a mix of the ‘real’ and the virtual in future.  If you have requests or suggestions for topics we can cover, or types of retreat – online weekends, weekdays or evenings – please drop us an email to

We are taking a break in August but The Writing Retreat will be back in the autumn with more Sundays and other events to look forward to into 2021.

Stay safe and well, and enjoy your writing.

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 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.

Fighting it: why not writing makes no sense

Not everybody will share my view that for a writer, writing is not a hobby, it is almost an addiction; a compulsion that can drive us to entertain inappropriate and often criminal fantasies. I very much doubt the condition will ever be officially recognised, and I’m pretty certain there will never be any NHS funding for treatment (other than to advise us to keep doing it). But still, I would argue my case that writing can be addictive. If you can go with me on this for a moment you might understand why, given writing’s addictive qualities, I am constantly bemused by the fact that every writer I know (including myself) is so fantastically talented at avoiding doing it. Why do we find a million and one reasons not to write? Focused on voice When writers are writing, our social lives suffer. Many of us grow pale and sickly. All too often, our finances are strained beyond breaking point as we strive to feed our insatiable habit. When we’re really going for it, some of us forget to wash or dress for days; why bother when the only people we intend communicating with are figments of our own imagination and unlikely to notice? We spend too much time locked away from the world, inhabiting our own weird dreamlands, tripping through the realms of our imaginations, which are every bit as real to us as that other world huffing and puffing away outside our window. And yet, we find a million and more excuses not to write.

When writers aren’t writing, we go about our everyday liTanya 167fe pretending all is well, but look closer and you will see we are restless, twitchy. As time goes on we may grow irritable, morose, frustrated, and eventually depressed. If only a perfectly-plotted, startlingly original idea would plop fully formed into our lap. If only we could find that idyllic haven, our ideal writing space, in which to meet our muse. If only we could go on a writing retreat. If only we had that yearned-for pocket of free time when life would just get the hell out of our way and let us WORK… Then our words of genius would spill forth and stun the world with their utter brilliance.

And when we forget about all this nonsense and just put our butt in a chair and write? Working hard Even on a bad writing day, when the words come hard and are clunky and crass, and our characters are stiff and dull as breeze blocks, the truth is, it’s still a buzz. A hit. And it’s not even, in and of itself, bad for our health. So how does not doing it make any sense? Why do we resist the very thing we are craving? No wonder all my friends think us writers are a bit weird.

How about you? Do you resist the writing urge and if so, what do you do about it? Does a writing retreat help? Or joining a writing group? Or do you just have a really harsh word with yourself?