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Arvon - a magical place to write

Finding time and space to write can be a challenge. Life is very, very, very distracting. Arvon is one of the magical tools I've discovered that really helps. The downside? It's in England.


In 2017 I went to a five-day writing retreat in England operated by Arvon Foundation. That's where I wrote the opening scene to Adrift, playing with an idea I'd been holding on to for some time that I thought was pretty special. I was worried I'd ruin the idea and I wanted to wait until I had time and space to explore it. And, let me tell you, Arvon knows how to make time and space.


It's a non-profit dedicated to supporting creative writing in all forms. It's not the kind of place that needs you to already have an MFA or other credentials; they support all writers at all stages.


My five days at that Arvon retreat kick-started my writing in a way that I hadn't been able to do on my own. It was five days in a lovely old manor house in Yorkshire, England. Five days of nothing but thinking and talking of writing; it was glorious.


The day before I arrived, I visited Haworth (where the Bronte family lived) and walked the moors that Charlotte, Anne, and Emily Bronte lived in and wrote about.


photo of a road leading to an old stone house surrounded by lush greenery.

I was immersed in the world of writers whose work I adored, stared at their handwritten manuscripts and the table they wrote at. It was a stunning bit of literary tourism and I was so caught up I missed the bus back to where I was actually staying. For a moment I thought I would have to sleep on the moor like Jane Eyre, but instead I called a cab which lacks drama but I had a workshop to get to.


Then the next day, I stepped into the Arvon workshop at Lumb Bank and the real world disappeared for a while.


Arvon is clever. The houses that host their retreats are in the country. They're in picturesque settings that make you sigh when you look out the windows, but... once you've walked down the lane or in the woods nearby, you've seen it all and you might as well get back to writing.


No distractions. No appointments or work or chores. You can just focus on writing.


I didn't realize until I attended one of these workshops how much of my brain was taken up by the never-ending running list of "things I need to do". At the workshop you park that at the door and, wow, the things you can accomplish when that part of your brain is free!


The instruction was also lovely, the other writers kind and full of creativity, and the food was good. But that escape from life - that was the really powerful bit for me. What a gift to have five days where someone else does the shopping and meal planning and cleaning and you just have to show up - it's a powerful thing.


The instructors at that workshop in 2017 read the opening bit I wrote, about a woman who woke up on a sailboat in Haida Gwaii with no memory of who she was or how she got there, and they immediately told me it was the start to a novel and I needed to continue. And with the kick start from Arvon, I did. And here we all are.


The best news is that tomorrow I fly to England and will head directly to another Arvon workshop (and then to visit family)!







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