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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Writers in the Alley, open mic

There is a friendly and talented group of writers who meet in Dorchester on the first Wednesday of each month. They are known as Writers in the Alley due to the venue, a room sometimes used for playing skittles at Goldie’s Bar, 36 High East Street. Regular meetings are held at 7pm for a 7:30 start. Members support each other by showing a positive interest in the writing shared. On Wednesday 5 April, the group is hosting a second open mic session, so if you’re in Dorchester this is well worth attending. Go along to hear some wonderful poetry and prose presented in a variety of forms or bring your own writing to read or perform. I attended an open mic held in the autumn and it was great to find a receptive audience for my poetry. You can find Writers in the Alley on Facebook or contact the organiser on suzie.suze1@gmail.com.

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I’m really disappointed  I won’t be able to attend this open mic as I’m away from home at the beginning of April. Luckily Writers in the Alley are planning to make the open mic session a regular event so I hope to be there next time.

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Worst Wedding Ever in Salisbury

Rather than attending a wedding, we booked seats to see the show at The Playhouse. The play is written by Chris Chibnall, also known for Broadchurch (the third and final ITV series starts on 27 February). The Worst Wedding Ever was a great entertainment, combining slapstick and humour with moments of poignant sadness leaving me with the hope of a happy future for the couple at the centre of the story. I also enjoyed the wedding band who played in the foyer prior to the performance and cropped up in unusual circumstances during the play.  You can read a review of Worst Wedding Ever here.

While in Salisbury, we had a delicious lunch at Charter 1227 Restaurant. Unfortunately the dessert arrived with two spoons and I ended up sharing mine with David. (The mini crème brûlée was particularly delicious.)

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What did you do this weekend?

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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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A day in Oxford

Travelling home from the NAWE conference in Stratford-upon-Avon, Dave and I stopped for a night in Oxford. We had a wonderful day visiting one of my favourite places, the Pitt Rivers Museum. The entrance is situated inside this fabulous building: the Oxford University Museum Natural History (OUMNH) on Parks Road.

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The door leading to the Pitt Rivers Museum is on the far side of the building and there are plenty of exhibits to distract along the way. I love the way visitors are encouraged to touch some of the items on display.

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(If you’re interested, the American Black Bear has quite a coarse coat.)

I love the Pitt Rivers Museum – it must be one of the few to offer the loan of a torch to assist in reading the many tiny, handwritten labels. I like to head of the displays of artefacts from Papua New Guinea. (I lived in the Highlands for two years from 1982-84 and have written about some of the things I brought home here and there’s a fictional story here.)

This is a photo of a display of lime spatulas from Papua New Guinea. (Lime powder is used in the process of chewing betel nut which stains the teeth red and gives a mild euphoric high.)

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If you’re ever in Oxford, do go along to the museum – you’ll find some very surprising items on display.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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Three go mad…

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With Deborah and Janet, I spent a few days in Edinburgh. As well as going to the Botanical Gardens (where this photo was taken), we also went to sessions at the festival, fringe and international book festival. So many great events to attend, but my absolute favourite was the free fringe show offered by Harry & Chris, a personable pair who have an upbeat take on life shared through a spoken word and acoustic set. Have a  listen to Whaddyawannado and Simple Times on soundcloud.

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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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