Deborah Jenkins is upstairs in my house, settling into her room which gazes out over a Victorian graveyard and my postage-stamp primrose-dotted garden. On her bed are soft towels and Body Shop toiletries; on her desk, a selection of books on writing. I didn’t include ‘How Not to Write a Novel’. Although it’s good, someone once gave me ‘What not to Wear’ and I didn’t view it as complimentary.
Our itinerary is sorted. Tonight we are celebrating the writing life (and that of an ex-chicken) with curry, chapattis, and wine. Then it’s Session One: theory. I’ll run a seminar called ‘What I learned at the ACW Birmingham Day’ as Deborah couldn’t attend, and then we will discuss writing projects over a wine-coffee combo.
|Breakfast - and the itinerary|
Bacon, eggs and mushrooms lie in the pan, enjoying their final moments before we fry them to perdition and suffocate them with ketchup. A busy writing day stretches ahead. Cafetiere and chocolate brownies are available in the kitchen. We have vowed not to talk. This will be hard: neither of us is Mrs Taciturn.
We have tapped keyboards for hours and said ‘Um – er – um’. We broke for an hour’s walk down a Warwickshire lane, meeting a churchwarden closing up a pretty church after a wedding. ‘We’ve taken all the flowers away, because it’s Lent,’ she said. We thought that sad, and filed it in our writers’ memories. Tea and chocolate helped us write until seven, when I cooked Spanish omelette and salad. Then, because that had been so healthy, we scoffed profiteroles and lemon tart. We are about to have a Talent Show.
Saturday – midnight
There were two contestants in the Talent Show. Deborah read the beginning of her new novel, and it was a yes from me. I read an extract from mine, and it was a yes from her. A draw.
We wrote all morning, then walked to the local pub, our umbrellas battling the March winds, to discuss writing over a roast pork dinner. On return, we um-er-ummed some more, then finished off our writers’ retreat by taking pity on leftover profiteroles and lemon tart, and saying, ‘We must do this again.’
And we didn’t just mean the puddings although, as you can see, we took the ‘food for thought’ element of our DIY writers’ retreat seriously …