The writer is a lonely hunter

gailaldwin

Retreats for You with Debbie Flint

I met Debbie Flint in 2011 when we both attended a retreat at Moniack Mhor, Scotland’s Creative Writing Centre.  (I returned there last year – you can read about my second visit here.) Debbie works as a presenter on QVC shopping channel, has a number of books published, and she’s recently taken over a writing retreat in Devon. It was great to touch base with Debbie again and draw upon her experience as a TV presenter to produce a couple of YouTube clips where I talk about my writing journey. Debbie’s help was invaluable in introducing me to interview techniques, accessing handy tips and supporting me through the process. I’d never done anything like this before so her coaching allowed me to feel confident throughout filming and I’m delighted with the results. You can watch the interviews here.

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Debbie has made Retreats for You into a homely and relaxing place to write and reflect. My window overlooks the square with views onto the fields beyond. There’s no excuse for not getting on with your work as a delicious breakfast, lunch and dinner is provided. It’s  also good to be in the company of other writers and tap into the positive energy this creates. A few days away makes all the difference to my word count, I find!

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Walking and writing

We spent the weekend in Fowey and took an amazing walk around the coastal path where this photo was taken – hard to believe it’s January from looking at this.

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The journey back took us inland along the Saint’s Way. This path was rediscovered in 1984 when local ramblers found a series of forgotten granite stiles. The circular route was labelled ‘strenuous’ and ‘muddy’ and with adjectives like that, I would normally have avoided it. But, with my new fitness routine established, everything was fine.

At my desk on Monday, I received feedback on a writing submission I made earlier in the month. The lovely Suzie at Writers in the Alley forwarded a request from an agency interested in using local writing for a South West Trains advertising campaign. I rang the company and with a ten-minute deadline submitted some work. Two pieces of flash fiction were shortlisted for presentation to the client. When I learnt more about the proposal I was scared silly that my stories would end up on one of those huge ‘out of home’ posters opposite the platform at London underground stations. I needn’t have worried. South West Trains didn’t go for the idea and I’m left feeling disappointed and relieved.

On the upside, I have received some good news. My application for a writing residency at Brisons Veor has been accepted and I’ll be spending a couple of weeks at Cape Cornwall later in the year.

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Fiction Retreat at Moniack Mhor

I’m spending this week at Scotland’s Creative Writing Centre. The house is a thirty-minute drive from Inverness and yesterday, there was a huge blue sky and enough sunshine to make me want to put on sunscreen. Today, as I sit in my single room, at a tiny square desk I look onto a blurry grey scene. It’s just the weather for settling down to the tasks in hand. Another rewrite of my novel, a bit of poetry and a three-minute film script for starters.

This is the second visit I’ve made to Moniack Mhor. I’m still in touch with a tutor from the first course I attended in 2010 and have to thank Ronald Frame for his continued support of my writing. This time the tutors are Elizabeth Reeder and Ian Stephen.

I was lucky enough to win a bursary to attend the course which you can read about here and here. The internet connection isn’t great so there are few distractions and as getting this post on-line is proving a bit of a challenge, I better end here.

Enjoy your week.

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Lyme Regis

After a busy day at work, Dave and I went to Lyme Regis. We walked along the Cobb.

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Enjoyed pretty views over the harbour towards the town.

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Bought locally caught scallops to eat with chips on the beach.

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A perfect end to the day.

 

 

 

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Sandsfoot Castle

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I ate this for breakfast at 10am following a forty minute walk from the centre of Weymouth. (I must say a cream tea is remarkably enhanced by some fresh strawberries in addition to the clotted cream and jam.) In the background is Sandsfoot Castle, the ruins of a Henrician blockhouse, built to defend the south coast of England following Henry VIII’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon and his break with the Roman Catholic Church. Over time, the cliff on which it is built became eroded by the sea and most of the gun floor of the castle fell into the sea. What remains is a ruin that’s fun to explore and gives an idea about the construction of a Tudor castle.

Back in Weymouth, there was plenty more activity with a folk festival in full swing and dancers everywhere including these lovely ladies.

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Now at home, there’s sunshine on the deck, and I think it’s time for my first Pimms of the summer.

Cheers!

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Sicily

I’ve wanted to visit Sicily ever since I saw The Godfather. The film was released in 1972, so I must have watched it a bit later on the television. While chatting with other tourists, several mentioned that scenes from the film In Postino prompted their visit. I can’t remember seeing that film but like us, they were rather off-piste as Il Postino was filmed in Messina and the location for The Godfather was in towns outside Taormina. However, when we reached Ragusa, we learnt that this was the location for the Inspector Montalbano TV series, so we did finally make it a film location.

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Teaching in Wales

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This is the view from the third floor office where I work at the University of South Wales, Treforest Campus. It’s been impossible to take a photograph until today, when it’s finally stopped raining. I’m enjoying my time on the campus. It’s great working with enthusiastic students and I’m finally able to make use of the library for my PhD research after relying on remote access as a distance learning student.

Most weeks I leave home for work at 6am, arriving around 3 hours later and begin teaching at 11am on Monday. I stay in Pontypridd most weeks from Monday until Thursday, when I deliver a session with third year students. This talented group are working towards a major project for submission later in the year. I’ve also been busy marking assignments which critically compare examples of historical and contemporary children’s literature.

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Holidays for 2016

This being the third day of January, I’m celebrating the fact that I’ve booked three holidays for 2016! (I’ve ditched my Boxing Day blues and have begun to look forward.)

"Taormina.Teatro Greco" by M. Schwarzwälder - Own work.

“Taormina.Teatro Greco” by M. Schwarzwälder

 

First up, I’ll be travelling with my husband to Sicily for 6 days at the end of April. A quick flick through the Rough Guide (a Christmas present from my mother) and I saw we could travel from Catania to Palermo by buses or trains and booked flights to and from these airports. Other destinations I’d like to cover are Taormina for the Teatro Greco and Siracusa.

 

In June, my friend Cathie is over from Australia and I’ve arranged a visit to Santiago de Compostela. I lived in the city for a year in 1986 and studied for my A levels while Brian Henry and others worked at El Centro Britanico teaching English as a foreign language. I took my family to the area last year and loved it so much that Cathie’s visit provided a good excuse for another trip. I’ve since been brushing up my Spanish and hope to engage in many more conversations that I was able to do last time. I love the old streets and plazas of the city.

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“Calle de San Francisco, Santiago de Compostela” by Diego Delso.

Edinburgh is my third destination with a visit during the fringe (although I particularly like going to the book festival). I usually attend the ten at ten sessions where visiting writers share a short reading. It’s always a good way to start the morning.

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What holiday plans do you have for 2016?

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Fabric at the British Library

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This is a piece of fabric I bought while on holiday in Banjul, capital of the Gambia. We spent a day in the city in order to  visit the Methodist Church where a new generator had been purchased  by the congregation  in New Malden.  The cloth celebrates the Methodist Church in the Gambia and I became fascinated by the Gambian tradition of wearing fabric to acknowledge and promote many different things. I remember seeing a woman in Albert Market wearing traditional dress with a matching head wrap in bright, printed fabric. When I asked if the cloth was for sale, I was told it was worn in support of a political party. While logos and designer brands have become part of popular culture in this country, it seems that wearing anything to indicate allegiance to a political party is limited to a badge or rosette.

I was prompted to make this post after visiting the West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song exhibition at the British Library.  There you will find a whole range of artefacts that demonstrate the interlinking nature of word, symbol and song including texts, drums, shell-stories and, of course, fabric. It’s well worth a visit. 

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Daft place for a nest

While I’m relieved that the jackdaws haven’t built a nest in the chimney pot this year and the blackbird hasn’t gone for one in the honeysuckle where Killer Kat’s been lurking, only a daft pigeon would have plumped for a nest beside the footpath!

 

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We intended to walk to Hardy’s Cottage today but abandoned the attempt. David said he need to wear a hat and when my ears began to sing, I had to agree. Instead we followed Ratty’s walk through the fields and saw Red 99 and her lamb.

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Now the rain has arrived an I’m pleased to be inside a reading a book. This time it’s Bad Blood by Lorna Sage.

 

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