Today’s guest post is from Fiona Field, author and frequent visitor to Chez Castillon.
Before I arrived on my first writing retreat at Chez Castillon I knew several facts about it: that it was in south-west France; I would be staying there with writers who were already my friends; and that I would be there to work and not enjoy myself. As for that last ‘fact’ … yeah right. Or at least, I did work but when I wasn’t working I was either eating the most sensationally delicious food, prepared by the hosts Janie and Mickey, or I was sobbing with laughter. Or, and I know this is hard to believe, I was drinking a very occasional glass of red wine.
But, all of that apart, after an early morning swim for the more intrepid, followed by tea and then breakfast for everyone with croissants or French bread and a dozen other goodies, all of us would retire to our rooms, or the lovely garden, or the library and… work. The silence that fell over the house was profound. Not a sound apart from the swooping and shrieking of the ever-present swifts outside the tall Georgian windows, or the cooing of pigeons perched on the walls around the tranquil garden. The front of the house might be slap-bang in the middle of Castillon but the back garden was the most tranquil of places. At about twelve-ish or so, one-by-one we’d drift into the kitchen to see what treats would be in store for lunch, maybe have a small glass of something (well, it would be churlish not to) and swap word counts. Lunch, like all meals was a raucous, garrulous affair punctuated by so much laughter we would be weak with giggles by the end. And then we’d go back to our rooms and work some more. By the end of the day, some of those word counts would be truly impressive. I would aim for two thousand a day and would be happy with that but others would be achieving double or even treble what I did. The thing is though, when all you have to do is think about your writing – no phones, no kids, no shopping-washing-cooking-cleaning-housework rubbish – you can focus. And that’s what Castillon gives you; the opportunity to be truly selfish and get immersed in your book and say ‘nuts’ to the real world. Chez Castillon isn’t the real world – it’s a writer’s paradise.
And then, every evening, fantastic chat about the day’s achievements or unexpected plot-holes or problem characters with people who understood and empathised and who offered constructive advice or criticism.
I had a ball, that first trip. I’ve been back several times since and it’s always wonderful, always inspiring and always worth it – every penny.
Soldiers’ Wives, by Fiona Field, is out now. Look out for Soldiers’ Daughters in 2015!