January 4, 2012

RTW: Writing Retreat of Dreams

Road Trip Wednesday is a 'Blog Carnival' where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This week's topic:

Describe your dream writing retreat. Where would you go? Who and what would you bring?

There are probably about a million places I could come up with right now to address this question, most of them balmy and not Alberta in January (not that it's actually cold here right now - it's above freezing!). But I'm not sure that those places would be inspiring to me in any way and in order to write, I need inspiration.

So, I'm going to borrow the writing retreat of a character in a book I thoroughly enjoyed - Susanna Kearsley's The Winter Sea (AKA Sophia's Secret in the UK). First, here's the book's synopsis from Susanna Kearsley's website:

History has all but forgotten the spring of 1708, when an invasion fleet of French and Scottish soldiers nearly succeeded in landing the exiled James Stewart in Scotland to reclaim his crown.
Now, Carrie McClelland hopes to turn that story into her next bestselling novel. Settling herself in the shadow of Slains Castle, she creates a heroine named for one of her own ancestors, and starts to write.
But when she discovers her novel is more fact than fiction, Carrie wonders if she might be dealing with ancestral memory...making her the only living person who can know the truth of what did happen all those years ago - a tale of love and loyalty...and ultimate betrayal.

The Winter Sea's heroine settles herself next to Slains Castle in a quaint and cozy cottage to write her historical novel. When I was reading this story, it felt to me like the perfect little place to get down to the business of writing - free from distraction but not so remote that distraction can't be found if needed (at a local pub, for instance). The ruins of Slains Castle can be found today off the north coast of Scotland near Cruden Bay in Aberdeenshire. I know I initially said I'd prefer to be somewhere sunny and warm - this place is certainly neither - but I'd far rather set myself up somewhere that is rich in history. That is what I find inspiring. Plus, I spent a summer in Scotland as a teen and I can honestly say that it is my favourite place on this planet (and I've been to a few places). Just look at it! It's flipping gorgeous! How's this backdrop for inspiration?:

There is also widespread speculation that Slains Castle served as Bram Stoker's inspiration for Count Dracula's castle. How cool is that? This neck of the woods was also a favourite holiday destination for Mr. Stoker. Easy to see why.

To answer the second part of RTW's question: I would probably go alone but would like the option of flying in family - particularly my husband - so I wouldn't go stark raving mad. I've never been able to accomplish much with the distraction of other people around. Study groups in college and university always dissolved into chat sessions, which was never a good thing. If I felt like I needed human company I'd just wander into town and talk with the locals. The Doric dialect is still alive and well in the area and looks a little something like this:

A'm fair forfochten - I am very tired. (Try saying that without sounding like you're cussing)
Caumie doun! - Calm down!
Dinna be coorse or A'll skelp yer dowp - Don't be naughty or I will smack your bottom
Foggy bummer – bumblebee
Gie's a bosie! - "Give me a hug!"
I'd also make sure to bring tea. Lots and lots of tea. This place feels like it needs tea...and cozy blankets or sweaters. Notebooks to write in and several pens would also be a good idea because this looks like the kind of place where internet service would be sketchy at best. And likely dial-up.

If you could pick anywhere, where do you see yourself writing (and it doesn't have to be real)?


  1. How AMAZING would it be to live in a castle for awhile?! I'd probably end up roaming the moors and not getting any writing done, though.

  2. Athena: You're probably right. I'd be a roamer too :)

  3. ...I need to go there. Now. WOW! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Miss Cole: I know, right? Gorgeous!

  5. I LOVE Scotland! I spent a week in Inverness last January and am dying to go back in the fall sometime when the heather blooms. I keep saying my next book will be based in Scotland so that I have to go back. :)

  6. Megan: That is such a good plan! I should base a book there too so I can have an excuse to 'research' :)

  7. The more I think about it, the more appealing a castle-hopping tour sounds. Beautiful pictures!

  8. I think I could live there... the castle... in it's original state, not as ruins. I'm not much good with fixer-uppers. :) I'm sure it gets really cold in winter (not that you would have a problem with that--it's probably quite warm compared to what you're used to!), but as long as I have a nice fire, a good book, my laptop for writing, and family close by, I'm good. :)

  9. I'd go there any day. And I'd read that book- it sounds fantastic. Anything to get away from the crappy Alberta weather (although it isn't so bad right now).

  10. No writing retreat is complete without bucketloads of tea!

  11. It sounds like we have the makings of a pact--the first one of us to make J.K.Rowling-money rents a castle in Scotland for a writer's retreat for us all. Yes? Who's on board?

    P.S. Thanks for mentioning the book, I'll have to check it out--sounds fascinating.
    P.P.S. This comment may not be legally binding in your state.

  12. Oooh! Slains Castle looks absolutely delightful! I'd like to write in its shadows. :) Those pictures make me want to take the first jet there.

  13. Scotland would probably be my second choice. For me it's La Suisse because I spent time there and found it just so refreshingly beautiful plus think of the chocolate! (I posted some pics of my Swiss trip on my RTW post if you want to check them out)

  14. kiperoo: A castle-hopping tour sounds great!

    Colin: Methinks it's long past the point of restoration :) Oh, and it's currently 9C at 5pm where I live in Alberta right now. Take that! :)

    Melanie: It is a really good book and the author is Canadian too. How 'bout the crazy good weather here today? I could get used to this :)

  15. Rebecca: You are so right! Especially somewhere like Scotland :)

    Angelica: Sounds like a really great plan. Let's do it! Now I guess one of us needs to publish something REALLY good!

    Bailey: It definitely feels a lot more magical than central Alberta, that's for sure :)

    veela-valoom: Though Scotland's my first choice, I wouldn't cry to hard about having to pick Switzerland either. Gorgeous!

  16. Um, okay, I definitely have to read that book! I've only been to Edinburgh and a bit around there, but I've already fallen in love with Scotland! What an amazing place to write!

  17. Gorgeous! I would love to write there too. :)

  18. <3 Scotland. It's my favorite place, too! And just reading that dialect in my head makes me yearn for Scottish boys. On a completely separate note, you know what YA needs more of? Cute Scottish boys.

  19. Oh, how beautiful! I think I want to come up with a gothic romance idea just to write it in this castle!

    (and I echo what Crystal said. You can never have enough cute Scottish boys...)

  20. I am going to add that book to my TBR list like right now. Love the pictures. Could you imagine staying in one of those castles!?!?

  21. My ancestors are from Scotland, and I would love to go someday. Those pictures are absolutely magical. I also find historical places inspiring--there's just something about writing in a place where generations have written before. Thank you for the book recommendation. I had never heard of The Winter Sea, but I will add it to my list now. Is it appropriate for teens? Looks like something my daughter would also enjoy.

  22. Oh I would definitely spend a week there to write! How fantastic would it be to have a holiday in a castle! Especially if it inspired Bram Stoker. The horror fan in me would have a total fangeek moment. I'd be running around squealing.

    Of course night would come and then the coward in me would be seeing and hearing ghosts. But still, it'd be a great experience.


I ♥ comments. They make me smile.☺