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Really Useful Links for Writers: Writers Retreats

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Paul FitzSimons

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I must admit – by which I mean ‘boast’ – I am, while writing this, also playfully dipping my toe in the swimming pool of an idyllic villa in the south of France. Seriously, it’s happening. No, I haven’t hit the writing jackpot with a seven-figure book deal and bought the place, but I am here for two weeks and will be using the halcyon surrounds to inspire me to write my book.

Of course, I will also spend a lot of time engaging in non-writing activities – after all, this pale skin won’t tan itself, the cocktails won’t drink themselves and the cheap souvenirs won’t buy themselves. But for those of you more committed to the craft of writing than I am and still want to do it away from the hustle, bustle and washing-up of home, there is the Writing Retreat.

What many of us need for our writing is peace, quiet and a distinct lack of visual and audible distractions. We should also have to hand an abundance of necessary and luxury items, be they good dinners, Schubert piano sonatas, a nice glass of wine or a kilo bag of M&Ms – the thing that will help our creative brilliance pour forth. And any writing retreat worth its salt will provide this quantum of solace and these essentials/treats that will mean that all we have to think about is our writing.

Author of Sleeping Tigers Holly Robinson is an enthusiastic advocate of the writing retreat. On The Huffington Post website, she tells us that, in a recent visit to a retreat in Cape Ann in Massachusetts, she managed to write up to 7000 words of her novel per day. She brings us through a guide to sourcing the right retreat and suggests that a writing retreat (get loads of writing done) is very different from a writing conference (maybe learn loads but get zero writing done).

Closer to home and in the Irish Times, Sandra O’Connell talks to the principles at some of Ireland’s leading writers’ retreats. These include the usual suspects Anam Cara and The Tyrone Guthrie centre as well as the lesser-known Kilcoe Writers Retreat. She shows us that no two retreats are the same, that each has something unique to offer its visitors.

Writing retreats aren’t for everyone. Writer and blogger Max Dunbar is  sceptical of the concept and is of the opinion that writing retreats, especially ones that put writers together in a community for a period of time are, in fact, not conducive to writing. This is especially the case, he suggests, where the retreat is somewhat rustic in its facilities (such as not offering IT support or own-room accommodation). He does concede that many who use retreats have gone on to be highly successful but wonders if they would have been successful anyway, had they not spent those few days communing with nature (and other writers).

If, like me, there is no better muse to inspire fantastic writing that the warmth of the sun, maybe an Irish or UK retreat isn’t for you. No problem, there’s an abundance of further afield writing retreats in France, Italy and Spain (and the US if you and your wallet can handle it). And, as many of mainland Europe ones seem to be established or run by Irish, British or American folk, the language barrier won’t be a problem. For example, La Muse Writing Retreat was established by New York ex-pats Kerry Eielson and John Fanning, who bought a country house in Labastide Esparbairenque, a village in Southern France and created the retreat.

For the US, we can visit writersretreat.com, which provides us with a State-by-State search option for writers retreats around the country. It also provides a guide for those of us who wish to set up and run our own writers’ retreat.

Right, back to toe-dipping. Now where is that waiter with my mojito?


The Advocate Speaketh.

Holly Robinson on why writing retreats work for her.

“Whether you’re a working mother like me, a new college graduate, a middle-aged stock broker, or a retired widow, a writing retreat could be just what you need.”



What Ireland Has To Offer.

The Irish Times’ Sandra O’Connell gives us the run down on what writing retreats are available on home soil.

“Fancy a room of your own to get your creativity going? A suitably inspiring space awaits you at a writers’ retreat.”



He Who’s Not-So-Sure.

Max Dunbar feels that retreats are not necessarily conducive to writing.

“I’ve always been suspicious of writers’ retreats and my gut instincts tell me that they are a waste of time and money.”



The Retreats: Home…

Anam Cara. http://www.anamcararetreat.com/

Tyrone Guthrie Centre. http://tyroneguthrie.ie/home

Kilcoe Writers Retreat. http://kilcoeretreat.wordpress.com/


…And Away

Horta Writing Centre, Catalonia, Spain http://www.hortawriting.com/

La Muse Inn, France. http://www.lamuseinn.com

Villa D’Arte, Ventimiglia, Italy. http://www.writersretreat.com/retreatdetails.php?id=131

The Writers Retreat, Andalucia, Spain. http://www.writersretreat.co.uk/


…And Far Far Away.

A Full listing of all writers retreats available in the States. http://www.writersretreat.com



About the author

Paul FitzSimons is a screenwriter and novelist and has written the novel ‘Burning Matches’ and a number of scripts for film and TV. He has worked as a storyline writer on RTE’s ‘Fair City’. His short stories are published in ‘Who Brought The Biscuits’ by The Naas Harbour Writers. Paul likes crime thrillers, good coffee and Cadbury’s chocolate. He doesn’t like country-and-western music or people who don’t indicate on roundabouts.

Paul also runs the Script Editing service Paul | The | Editorpaulfitzsimons.com

  • The Dark Room: A thrilling new novel from the number one Irish Times bestselling author of Keep Your Eyes on Me
  • www.designforwriters.com

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