There are holidays … and then there are writing holidays

 In All About Writing, How to write a book, Jo-Anne Richard's blog, Newsletters

Holidays should present you with time to do exactly what you please and concentrate on yourself, but they seldom do.  

Writing holidays are different. These provide a time out of time for you to concentrate entirely on yourself, with no plumber to phone or nappies to change. Time to focus on your creative self and get some serious writing done. 

So, in 2022, All About Writing celebrates a return to their annual Venice Retreat (so rudely interrupted by Covid)from 5 to 20 September. Come for one week or two. Spend time writing, exploring this city, seeped as it is in literary history, and receive one-on-one attention from acclaimed writers, Richard Beynon and Dr Jo-Anne Richards.

If Venice is not a destination you can dream of next year, you can opt to be spirited to the quintessential Karoo village of Barrydale for a weekend, from 18 to 20 March, to focus on Memoir. 

Jo-Anne Richards and celebrated author Joanne Hichens will offer guidance on how to plan, structure and write your memoir. They’ll get you started, and offer personal feedback on your writing.  

You’ll be able to live and work in the quirky Karoo Art Hotel – the quintessential Karoo country hotel. It is a classic, artistically driven place of elegance and ease, where everything is done in the proper way. We can promise you the art of a Karoo country kitchen: local organic sourcing, farm to fork, smoked meats, preserves and a focus on Karoo lamb. Vegans and vegetarians will also be well catered for.  

Non-writing partners are welcome, and there will be plenty of activities for them, including a walk with a highly regarded botanist. Partners and participants will be given a list of suggestions, so you won’t be at a loss over what to do. 

Those who attend the memoir weekend, and need on-going support to bring their manuscripts to a professional standard, will be guaranteed a place on All About Writing’s sought-after Mentoring Programme. Places are usually granted on this programme by application only.  

If you’ve been wanting to start a memoir, but didn’t know how, here’s your chance to get away and concentrate on yourself.  Your eyes need to concentrate on a horizon wider than your computer screen.

All About Writing also offers a brand-new adventure next year. You’re invited to join internationally best-selling author, Tony Park, and Jo-Anne Richards on a Writing Safari from 9 to 16 June, at Victoria Falls and Nantwich Lodge in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe.  

After two nights at the awe-inspiring Victoria Falls, you’ll be cosseted in Nantwich Lodge, with all your needs taken care of. Set on a commanding hill, Nantwich’s nine suites each have uninterrupted views of Hwange’s wilderness. Meals, with drinks included, are served on the long, shady veranda of the main building, a renovated retreat from a bygone era overlooking the water hole. It’s also a perfect place to write. A game drive per day is included, to stimulate you.  

The best retreats offer some tricks of the trade, alongside personal attention on you and your work.  

The Writing Safari was devised to deliver on both these needs. You’ll have the attention of two highly experienced writers, who can offer knowledgeable advice on what works and what can make your writing better. 

Tony Park, who does much of his own writing here, says: ‘Nantwich Lodge is the perfect place for writers and aspiring authors to get away from it all, and find peace and inspiration.  

 You’ll have the best of both worlds – guidance, and time out of time to concentrate on yourself. We’re offering you the chance to think, to write, and to look up from your writing to watch the impala frolic.  

This is not a luxury. Each of us has been starved of the time and space to focus on ourselves. We all need the time to tend to our creative health, if we are to be balanced and healthy human beings.

You can also join our Stow-on-the-Wold Writing Weekend with acclaimed storyteller Richard Beynon from 4 – 6 March. Explore the mysteries and the craft of creating story in that most charming of Cotswold market towns, Stow-on-the-Wold. Join a group of like-minded souls for the weekend.

Far from our everyday preoccupations and responsibilities, we’ll talk, brainstorm and write – furiously – with just one aim in mind: to hone our writing skills.

Your days will be devoted to the use of the Hero’s Journey to drive your story forward.

Stories drive us. They’re what help us make meaning – and so, sense, of our world. They help us make decisions about our own existence.

Stories of one sort or another power the world. They’re the spine of the fantasies (and policies) politicians spin. History is the stories we make up to decipher the past.

And, of course, story is what writing’s all about. It’s where inspiration begins. A good story-teller can make us believe in anything. They can make us care about real-world issues, or about people that exist only in their imaginations.

So … the key word is book! Read one, write one, and book for one of our writing getaways.

A few tips for a creative holiday

In the meantime, you still need to survive the festive season. 

If you manage to get in some serious writing at this time of year, you’re lucky. Many people find the family expectations too much. So, here is some advice on how to maintain your writing practice while the demands of family weigh down on you. 

There is a way you can build your writing practice without making yourself reclusive or unpopular. The trick is to keep those writing muscles toned.  

  • If you’re anything like us, you’re probably quite capable of becoming obsessed by a cleverly constructed TV series, especially over the holidays.  Watching a good series can teach you quite a lot about writing. Don’t watch uncritically, though. Watch like a writer. Take note of how the characters are “shown” to us, through the way they act and speak, their body language, and the way others react to them. Notice of every scene: how it carries the story forward. Listen to the dialogue and see how they’ve chosen to structure the story. 
  • Approach your holiday reading in the same way. Become aware of the devices used. Where does the book start, what point of view has been used, how is it structured? How strong are the scenes and how skilful has the author been in showing aspects of the character, and avoiding explanation? 
  • Carry a small notebook around – and use it. Eavesdrop shamelessly on those around you. Transcribe the exact words they use, including the pauses, the interruptions, the ums and ahs. Not only will it provide you with story ideas, but it will give you a good feel for the rhythms of real speech, which you will try to mimic in your dialogue. 
  • Spend ten minutes a day free writing. Set a timer but not an objective. Simply start writing. It doesn’t matter what you write about as long as you don’t worry about spelling and grammar, and as long as you don’t censor or belittle yourself. You’ll be amazed how it will strengthen your voice and get you writing with greater ease and flow. 
  • Set yourself the task of observing a setting or a group of people. Watch them with your writer’s eye – and ear. Use all your senses. What does a scene feel and smell like? How does the ice cream taste? 
  • Now force yourself to find the words and images to allow us to experience your sensations for ourselves. Ban the generic descriptors. No beautiful sunsets, awesome oceans or picturesque villages. Find the words and images which will allow us to picture the scene for ourselves. Concentrate on strong verbs and, if you use adjectives at all, let them specify something particular, like colour or shape. It takes practice to observe actively and to find exactly the right words, but the more you do it, the more supple and powerful your writing will become. 

Happy holidays from the All About Writing team


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