An Accidental Writing Retreat

My name is Alison, and I have a problem with doing things just for me.

Not doing things by myself, you understand; just doing things and spending money on things that only benefit me.

So it’s not surprising that although I’ve been tempted to book myself on the writer’s holidays that Della Galton praises so highly, or the writers’ retreats that Nicola Morgan and Laura Wilkinson have both enjoyed recently, I never have – because it seems self-indulgent; a holiday for one, albeit a working one, that would use money I could put towards a week in a cottage for the whole family. Perhaps if I was a mega-bestselling author, then…

Before anyone suggests that I Have Issues and Need Psychoanalysis, there’s no need. I know where the roots of the problem lie, and as my husband will attest, I’ve got a lot better over the years at allowing myself to buy things that aren’t a) the cheapest option available or b) life and death necessities. I now, for instance, own more than one bag. It took me a while.

bag pic

So. The writing retreat thing. Brief background:

  • Techie Husband often has to work abroad for a few days, and once when asked to do so at short notice, was told he could take me for free as a sweetener
  • I couldn’t go due to work, although it planted the seed of me/all of us going some other time
  • It was no real loss because his hotel was, as is so often the case, miles away from any pretty/interesting areas.

But recently he was asked to go to Bamberg and I made the mistake of looking at some images online and checking the hotel location, which for once is central, and not far from the river that flows through the city – a city that, if Google is anything to go by, is beautiful.


I was seized by Crazy. Could we all go and make up for our disaster-prone, illness-filled, wind-and-rain besieged holiday in Wales? There were even vegetarian restaurants for Constructo Boy, who is a pescaterian – something we’d presumed would be hard to cater for in Germany or Austria. I sent a jokey email to Techie Husband about it and shortly after the phone rang. “Were you serious? Because I need to book in the next two hours.”87px-Bamberg-Schlenkerla1-Asio

I dithered. He looked up prices. Booking a twin room for the kids would be pricey at the same hotel; Arty Daughter offered to stay at a cheaper hotel but Constructo Boy wasn’t keen on that – or on having fun while his Dad would be stuck at work for hours, possibly including evenings (often, he’s overseeing the installation of IT and comms systems best started when other staff aren’t in the office).

So I said no, but felt  sad. I’d been quite carried away. But it wasn’t fair to go without the kids – was it? I’d barely see my husband and it would only be fun for me… wandering the beautiful streets of Bamberg when I wasn’t writing… completely undisturbed… using the desk and free WiFi…. in the hotel room room that, unlike the kids’ one, was already paid for…

BW Bamberg room

A writing retreat had landed in my lap and I’d said no. What an idiot.

My children started on the psychoanalysis, telling me that I deserved to sometimes do something just for me and that I should go (see – told you I didn’t need your psychoanalysis offers). So I texted my poor husband who got the booking changed (saving his company the sole occupancy fee), and booked myself on the same flights.

So what will I do when I’m there?

Take in some sights and smells.
Learn something about Bamberg.
Be completely without responsibility to do anything other than write what I want for a few days.
What is  that like?


writing snipProbably work on the new novel that’s brewing and two short stories I’ve outlined this week, and if they don’t gel then go back to this novella >
that’s been sitting neglected for the last few years, with a few gaps that together only need around 7000 words to fill them…

… I might even blog about it! 😉

The Write Space, or Where I Write Now

If you don’t remember me telling you about moving my working space into the corner of the master bedroom, I don’t blame you. I’ve just looked back to the relevant blog post and found, to my amazement, that it happened back in 2012. I hadn’t had my desk assembled anywhere for a long time so it was great to have it back up, and to be able to use all the handy storage space it provides. In my post, I optimistically stated: “Hopefully my new ‘writing home’ will produce good results.”

But it didn’t – at least, not for very long. Because despite the way it looks here, with the benefit of flash and sunlight streaming in (only possible because I’d pulled the curtain right back, which meant moving all the books, as the desk obscured a good portion of the window)…

mum blog pics 001

… it’s a dark dingy corner. There’s no view, no light, and behind me there’s a bed and the inevitable junk that always seems to be cleared from other parts of the house and end up, even if only temporarily, in our bedroom. Coupled with the fact that you can’t move the curtain properly… it just didn’t work, and being able to see my work desk when I was trying to chill and get ready for bed wasn’t exactly relaxing.

Gradually the desk was abandoned and I found myself sometimes working on a lap-tray sitting on the settee, but mostly working at the dining room table, which has a great view of the garden and oodles of light thanks to a huge window and patio doors.

But a while ago I decided that for the sake of my back, intermittent hernia, concentration, sanity and need for easily accessible, compact storage, I needed to go back to having an office – and I needed it before we could afford the garage conversion. So I excavated the spare room and my lovely husband reassembled my desk.


A far brighter room (no flash required!) with a view over the houses and the green space opposite, so that I can have a stare out the window if I want. It’s given me a work space that I can shut the door on if I want, and there’s a laptop dock so that I can use a keyboard and monitor at the right height. The bed-settee below squeezes in beside the desk, providing a thinking chair and somewhere for the kids and him indoors to sit when they arrive home and want to chat about their day – and if we have guests, there is just room to move it and open it out in the space in front.


This is a good thing as the bed settee was called upon not soon after, when my friend was taken into hospital and her boys had to stay for a while. But I’m back in now and it has made the world of difference. All my bits and pieces are just where I need them…


…including essential books.


And any that don’t fit on the desk are on a dedicated bookcase. Hooray!


As a finishing touch, there’s room for my lovely magnetic calendar with all my deadlines clearly marked, so that it’s easy to see where I can fit in other work.


The room has a lovely feel to it and when I’m there, I’m productive and focussed – and not tempted to answer the phone in the middle of a work session because it’s too far away, so it saves me from the curse of the cold-callers too.

Although I can write anywhere when I have to – I do this as a job, so there’s no time for waiting for inspiration in a garret – this really is the Write (pun completely intended) Space.
Where’s yours? 🙂