Time-slip novel set in GUERNSEY
#TFBookClub – Creative Writing Retreats in The Lake District
20th September 2017
The #TFBookClub is currently reading Exquisite by Sarah Stovell, set in The Lake District.
Bo Luxton has it all – a loving family, a beautiful home in the Lake District, and a clutch of bestselling books to her name.
Enter Alice Dark, an aspiring writer who is drifting through life, with a series of dead-end jobs and a freeloading boyfriend.
When they meet at a writers’ retreat, the chemistry is instant, and a sinister relationship develops…or does it?
We try to bring the #TFBookClub to life for our readers, and we’re delighted to say that Angela Locke – a published writer who lives in the Lake District and runs Creative Writing Retreats UK – has kindly shared some of her thoughts with us.
Over to Angela…..
As an author, travel writer, and lecturer in Creative Writing, I have been running international Writing Retreats since 2000, mostly focused on Iona and Brittany. Five years ago, working in the beginning with Grevel Lindop, author of The Literary Guide to the Lake District, I organised a weekend retreat for writers, which would give some insight into the beauties of the Lake District.
I have lived here for thirty years, finding a balance between inspiration from the beautiful landscape, and also looking at the great writers of the past. Initially we were based at The Mill Inn in Mungrisdale, in the Northern Lakes. It’s a quiet part of the Lake District, not hugely visited, with a rich history and culture. We had very good attendance, including some from as far afield as the USA, all of whom really wanted to learn more about the landscape of the Lake District. Some were more experienced writers and others were beginners. The first year we held a writing workshop at Grasmere [where Bo Luxton lives with her family], including a visit to Dove Cottage, where Wordsworth and his sister lived as young siblings [and about whom Bo was also writing a book!]. Here they tended their garden, with Coleridge in attendance. We also visited Mirehouse, beside Bassenthwaite, the inspiration for Tennyson’s Mort’d’Arthur.
There were some great writing responses to the landscape, which clearly inspired so many of the participants. Three years ago, I decided to move the retreat across to Rydal Hall, situated in the countryside in the centre of the Lake District, near Ambleside. This impressive mansion is rich in the history of Wordsworth and Coleridge, and just a step from Wordsworth’s long-term family home, Rydal Mount, with its beautiful gardens. Rydal Hall was owned by the le Fleming family, Wordsworth’s landlords, and its gardens were laid out by the famous garden designer Thomas Mawson. It is an ideal place for writing, with an OM Chapel overlooking a dramatic waterfall, and acres of quiet gardens for contemplation. I never cease to find it inspiring, with its view across the beautiful fells, often misty in the distance, beautiful old trees, the wild indigenous Herdwick sheep with their black lambs grazing in the fields beyond the rhododendrons, fountains and formal gardens. It is the essence of the Lake District.
We have heard amazing work from the international writers, beginners and improvers from America and the continent, as well as from across Britain. Many have returned several times. They really appreciate the time to write in often busy lives, time to contemplate in the quiet gardens, and to enjoy the meditation, part of my teaching, to bring a sense of stillness and looking inwards, where the best writing comes from. This appreciation of our world-class landscape – now a World Heritage Site – with time to be quiet, contemplative and connect with the natural world, produces inspired writing. After all, this is the very place which inspired two of our most iconic poets, whose writing changed the way we think about landscape.
What kind of people come to the Lake District course? Everyone from mechanical engineers, retired physics professors, mathematics text book writers, shop owners and workers, archaeologists (lots of archaeologists), an American real estate saleswoman (‘I sell fast food joints to fund my novel’), garden centre owners, teachers, many, many doctors (I often teach the Society of Medical Writers annual course and judge their writing competitions). Just about anyone and everyone, both beginners and improvers. The most common theme is that people are healers in some way, or in a high-powered professions where they are burned out – doctors come into that category often. Like social workers they need some resourcing through accessing their creativity. I think my courses are not like anyone else’s – over twenty years, I have developed what I hope is a unique form. There are strict rules of engagement, which everyone signs up for – mutual support and encouragement, confidentiality, respect for individual writing and quiet time. It works well, and I have people coming back year after year.