From 7 to 11 November, ten aspiring writers will descend on Pennard House in East Pennard for a five-day residential writing retreat led by Susan Elderkin. Susan, who recently moved to Bruton with her family, has been leading creative writing workshops since she published her first novel in 2000, and has built up a loyal following ever since.
Now in its third year, the Pennard retreat is aimed at those looking for some focused time and headspace in which to write, be it fiction, memoir, or something between the two. You don’t need to have a specific project in mind – in fact, Susan sees her role as helping you work out what you want to write, as well as how you might go about it. Mornings are spent around the fire in the drawing room, responding to various writing triggers and analysing aspects of the craft; the afternoons are left free for you to explore the cider orchards, find a secluded, sunny corner in which to write some more, mull, read – or share a cup of tea with one of the other guests. On the Wednesday evening, local author Emma Craigie will come and speak on the week’s theme – ‘All the Things We Cannot Know’ (with a nod to Anthony Doerr) – and generate some lively discussion about the pros and cons of ‘not-knowing’…
Pennard retreats are thoroughly stimulating – you’ll almost certainly surprise yourself by what you write, and the direction your work takes. But they’re fun and relaxing too. You’ll have a room of your own (beautifully furnished in quintessential English style) and meals will be shared in the elegant dining room. If you want to make it a retreat for the body as well as the mind, you can opt for a daily morning yoga session with the wonderful Iyengar teacher Sarah Constantinides – a great way to get into the perfect mindset for the day. By the end of five days, you’ll come away with loads of new material, an overall sense of where you’re aiming with your writing – and a new daily writing habit. You’ll also find you’ve become part of a lovely, supportive group of other people who share your passion for writing. The group from last year’s retreat still meet in London on a regular basis.
For full details, email Susan on: firstname.lastname@example.org. The week costs from £755, depending on which room you choose, and includes five three-hour workshops, four nights’ accommodation, all meals from Monday lunch to Friday lunch, plus a 30-minute one-to-one workshop with Susan. Spread the word to your out-of-town friends – this might be just the nudge they need to embark on that magnum opus at last. And if you live too close to justify a residential course, Susan is also planning various afternoon and weekend workshops in the New Year. Keep an eye on this site, or ask her to put you on her mailing list.