The writing calendar is full of wonderful events. With financial resources at a premium how does one choose what to attend and what to just hanker after (apologies for the split infinitive)?
It’s late July, ostensibly the middle of summer here in England though you wouldn’t know it looking out of the window. It’s been raining persistently with more to come. Several of my writing friends are even now travelling to Fishguard in Wales to attend the annual Writers’ Holiday. While I’ve always thought ‘holiday’ was a bit of a misnomer, Ann and Gerry Hobbs have consistently maintained that delegates are there to enjoy themselves. This much is true as I can testify, having joined them on three consecutive years (the first two at the Caerleon Campus near Newport). In blazing sunshine last year we did indeed manage a couple of outings and a walk on the beach. One of us actually paddled – it wasn’t me! That said, we attended courses and talks, learned a huge amount and left with a strong desire to learn more…there’s always more to learn, isn’t there? A holiday? Not entirely; maybe more a combination of work and play. A wonderful week and one I can thoroughly recommend to anyone who hasn’t been before, and indeed to those who have.
In the spring of this year I went with three writerly friends on a retreat to Whitstable – I wrote about it on this blog here (you may want to refresh your memory) and the benefits of this type of ‘holiday’ are huge. Disciplined enough to set aside time for our writing, the ‘time out’ we took was essential as, in my opinion, it is impossible to maintain such a high level of concentration and output without taking any breaks. In any case, there were some little gems we were able to gather in the name of research.
It may be argued that one could work just as easily from home but that isn’t in fact the case. No matter how dedicated, there are always distractions…coffee breaks, phone calls, emails. Internet access at our retreat was almost non-existent and while this was frustrating at the time it did have the benefit of precluding displacement therapy. I know I can speak for my companions when I say that more output is achieved under these circumstances than is possible under normal circumstances.
Romantic Novelists’ Association Annual Conference
My favourite event of the year. There is little time (read that as no time) to do any actual writing. I have recently returned from this year’s Conference which took place at Queen Mary University in Mile End Road, London. It’s a wonderful campus on the Regent’s canal and I was astonished to find an old Jewish cemetery situated within the grounds. I’m sure many of you reading this will also have been there. Much has been said already on various forums so I will not expand here other than to say that I came away with my usual regret of not being able to attend two sessions at the same time. There is such a wide choice and so many opportunities to extend one’s knowledge. Ah well; it would seem the only solution is to go again next year and play catch up, while at the same time missing others – so obviously I’ll have to go again the year after, and so on.
RNA members know how to work hard but they also know how to play hard. The Gala Dinner on Saturday evening was no exception, a wonderful glittering event. Then there are the flat parties (most definitely not in the sense of dull) but no, I promised I wouldn’t expand. Suffice it to say there was much merrymaking. I’m never quite sure how it’s possible to cram so much work and play into three days but it’s a hell of a lot of fun trying.
It takes time to learn what best suits one’s needs and indeed what is most enjoyable. There are many other events in the writing calendar that I haven’t talked about here and many I have never attended, nor will I be able to. I can’t do everything but I think I have found what suits me best. Sadly Fishguard is probably off my radar for the foreseeable future. The RNA Conference and the writing retreat, be it in Whitstable or elsewhere, would always be my first choices. Anything else would be a bonus. What stands out as special in your writing year?