Very, very occasionally in life you get exactly what you want. Most of the time it doesn’t happen that way: someone’s eaten the last bar of Green and Blacks Salted Caramel chocolate, and the only tea available is the heinous decaff. But sometimes things work out.
I used to be a teacher and got a real kick out of it. Now that I’m an author I still teach whenever I can – and relish the process. I love supporting writers as they increase in confidence and skill, I love seeing – right in front of me – the messy, diverse process that is creativity (set sixteen writers exactly the same activity and each one will produce something utterly and only theirs, and almost always something I’d never have predicted when I set it.).
I especially enjoy organising tutored retreats, where I offer writers protected time to work in peace, alongside lively group workshops and one-to-one support. When I came to plan the next one, I drew up a wishlist:
1: I wanted to team-teach with another author, someone who’s a superb trainer as well as very, very good with people and a lot of fun. A friend said: ‘You should ask Stephanie Butland if she’d do it with you.’ Well yes, of course I should – Stephanie’s a wonderful writer with incredible range, an author of both non-fiction and novels. Plus, she’s a De Bono Master Trainer (a rare breed; she jets off all over the world training people in thinking techniques). In addition – and possibly most important – I just really, really like her and think teaching together would be a blast.
So: fabulous author, gifted teacher, a lot of fun. Chances of her being free? Slim to nil, I thought.
2: I wanted the retreat to be in a gobsmackingly beautiful place; I’ve had my eye on Gladstone’s Library for a while – get a load of this:
Beautiful. And the accommodation is gorgeous: a Sawdays Special Place with a Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence. In January, it topped a Guardian readers’ poll of wellbeing retreats.
3: I wanted as much comfort as possible for writers, and no chores allowed – so every room should be ensuite, every meal provided. The only demand on anyone’s time should be their writing.
This really was my wishlist – and I didn’t think I had a hope of getting it. But I did: the Library can take us, and those ensuite rooms are ready and waiting. Best of all, Stephanie’s miraculously free; between us we’re planning an absolute corker of a tutored retreat.
So I’ve got what I want! Mwahahahaha! If it sounds like something you’d want too, here’s a link to the details. Now I’m off to eat some salted caramel chocolate and drink a mug of proper tea – squeaky with caffeine.