As the days grow shorter, it’s time for some hard-core writing to be done. I have the guts of a novel in place and yet I’d reached a stage where I felt publication might forever be beyond my grasp. The ogre of doubt who leans heavily on my shoulder was growing louder … Your writing’s not good enough. What are you doing? You should find a proper job. What was needed was some focused time, away from family distractions, with others who understand this crazy urge to keep tapping away no matter what. So I set off for Moniack Mhor …
WHAT'S SO SPECIAL ABOUT MONIACK MHOR?
Located high in the Scottish mountains near Inverness, it’s a writing retreat I’ve been lucky enough to visit a couple of times. Whilst the vistas it offers are awesome (sorry – I’ve spent the summer with teenagers), the peaceful location makes the wider world seem distant, making it easier to concentrate on writing.
|The Hobbit House where workshops take place|
THE DREAM TEAM
But the main reason I chose this particular retreat was because of the opportunity to learn from two fabulous tutors. Nathan Filer’s debut novel, The Shock of the Fall, became an award-winning bestseller. A multi-talented writer, he also tutors at Bath Spa University. His latest non-fiction book, The Heartland: Finding and LosingSchizophrenia, quashes myths, offering a fresh perspective on mental health.
Whilst Francesca Main, editor and associate publisher with a list of bestselling fiction and non-fiction titles at Picador - including Jessie Burton’s The Miniaturist, Adam Kay’s This is Going to Hurt, as well as Dear Mrs Bird by A J Pearce – was someone I knew I would learn from.
|Nathan Filer and Francesca Main - our tutors - the Dream Team|
WHAT DID WE DO?
The weekend opened with some meditation before we moved outdoors to write a personal reflective piece. Being a part-time yogi (I practice when I remember), I loved that mediation could help writers, or anyone, access thoughts that might otherwise remain stubbornly out of reach. It’s definitely a practice I will use again.
The next two days followed a set pattern, optional workshops in the morning examining character and structure, followed by one-to-one tutor feedback with time to write in the afternoon.
|The quirky inside of the Hobbit House|
READY, STEADY ... COOK
As well as learning and writing at Moniack Mhor, participants are also expected to help prepare dinner – during which there was so much laughter that it was a minor miracle that a tasty meal for seventeen was served. A highlight of the weekend was when the skirl of bagpipes announced the arrival of the haggis, which was ceremonially carried to the table, addressed then toasted with a tot of whisky.
|Addressing the haggis|
|Hmm - Cranachan, made using cream with a dash of whisky|
NEXT STEPS …
Nathan and Francesca’s generous sharing of their expertise has helped bolster my shaky confidence. It’s now time to put their editing tips into practice.
|Our final evening before we take our next steps ...|
WHERE IS MY OGRE NOW?
And my ogre of doubt - he opted to stay in the Scottish Highlands. Let’s hope he takes up residence there, leaving me in peace for a while!
|An early morning farewell to Moniack Mhor|
So how do you control your pesky ogre? I’d love to know …