The joys of a retreat

Last week, I indulged in the absolute luxury of a writing retreat, and I have to tell you, it was bliss…

It is my second such retreat, having been lucky enough to win a place at the same venue this year, and as I enjoyed it so much, I returned for a second visit. We stayed at Ozu Cultural Centre, just outside Monteleone Sabino, about an hour’s train-ride from Rome; the centre doesn’t just host writers, but a whole host of creative types, and is decorated with paintings, sculpture, photography and other art from the various residents and visitors who use the facilities.

Ozu Cultural Centre, Monteleone Sabino
Ozu Cultural Centre, Monteleone Sabino

Ozu, and our hosts, made the week. From tours of the local area, to a welcome lift home from the nearest village, as well as (as always) amazing home-cooked food. Never have I been so excited about a salad!

During our time there, we helped Paola and Enrico in the first stages of wine-making, collected walnuts fresh from the trees on their land, and visited the producers where they send their olives to be pressed for olive oil. There is something very satisfying eating a salad containing walnuts, when earlier that very day, they were still hanging on the tree, and you cleaned and prepared them yourself.

Our walnut haul, being inspected by Mario
Our walnut haul, being inspected by Mario

There was time for relaxing as well, swimming in the beautiful Lake Turano (a requested trip, following the joys of 2014’s visit), and chilling out with an ice-cream or coffee in one of the many stunning, hill-top villages which dot the region.

Lake Turano - it's a hard life, this writing retreat malarkey...
Lake Turano – it’s a hard life, this writing retreat malarkey…

Oh, and there was writing too… This year, I took a range of prompts to work on during my time there, having raided my old notebooks, workbooks, magazines and online courses for ideas which seemed to fit the atmosphere of the place. It was a great success. There was lots of free-writing, brainstorming and word-game playing, as well as specific challenges I set myself, and, I’m happy to report, the ink just kept flowing. As well as the exercises I took, I also tried to capture the various experiences we had, and I’ve certainly got a lot of ideas to develop and work on in the coming months.

I’ve mentioned to some of my friends that poetry seemed to have abandoned me lately, but happily, it’s made a return this last week, and oddly, I couldn’t get my head in the right place to think about my current historical fiction projects at all. A strange, but happy, state of affairs, especially knowing that just around the corner is NaNoWriMo, and the madness that will surely ensue!

One of our hosts, Giuseppe, checking we have enough to drink...
One of our hosts, Giuseppe, checking we have enough to drink…

Sadly, it doesn’t take real life long to kick back in, and yesterday already seems a lifetime ago – especially given the change in temperature! But I’m already planning how I can make the most of my next break, and how to adapt prompts accordingly to fit where I am. Last week suited a lot of nature writing, whereas my planned long weekend in Stirling might be more angled to history.

Either way, I cannot wait to get away again!



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