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Hello guys, Hope you are all in grand form, wherever and however you are….


I’m just back from a week in the Highlands, taking part in a writing week – they call it a retreat – an opportunity to spend some protected time to pursue the writing that you may be into at that time.


The venue is Moniack Mhor, Scotlands Creative Writing Centre, soundly located learning centre on the high moors between Beauly and Abriachan/Inverness.


The idea of a retreat is that individuals can find time to be at their own pace in their creative zone and as a bonus meet interesting people, about 15 or so, doing the same away from the regular grind – it’s a real bonus opportunity The centre offers 4/5 retreats every year in a year long programme that has guided week long courses that bring experts and writers together to explore their particular genre, style of work. These fill the majority of weeks in the annual calendar – a few others have speciality focus – young writers, international gathering, award seminars.


Each mainstream focus has a topic – novel writing, poetry, playwriting, children’s books and so on. Their are two lead ‘tutors’ , published authors, who share their experience with the group and offer one to one tutorials once or twice a week. In most cases there is a guest writer on Wednesday who takes the gathering on another direction, good conversation and thoughtful sharing of minds.


The whole experience is about 5 days and nights long, is residential and fully loaded when it comes to facilities and food. Basic but clean, comfortable accommodation, comfortable private spaces in including a fabulous log fire and lounge space, inspiring little corners, inside and out, to find yourself in whatever way you may need or see fit at the time. Visit the Hobbit House or the fire circle, day or night.


Moniack Mhor is also the home of Scotlands writing library


This my third visit, second retreat over 3/4 years. What is the same in all as I mentioned is the interesting people – I mean, even if I am the boring one, 5 days of smart avoidance by others can thirl the whole thing, so all should be fine.


This group were no less interesting – a quiet lady from Suffolk who was revisiting a character that she started in her first novel – to see if it could stand a re-characterisation.
Wow! How do you do that? I asked. Easily, really, I have ideas, it’s the other successive 9 books that will take the time, same character.
Gas at a peep from me! Just the ten?


Gothic horror was a popular genre, good chat about use of language, themes, modern and old. I suggested the current Tory government would make a good core of characters. Same excellent chat with the lady who was focusing on ‘young peoples fiction’. Ages 11 – 17, I think. What language, words, nuances and so on would make this text convincing to readers of that age? Very interesting. Murder mystery and factual material and there was one other poetry writer, a lady who was focused in on ‘form’ and ‘style’. Certainly a more disciplined approach than my own open style jibber jabbering.


Everyone shared something of their weeks work on the Friday evening, some excellent stuff to enjoy and be impressed by. The main gathering time was mealtimes, chat and comforting home made grub all round.


Throw in a one night contribution to making the evening meal, good fun, nearly impossible to make a mess of with wine available to purchase, a log fire, again, and good company.


Some had their books for sale, plenty other reading material too.
Going back in December.


On another occasion, I’d like to shout the merits of residential learning – it’s a powerful dimension, one I used often and benefited from on many occasions.


Moniack Mhor is a creative writing centre in Scotland. Based in the Scottish Highlands, Moniack Mhor is fourteen miles from Inverness. The centre is a registered charity and is supported by Creative Scotland.




*Aye Write ‘ – borrowed from a couple of book festivals publicity, initially Glasgows. Probably the best festival slogan in the world..