Marcus asks: Who retreats and who doesn’t?

February 2022

Okay, so no progress on the writing shed since last time, but I have been concentrating on getting my new house straight. There’s not a huge amount to do – I deliberately avoided any ‘projects’ and instead looked for somewhere that was close to being what I wanted. It’s my goal to restart the writing retreats I used to run, on a very small basis, and maybe expand later if there is the demand. For the moment I am going to begin in May with just three rooms available for week-long retreats, which will mean that I can give good attention to the writers who come, and make sure everyone is getting a tailor-made week. 

Sometimes people ask me if I intend to teach on these retreats and the answer to that is no – I will provide the space and the quiet and the food and the nature around the house, and allow people just to work on what they want to work on, though that being said, I am always on hand to read and discuss work if anyone wants. Everyone is different about this, and I always feel a little funny when working for Arvon, or Ty Newydd or now for WriterMentor, in that I myself never went on a writing retreat as an aspiring writer. I should say at once that that wasn’t because I don’t think they work – I totally do and have often seen them do great things for people very often. It’s just that I was someone, and I think, I still am someone, who finds that ANY discussion of my writing too soon totally kills it for me.

I think if you are someone who goes on writing retreats you have already worked out that you enjoy, or at least, can bear, the process of sharing your work with others, and I am not one of those people. Does this make me a hypocrite? I hope not – I fully believe in the use of retreats and why people choose to go on them, I just know that my ideas are so fragile when they start out that to discuss them with anyone usually means the bubble is burst and the idea flies away…

So I have this strange ambivalence about retreats, but I really did want to start holding them again, because I can truly say that the things I missed most about the pandemic have been attending festivals like Hay and Edinburgh, and working with people on their books at places like Arvon, and my own retreats. This is one of the reasons why I was delighted to join up with WriteMentor for this year, but it has made me think again about why I would have found it impossible to put myself on a course at Arvon or wherever, but am more than happy to try to help other people with their stories. Dissecting, investigating, pondering a story; looking at what is working and what is less convincing – these are things I find absolutely fascinating, and I suppose is why editors love their jobs. I’m just too protective of my own. ‘Do I mean ‘too’ protective? I really don’t know the answer to that.

So the house is coming along, there is some more furniture to buy and a bedroom to paint, and then I will be nearly there. I am opening my doors in May and there will only be five retreats in this first year, so not too much work, but I hope to be able to welcome people and have the house full of life and writing, and maybe even discuss some people’s books with them – something I am so very bad at having other people, even my editors, do with me. Maybe one day I’ll toughen up, but I’m not sure…

For anyone interested the website for my retreats is here

Want to learn more from Marcus?

Author Marcus Sedgwick is 2022 Novel Writer-in-Residence for the Hub, WriteMentor’s community learning platform that connects like-minded storytellers and provides all the tools they need for writing success.

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