By Paul Malone
We held our first writers’ retreat last weekend at a farmhouse in Lower Austria. The weather was perfect: it rained! Extremely conducive for immersing oneself in writing and the good company of other writers.
There were fellow Australians, a couple of Canadians, a chap from London, one perfectly bilingual Austrian, a few of the cosmopolitan “I’ve lived everywhere” types. Check out our smiling faces.
What did we write? Essays, novel chapters, short stories, for a start. Some of us wrote in the company of others in the farmhouse dining hall. Others wrote in the quietude of their rooms with a view…to all that fog. Atmospheric, slightly melancholic pieces were written, no doubt.
We ventured to the town of Weitra for the local cuisine: goulash and schnitzel, that sort of thing, at an old brewery. Some of us wandered into the forest to look at Czech totem poles signifying the Zodiac. Others soaked up the warmth in the steam room and infrared cabinet. One of us spent much of his time in bed being clobbered by a nasty cold.
No this is isn’t where we slept!
Hard at work…
We collaborated too: a short story called Istanbul. We came up with a framework for our story that included situation, character, objective, opponent, disaster. We drew names from a hat to determine the sequence of writers. Here were the rules:
- The story was to be written based on the framework
- Each writer had roughly 250 words before passing it on.
- There was no rewrite
- The story had to draw to its natural conclusion with the last writer
How did it go? Well, you can read for yourself. Istanbul (1st draft, no edits) is attached. It took a great deal of imagination and cooperation to complete the story. It was also fun. We read it out during our farewell lunch (see below). We all had a good laugh. Give it a read, let us know what you think:
I can’t speak for everyone as to what they took away with them from the retreat. I discovered new things: I’m trialing scrivener software (for writers) thanks to another retreater who explained Word really is for office documents. I received valuable group feedback on a short story. I have since revised the story and sent it off to one of my favorite publishers. I met some lovely people. I had a great time. I felt things opening up for me just a little more. It was exciting.
There will be another retreat in the winter (snowy and idyllic). I’m looking forward to it. I hope you might join us.
By the way, if you’re looking for a farm stay, I can highly recommend Family Bruckner. Their farm is ideal for families as well as writers. There is a huge barn made into an indoor playground (no, we didn’t get time to go for a slide). Here is their link: