I'm just back from my French holiday no no it's a job really week.
Last year I had an email out of the blue asking me if I'd like to run four days of creative writing workshops at a renovated house, called St Raymond, near Carcassonne for an organisation called French House Party.
Naturally I said, Yes, that sounds lovely.
And it was. So I was asked back and it was even better this year, because I knew what to expect. I worked with six apprentice writers every morning on a variety of games and exercises to get their imaginations cranked up, or to create characters or playing about with verbs, then we had the afternoons off, although I did offer one-to-one sessions if anyone wanted them. They all took up that offer. There we talked about their ambitions or time management or how the hell could they figure out finishing the novel they're writing.
I am also given a room in the villa with the writing holiday makers, which could be hell, but everyone's very respectful, and I spent the afternoons swimming and lying in the shade acting like I was thinking very intensely, except when I woke myself up snoring.
What I love most about the week is
1. the energy and enthusiasm the people bring to their first footsteps into writing
2. how a bunch of disparate people create a cohesively strange group
3. the discovery of imaginations
4. the fabulous food and wine I eat almost continuously for five days
5. meeting people I may never have otherwise crossed paths with.
And, so, please allow me to introduce them to you in the order in which I met them:
Tina, a freelance journalist from Leeds,
Eric, a golfer/freelance journo from North Carolina,
Rick, a professional origamist, whose signature is this butterfly,
Marie Louise, a painter who lives in Venice and sometimes in the south of France,
Peter, an semi-retired accountant with a taste for pastis,
and Helen, who likes wolves.
They all brought a contribution of personality to the five days and were immensely generous with their ideas and honesty. I think (or perhaps hope would be more accurate) at some point during the week each of them had a small YES moment about their writing, which are the moments I will treasure in my mind, instead of holiday snaps.
After all, it was work, not a holiday. And as if to prove the point I did tinker with an old poem and start a new one, and what was possibly most exciting (for me) was on the train home I was flooded with ideas I wanted to explore further. I suddenly felt enormously stimulated. As if I'd be on a writing retreat.
And they have been shining a light on my path. A great result. I'd like to thank them