Retreat West turned seven this year, and Retreat West Books turned two. When I first started out, I had no idea that running one-day writing retreats once a month in Exeter would lead to running several competitions, residential writing retreats, online courses, live workshops and an indie press. Recently, when Gaynor Jones started working with me and she asked about plans, I replied that I never made any. And beyond planning to start the one-day retreats, I haven’t ever made plans to do anything else. I just have ideas for things and everything that’s followed has happened organically.
I think this probably ties into the fact that as a writer I am a pantser rather than a plotter. In our life together, my husband and I have always been spontaneous and upping sticks at short notice to go off and experience life elsewhere. I used to think it was a bad thing and that I should be more organised, less impulsive, more business like, but I have come to accept myself for the way I am. First and foremost, everything I do at Retreat West stems from a love of writing and reading great fiction. I think to be too business like about it would kill something in that for me. So I am just going to carry on doing what I’ve always done. Which is having ideas, launching them and seeing what the response is. So far, that’s been working!
But it’s not something that I can make a living from so it fits around my day jobs: one as a freelance journalist and content writer specialised in environmental sustainability; and the other as a freelance editor and tutor with Jericho Writers. Doing this work enables me to invest in the books I’ve been publishing and keep running the competitions, which get just enough entries to cover the cost of paying the prizes and readers with a bit left over to pay for the running costs of the websites. I’m hoping that one day the competition entries will grow enough to have a little bit more left over after paying the running costs and that book sales will match the huge talents of the authors I’m working with.
I feel incredibly privileged to get to work with so many great writers and read so many brilliant stories. Everything I do at Retreat West has had a huge impact on my own writing too and it’s enabled me to develop my own skills as well as other people’s. Understanding what works in stories and what doesn’t, and why, has been one of the best things about it all. It’s helped me to be a better writer and to help other writers improve too. And that means more great stories to read for everyone, which, I believe, has to be the best judge of a creative business’s success.
So I hope you’ll carry on supporting what we do by entering our competitions, doing our courses, sending us your stories and buying our books. As without all of you, there’d be nothing for us to do! So thank you for being part of our writing and reading community. Here’s to another seven years (and hopefully more) of great stories.