the writer is a lonely hunter

writing by Gail Aldwin and other Dorset writers

Writing residency in Shire Hall Café at Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum, Dorchester

I was delighted the Shire Hall Café agreed to join the creative café project started by my publisher Gill James. The café is situated on the mezzanine level of the Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum and with the museum’s history of crime, punishment and justice, the café provides a stimulating environment for writers.

Joining me for the creative café were writers from Dorchester, Swanage and an American from Nevada. (She was a delegate at the Thomas Hardy Conference who took time out to visit me.) Two participants were interested in developing children’s fiction while others were busy with short stories aimed at the adult market. It was a pleasure and a privilege to offer feedback on their work in progress and to discuss new projects. Some of my writing prompts also proved useful in developing new writing.

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Sat on one of the long tables at the back of the café, we were able to enjoy the breeze through the open sash windows and the views across the tables. I am a frequent visitor to the café as I queued on the opening day to make sure I won the ‘free coffee for a year’ given to the first person through the door. The building is at the end of my road, so if I need a change of scene during one of my writing days at home, I pop along to claim my free drink and spend time writing in the café.

Thank you to the Shire Hall Café and the Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum for hosting this event. If you would like information about joining a creative café session in the future, do contact me here.

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Brisons Veor, a writing residency

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I am enjoying the last couple of days of a two-week writing residency at the wonderful Brisons Veor, in St Just in Cornwall. This is made possible by the trust which accepts applications from anyone working in the arts to enjoy a period of respite from the distractions of daily life to focus on creative projects. The house is part of the brick building beyond the white houses. Constructed as a boiler house for the Cape Cornwall Tin Mine, it was converted by an architect in 1978 and purchased by Tracy O’Kates, the benefactor of Brisons Veor. It is believed to be the westernmost dwelling on the English mainland. You can also see the 138 year-old chimney stack of the mine which forms the highest point of the Cape.

Brisons Veor is situated at a point where Atlantic currents divide, moving south to the English Channel and north to the Irish Sea. In 1987 the Cape was purchased for the nation by Heinz, and given into the care of the National Trust. This unique location provides a rich environment for ideas and creativity to flourish.

 

It has been a wonderful fortnight of solitude, isolation and the elements. The wind is fabulous: it turns the sea into a rucked white apron that spreads over the blue. When the sun is out, warmth floods through an open doorway into the first floor workshop. The sound of the Ocean sucking, clawing and whooshing is a constant accompaniment. Inside at night when the wind blasts the walls, Brisons Veor embraces the occupant, safe and warm.

What a privilege to spend time at Brisons Veor, such a remarkable location. During the fortnight I have written poetry and started my next novel, this time using a six-year-old boy as the narrator of ‘That’s What I Know’.

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Walking and writing

We spent the weekend in Fowey and took an amazing walk around the coastal path where this photo was taken – hard to believe it’s January from looking at this.

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The journey back took us inland along the Saint’s Way. This path was rediscovered in 1984 when local ramblers found a series of forgotten granite stiles. The circular route was labelled ‘strenuous’ and ‘muddy’ and with adjectives like that, I would normally have avoided it. But, with my new fitness routine established, everything was fine.

At my desk on Monday, I received feedback on a writing submission I made earlier in the month. The lovely Suzie at Writers in the Alley forwarded a request from an agency interested in using local writing for a South West Trains advertising campaign. I rang the company and with a ten-minute deadline submitted some work. Two pieces of flash fiction were shortlisted for presentation to the client. When I learnt more about the proposal I was scared silly that my stories would end up on one of those huge ‘out of home’ posters opposite the platform at London underground stations. I needn’t have worried. South West Trains didn’t go for the idea and I’m left feeling disappointed and relieved.

On the upside, I have received some good news. My application for a writing residency at Brisons Veor has been accepted and I’ll be spending a couple of weeks at Cape Cornwall later in the year.

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