So a bunch of writers from the Victorian chapter of the Australasian Horror Writers Association went off on a writing retreat last weekend, and because we’re all horror writers (at least in part), where else would we go to if not a cabin in the woods?

Here, have a look at where we went to:

Yes, okay, somewhat more picaresque Dandenong Ranges tree ferns and parrots, and somewhat less smartarse cool Joss Wheddon flick, but we’re horror *writers*, not horror victims. We all know the tropes way too well to get caught in them ourselves, thank you very much. We’re the ones who inflict that shit on our fictional creations, not the other way around.

Anyway, off we all went for the first of a couple writers retreats scheduled for 2018, this one at the wonderful Fernglen Forest Retreats, and organised by the amazingly talented and editor extraordinaire Louise Zedda-Sampson of Novel Solutions. There was myself, Louise, Rebecca FraserIsabelle Rowan, Noel and Dominque. Here we all are (minus Isabelle, who joined us the next day) at the first night retreat dinner – Christmas in July at the Pig & Whistle Tavern in Olinda:

As you can see, we horror writers are a pretty scary looking bunch (especially after multiple bottles of sparkling white). That’s me in the middle, in case you didn’t recognise.

Friday night I got to the dinner a tad late, coming as I was from the day job which that day had been located down in Geelong – so I had a good three hour commute getting to the retreat, but totally worth it – which left me just enough time to eat dinner, drink champagne and stumble into bed. Not a lot of writing done Friday night on my part, I’ll admit.

Oh, before I forget, here is the delectable yorkshire pudding that came with dinner:

Absolutely nothing hilarious about that, as you can see, and we were not at all drunk and giggling like high schoolers at it at any point, I promise 😀

Anyway, a wine-staggered-walk back to the retreat venue through the dark streets followed, in which we loudly lamented the fact that the previous weekend had been Friday the 13th, so we’d entirely missed the opportunity to have a horror writers retreat in a cabin in the woods on Friday the 13th by a whole week. Which just seemed a shame, really. But we did all agree to make up for it with a gusto this weekend. And so we did.

Saturday morning I roused myself at some vaguely reasonable hour to this view out the window:

So, you know, that was rather nice.

After a bit of writing, a bit of breakfast, and a bit more writing – yes actual new words down on the page, thank you very much – the awesome Deb Sheldon popped by for a Q&A session and all round excellent discussion on the writers craft.

Pies from the Olinda pie shop, Pie In The Sky followed for lunch, then a walk, then more writing. Yay for writers retreats.

At some point the wine came out again. And there was workshopping. At which I chose to workshop a very early draft of the first scene from a new a fantasy novel I’m working on, one set in a highly moralistic, class and gender segregated society, that also opens in a fetish brothel complete with a few detailed scene setting descriptions, so you know, the wine must’ve been out by that stage. I don’t usually drag out first drafts of potentially confronting material in a room full of people I admire without at least some liquid courage under the belt.

Here’s us getting into serious writing business:

At some point after the workshopping, the writing stopped and the spa began. Don’t ask me how. But somehow a few of us could be found drinking red wine in the spa at midnight. Don’t forget, July is the middle of winter in Melbourne town, but that wasn’t about to stop us.

I won’t post the pic I do happen to have of three of us drunk and talking crap in the spa, because I’m not sure my compatriots would thank me for making that public, but here’s a very staid pic from the next day of what the spa looks like, sans drunken writers:

Just picture it at night, in a freezing mid-winder July, with red wine and horror writers right in the middle. 😀

So what else? There was the most delightful open fireplace, which I spent most of my time writing in front of, or poking a fire-poker at:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was a cat, of course, because what writing retreat is complete without a nosey cat who presumes its a lion and knows it rules the space?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And to top it all off, the wonderful writer Isabelle Rowan put together Retreat Showbags for us all, complete with spooky shortbread, ‘dark and bloody thoughts’ chocolate buttons, ‘cthulu’ lolly octopuses, and a horror stirring spoon!

Look, jokes about the amount of wine consumed aside – of the six of us, two were non (or very light) drinkers, and the rest of us were there to write not drink as the priority activity, so I may be indulging in a wee bit of hyperbole when I recant tales about the wine – we all got some serious writing done and had a wonderful time.

I cannot recommend writers retreats enough. Whether you book into a commercial one, or organise one with a bunch of friends, or just take yourself off solo for a weekend, it’s valuable time very well spent.

We had a ball. And the best part? There’s still at least two retreats in my 2018 calendar yet to come!

Till next folks…