Northern Retreats

Northern Retreats

I spent the best part of January 2016 in spectacular Hawthornden Castle (see earlier post for photo), Lasswade, Scotland: the writers’ retreat set up by Mrs Drue Heinz, that offers month-long residencies to writers: uninterrupted time to write.

Snow on the ground, a hot water bottle on my lap while I wrote, ancient stones, deer in the woods, rooks in bare trees. I was even persuaded by my fellow writers to watch The Shining for the first time: a group of us holed up in a castle surrounded by snow and all battling to write. Crazy, eh?

And then I spent June in Hald Hovedgaard, the Danish Centre for Writers and Translators as one of four foreign writers for their International Residency for Writers program (we were an Indian, a Greek, an American and a British writer).  The Centre is based in a huge manor house beside a lake – the kind of lake you can swim in, row round, take long walks round, sit beside, gaze at for long hours.

For that month I lived and worked alongside Danish writers of all kinds: poets, novelists, creative non-fiction writers, bloggers, cookery writers, graphic novelists.

The Centre is wonderfully run by Peter and Gitte Rannes, who made us feel as welcome as could be: feeding us delicious Danish food, telling us more and less probable Danish tales, and taking us on expeditions into the Danish interior! including  tea at the beautiful Svinklov Badehotel (see pictures below).

 And by the end of the month, the first draft of my new novel was within spitting distance of being finished. 

Writing residencies don’t work for all writers, but they work for me. I wrote more in each of those two months than in any other two months before or since. Thank you, to Drue Heinz and to the Danish government, and  for providing Hawthornden Castle and Hald Hovedgaard; and to the teams of people in both those places for taking such good care of the heaps of unruly writers staying in both.