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So, what did happen at the BFS retreat?

A bunch of spec fic writers took over Gladstone’s Library in Wales in early March, and a few of them lived to tell the tale. Here’s a couple of despatches from the event, with thanks to PS Livingstone and Graham Millichap.

No distractions, no excuses

By PS Livingstone

I think I can speak for everyone when I say, ‘All writers dream of a writing retreat.’ I’ve often mooned over brochures and websites, wishing I could go away to a secluded place and simply write. No distractions, no excuses, just centring myself in my fantasy world and writing. Well, last weekend I did it. The BFS ran its annual trip to the Gladstone Library in Wales, and I was one of the (lucky) thirteen who went. 

If you don’t know much about the library, imagine a 100+ year-old stone mansion, complete with carvings and turrets, steeped in a love of literature and built with the support of authors and creativity in mind. The Reading Rooms house thousands of books and individual desks for those seeking both peace and inspiration. After a glorious day of writing, there’s an in-house restaurant and common room to cater to both your dietary and social needs. Then you can retire to your cosy room to sleep … or continue writing into the wee hours at your personal desk.

Now I’ve set the scene, what did I get from my time at the Gladstone Library? Happiness and motivation. I’m a freelance editor and ghostwriter working from home, so finding the headspace to switch to my own writing can be challenge. Sitting in the Reading Room, for the first time in a good while, I felt excited to write my book – I had the time and the permission to indulge. The library is quiet, almost silent, but somehow filled with a sense of community. Everyone has come with purpose, focused on whatever their literary passion might be. Writing can be a lonely life; it’s nice to be working in a place with others who not only understand the isolation but also when it’s needed. And when it’s not.

Of course, the opportunity to socialise with other speculative writers is another benefit of the BFS retreat, and I won’t pretend I didn’t take advantage of it. Having all those brains on tap – willing and generous – helped me turn some corners, and I hope I did the same in return. I met old friends and made some new ones, got some excellent reading recommendations (my poor TBR pile), and ate and drank way too much. I’m not remotely sorry for the latter.

But the best thing about the retreat is that I left feeling good. I’m still excited to write my book. I’ve remembered how wonderful it is to sit down and lose myself in words, in characters that are a part of me, in the world I spent so much time and energy creating and forgot for a while. And while I’d jump at the chance to go there again – and I will – I’ve found my mojo again. Who knew it was hiding in Wales?

Whiskey, a roast, and some well-fed writing

By Graham Millichap

For the first weekend in March, the BFS ran its yearly writing retreat at Gladstone’s Library in Wales.

Most of the attendees arrived on the Friday afternoon from around 3pm. We dropped off our bags and then met in the common room, a lovely place to meet and have a chat and catch up. Lots of comfortable chairs, couches, a chess board and puzzles, and, of course, books. Some of us introduced ourselves and then headed to get some writing done before meeting up for dinner.

The restaurant is a good size and has some very nice artwork on the walls, as well as frames with the penguin postcards in them which I loved. There was a nice long table set up for our group and the service from the staff was excellent. The menu has several options to choose from each day and caters for differing dietary requirements. The food was very nice and I tried several new things. After that first dinner we retired to the lounge to relax in the lovely atmosphere the library creates. We had a few drinks either from what we brought or from the honesty bar. I was particularly fond of the Titanic whiskey David brought. The group was all very friendly and, despite being a little nervous of meeting up with new people, especially as everyone else is further on in their writing journey than me, I found it was immediately a warm and friendly environment. Everyone was very welcoming.

On the Saturday we all met up for a lovely breakfast and then each of us either went to work from our rooms or use the amazing reading room in the library. There is something relaxing about working in the middle of shelves of books in the library environment. For those wanting the solitude of the rooms, each one had a desk with a lamp and no distractions. This is where I did most of my work and I found the atmosphere of working while at Gladstones very motivating.

We met for our meals and in the lounge on an evening. It was extremely good to chat with likeminded people, whether it was stories about our lives or the many conversations we had about our writing journeys. 

On the Sunday, in between writing, we also met for a lovely Sunday roast. All of the staff for the whole weekend were great and made this a very enjoyable retreat.

Thank you to Gladstones for making our stay so welcoming, and very special thanks to the BFS and in particular Shona for arranging this retreat and giving me the chance to come along and learn so much from some amazing people while getting some writing done on my own projects. I would love to do this again.

Is your appetite for a BFS retreat suitably whet? Keep an eye out for details of the next one…

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