Last week a writers retreat newsletter popped into my inbox. Like all past newsletters I read this one with interest, longing, and the much broken promise to return one day soon. Seeing that it is the 10th anniversary for Retreats for You prompted me to share my memories of my first visit to the gorgeous thatched house in the sleepy village of Sheepwash, North Devon.
It was a chilly November evening back in 2008. I waited nervously in the arrivals area at Exeter airport where I was being collected from. I needn’t have worried; Bob, Deb’s late husband was so welcoming and chatted the whole way to Sheepwash where Deb was at the front door with a wide smile and a comforting hug.
My room was perfect; fluffy dressing gown on the hook, hot water bottle in the bed, and a writing desk below the window just waiting for me to get cracking on my writing task for the week.
I met my fellow retreater at a relaxed family dinner. There was just the two of us as guests this week; Katharine was busy editing her first novel while I was still working on the first draft of mine. We were two of Deb’s first guests and I knew way back then that Retreats For You would go on to be a success. How could it not with the wonderfully warm personality and hospitality of Deborah and Bob. Deb was always there to help with constructive advice when I was struggling with my characters’ dilemmas and my own my own personal issues with work-life balance. Half an hour at the well-worn kitchen table, chatting over a cup of tea and some home-made cake usually had me back at the desk beavering away again.
It was my birthday that week, coincidently a date shared with Deb’s daughter. They were all so lovely sharing the celebration... and the birthday cake with me!
I completed my first novel The Way of Life shortly after that visit. Deborah was the first person to read the completed story, she loved it and gave me really sound advice as she helped me with my edits, drawing out more from me on the characters and places, knitting my story together making it stronger. I can’t thank her enough for helping me to believe in myself back then.
I was back again in 2011, this time the house was full of writers gathered around the glowing fire, reading pieces from their current writings, from crime to romance and humour. It was a fun time and productive too. When I left I had a synopsis, blurb and cover letter read to push The Way of Life out into the world.
Back to this Autumn Newsletter –
Clicking on the link to Deborah’s blog it was with a teary eye that I read her pieces. I love Deb’s writing style, her strength to keep going after losing Bob and her want to share her stories with us. I’m sad to think I didn’t get back to Sheepwash while Deb and Bob were still there. Living in southern Ireland the logistics of getting there just seemed awkward in my busy life – now it’s too late.
Debbie Flint’s entertaining newsletters and social media posts keep alive the promise of a return to Retreats for You one day. I’m sure many things have changed but the roaring fire will still be there along with a warm welcome, good food and the company of fellow writers.
One day I will get there... and perhaps Debbie will add my second novel, written from an idea I discussed with Deborah all those years ago, to the authors bookshelf, standing it beside ‘The Way of Life’.