A couple of weeks ago I spent 5 nights at Moniach Mhor, in the Scottish Highlands, 15 miles south of Inverness.
It’s a residential retreat, described as one of Scotlands writing centres.
It’s located 15 miles from Inverness, in the hills near Abriachan, en route to Kiltarlity and Beauly.
Abriachan has one of the top community woodland sites in Scotland. It can be visited anytime. Like the rest of the area, it’s stunningly beautiful.
Moniack Mhor delivers courses of up to 5 days where writers can meet with established authors and poets and musicians, usually 15 or so students and 2/3 tutors who share their writing experiences with the group and on a one to one basis, exchanging ideas and potentially finding inspiration.
TWO SHORT POEMS ADDED TO THE SITE TODAY . ‘It’s All Yours’ and ‘Apology’.
Full programme for this year, above, plan ahead, it’s a busy place, waiting lists. If you become a ‘friend’ you get early notice of availability.
The retreat I enjoyed was one where we did our own work, no guest experts. We use our rooms and outside for our work spaces and shared meals and grand company. Staffing support, second to none in the COVID conditions. Thanks for that ladies and gent.
I took some scraps of poems with me, 4/5 ideas to flesh out, see how they developed. As it happened I started 3 new threads of thought which I still have to finish too….onwards!!
There are many slivers of valuable moments in this experience – the setting, the amazing fresh food, the shared meals, – so much to learn from others – the warmth and honesty of good people who seem to care about the big world.
The people are the bell ringers though – Brian, poet and short story writer, retired London Underground maintenance engineer. He was on his second collection of random tales, as he described them. He was calling them ‘Postcards from….’.Stories about places he had visited on a daily basis, not big cities but shops, the seaside, the theatre. I suggested his stories from the underground were great too…he said he would steal that idea for the next collection. You’re welcome.
Shelagh is American, a whole pile of cliches wrapped up in a voice that goes higher at the end of sentences. Where do they get that confidence to shower their views so loudly upon others? Where do we get the victim role to feel put on? Her story about deciding to live in the UK was a novel in itself. She read an excerpt from her 2nd Young Persons Novel, first one well received – we talked about how challenging it was to get into the shoes of teenagers, see the world their way, look at language…wow!
Myra was a self proclaimed scribbler/writer. She just enjoyed writing to no particular end. Her short readings silenced the room. Thanks Myra. Just one more step to fame. Deep breath, and…….!
Carol , a retired primary teacher, wrote children’s stories, based on real life experiences, we talked long and hard about these, just a few experiences shared can start the whole group going. A few discrete tears shed here, across the group.
Harold, on his third adult literary novel – I had to ask what that was – murder was involved. This was challenging, talking about building characters, personalities, heroes that had a good and bad side. There was a general consensus that all traits were out there in the people we knew or encountered.
Gwen – as it happened I knew her dad, former colleague. I had read about the success of her first children’s story in our local press a year before, now on her 3rd. She talked about having a publisher, deadlines, daily word targets to meet said deadlines. Getting in the heads of children to articulate their view of the world, good fun.
We all shared a bit of our work, 2/3 minutes each on the last night, just about right/write!!
There are writing groups all over the place. I tried a couple locally, too stuffy and formal for me, but clearly suited the others. Have a look at library notice boards, leisure services, should they exist – and if the groups don’t exist, start one.
The universities run summer schools, the ARVON foundation have a cluster of centres in England, staggering choice of courses. Treat it as a holiday, full board and inspiration and good people – you are one of them. Enjoy.
It’s the people.