Alex English reports back from the 2015 SCBWI Writers' Retreat at Dunford House, deep in the Hampshire countryside.
When I'd first gone on the SCBWI writers' retreat in 2013, I'd arrived with a blank notebook and no idea what I'd write. I came away with the first 1,000 words of a middle-grade novel set in a Venetian pizzeria. Now, in 2015, I arrived at the writers' retreat with the goal of finishing what I'd started two years ago. Unfazed by the fact I'd forgotten my laptop lead, I cracked out my fountain pen for a long weekend of low-tech writing bliss.
The SCBWI writers' retreat group traditionally takes over the whole of Dunford House, a country house turned YMCA with bedrooms named after the original family members. I was in the “Moriarty” room. Where better to write all my remaining baddie scenes?
There were plenty of places for a writer to hide away at Dunford House, although I didn't stray too far from the salted caramels and popcorn on the incredibly well-stocked cake table (another SCBWI retreat tradition).
|Bluebell Woods at Dunford House|
For anyone in need of some fresh air and inspiration, there were all kinds of trails for walking and running, including the legendary Bluebell Woods. We were blessed with beautiful weather and one flexible Scoobie was even seen contorting herself into yoga positions on the lawn.
|Writing. The cake table close by...|
The weekend had a loose structure of talks in the morning and afternoon, with 121s slotted around them and plenty of writing (and cake scoffing) time too.
|Caroline Sheldon & Teri Terry|
Evenings were all about the booze (and more cake). Saturday night saw us gather to read out snippets of our work. Teri Terry was ringmaster and kept us all in check with her egg timer as we stuttered our way through our dodgy first drafts.
|Lauren Buckland, HarperCollins|
On Sunday morning we filled our bellies with bacon and our brains with publishing wisdom from Lauren Buckland of HarperCollins, who filled us in on the acquisitions and editorial processes.
Our final session on Sunday afternoon was probably the most unusual. Sally Nicholls returned to make us (shudder) act, with a workshop on improvisational storytelling. Sprouts were planted, babies were stolen, and then the ninjas arrived. You really had to be there.
All the while, Caroline, Sally and Lauren were squeezing in personalised feedback via the 121s. And did I mention, we ate some cake?
Monday morning came all too soon and I for one can say I had a very productive few days finishing off my latest draft. Thank you to Tanya and the speakers for a fantastic weekend and see you all next year!
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With thanks to Sue Eves who provided the photos of the Writers' Retreat http://www.sueeves.net/ @sueeves