You can’t beat a slow retreat
Mon 13 May 2019 / , / Written by Katherine Dixson

Katherine Dixson joined us at Tŷ Newydd last week for our Spring Retreat. She’s written a lovely blog about here time here:


Do you ever return to a place you’ve really enjoyed and worry that it’s just not going to be the same the second time around? Having attended a Life Writing course at Tŷ Newydd last year, when everything about the week was great – the teaching, the food, the house, my room, the company, the views, the walks and even the weather – I was looking forward to my return this week. But there was certainly an element of wondering whether it could possibly be as good again.

I needn’t have been concerned. Already I’m plotting when I can legitimately come back and I haven’t even left yet! There’s something calming about the special atmosphere, where residents can feed not only on Tony’s delicious meals, cookies and cakes but also on the creativity that pervades the walls and green spaces outside. Time slows down and seems to operate on an alternative plain; you can simply enjoy the freedom from life’s usual stresses and give yourself permission to succumb to whatever muse you encounter.

This time I’d opted for even more liberty to crack on with my writing by choosing a retreat instead of a course. On the face of it this presented the potential of four solid days of uninterrupted scribbling on notepad or tapping on laptop, apart from breaking off to share lunches and evening meals with a dozen other retreaters. But the programme included an intensive mid-week visit by literary agent Cathryn Summerhayes, who fitted in optional workshops on pitching your work and writing a compelling submission letter, as well as one-to-one sessions to discuss the direction of our work. Cathryn also fielded a bombardment of eager questions about the world of publishing and generally shared our writing life for a couple of days. The extent of this extra input went above and beyond what I expected and added real value.

In any case, being on a retreat doesn’t mean being a complete recluse, and during the week the group has gelled so well. There’s been plenty of laughter in addition to serious conversations about our craft. We’ve clearly felt sufficiently relaxed to be able to talk to each other about the hopes, fears, aspirations and frustrations of our respective writing journeys and everyone has been generous with their supportive and constructive interactions, irrespective of our very varied subject matter. There’s something unique and almost organic about a group of like-minded, committed people benefiting from the morale boost of simply being together, despite their endeavours being separate.

Once again, Tŷ Newydd hasn’t disappointed. I’ll be going home with clearer ideas, a fistful of drafts and a resolve to come back.