The Women Who Write with Elves Writing Retreat 2015 

 

Women Who Write with Elves is a group of nine writers who met through the Open University. Scattered from Scotland to Switzerland, we keep in touch via an online forum.

Once a year we meet for a creative writing break which is stimulating, educational and far from the relaxing holiday some of us hope for! Our inaugural meeting was on the Isle of Tiree in the Inner Hebrides. It was a perfect writers’ retreat – isolated, beautiful, windswept and, best of all, free.

Members include published novelists, poets and short story writers who have gained success in competitions and national magazines. Our name reflects that we are all women except for one lone gentleman – the eponymous Mr Elves. His claim to be the descendant of a Portuguese pirate has earned him the roles of volunteer galley slave and… editor.

Women Who Write with Elves are Annis Farnell, Elves, Enza Vynn-Cara, Julia Chalkley, Mairibeth MacMillan, Palo Stickland, R Cohen, RJ Ashby and Sue Cook.

This year our retreat was held in Filey, Yorkshire with eight writers and one well-behaved Labrador dog attending, with one writer dropping in on Skype from Switzerland. We rented a house near the beach, for this, our fourth annual meeting. The house is on five levels with eight bedrooms.

Our preparations included a timetable for, not only our workshop schedule, but also our cooking rota. Our days consisted of a presentation from ten till about twelve, followed by lunch. Time to write in the afternoon, a meal at about 6.30 and a round-up of the day’s writing after seven o’clock.

On our first day we had travelled from as far south as Norfolk and as far north as Angus in Scotland, all arriving in the late afternoon. So the first evening was spent in catching up with our achievements during the previous year.

Each year, in November, we have tried to meet in a different part of the country. Last March we had a successful spring meeting, a long weekend, at the StAnza Poetry Festival in St Andrews, which we hope to repeat next year. We have an internet forum for day-to-day contact where we critique each other’s work and provide support for each other’s writing ambitions (with a thread for ‘Idle Chit-Chat!). The secret to keeping the group meetings a pleasure is to be understanding of each other’s temperaments, personalities and lifestyles. And to be happy with each other’s choices in writing, and most importantly in food and drink! Which is one of the reasons our next anthology, entitled Second Helpings, is a collection of short stories linked to recipes.

By the end of our week we had worked on writing and selling flash fiction, plotting a novel, writing speculative fiction, selling stories to women’s magazines, grammar for writers, ghost stories and editing. Our ghost stories were read by torchlight to add atmosphere! They were amazingly scary!

At the end of the week we had eaten a variety of meals including samosas with chick peas, bean stew, lasagne, tuna pasta, bhaturas with yoghurt curry, meatloaf with roast potatoes and every night there was a vegetarian option. Not only are we brilliant writers and presenters but great cooks as well!

Our plans for the coming year include continuing to sell to women’s magazines, publishing novels and improving works in progress. We intend to continue to publish on Kindle and CreateSpace.com with two future anthologies. The first will be a collection of short stories relating to stately homes and the other on the work completed this week in Filey.

Palo Stickland is the author of a family saga called Finding Takri published by Dahlia Publishing in 2013. She has had short stories and poems published in several anthologies. Her aim is to begin a novel on 1st January every year. However, due to travel and grandchildren commitments, she is a wee bit behind schedule. Palo has a blog at palostickland.com and is on Facebook as Gurpal Devsi Stickland.