Mary's musings

Mary Hoffman, author of over 90 children's books, including the Stravaganza series and Amazing Grace, has begun a web journal which will be updated roughly once a week. You can read more on

Friday, July 29, 2005

Writing and retreating

It was a short weekend, preparing for the annual Scattered Authors’ (SAS) retreat. It’s held in an Elizabethan Manor about half an hour’s drive from me and this is our fourth time. I had to give a session on money matters, which had been complicated by the press coverage of our survey results.

However, it all got done and I drove into the Manor grounds just after 4pm on Monday, feeling, as always as if I were coming home. The first evening session involved introductions and Susan Price said she was going to writing about Vikings. I remembered that Kath Langrish had been on a reconstructed Viking ship in Denmark recently for a five day sail, while working on the third Troll book.

I had the same room as last time and it was easy to nest in it. It’s a bit short of power points – one hiding behind the bed and one under a chest of drawers – and I discover I use a lot of electricity. Laptop, radio, phone charger etc.

Money matters went well on Tuesday morning and I skipped the optional groups on particular aspects of writing, in order to get back to my adult novel. Managed what we are now calling “a swift K” before lunch. It was wonderful to return to it – everything has been so disrupted by the Italian holiday, getting out an edition of Armadillo, going to Toronto/Chicago, getting the kittens, doing three events last week and the press release. It’s sometimes hard to remember that what I’m supposed to do is write!

Tuesday afternoon was about warm-ups and I was fully warmed up already so I got back and finished chapter five; this is two further than I have got with an adult novel before! And I had managed to get Susan and Kath talking Viking ships at breakfast, so it had been a good day. I decided to go to the evening session, which was about definitions of success and was followed by champagne and strawberries.

Wednesday morning was a mind-expanding session on PowerPoint, given by Diane Hofmeyr and Alison Boyle. It gave me lots of ideas. We also have “five-minute reads” at the end of each session and I apprehensively read from chapter one of Christina. Fortunately for me, lots of people liked it and came up to compliment. Phew.

I wrote less on Wednesday – only about 1700 words although I skipped the annual walk – but that put me well into chapter six. Stevie and Jess came to join me for supper and after they had gone there was a quiz, which my side lost! I’m sure it was because one of the questions was the name of the heroine of the Animal Ark series and someone on the other team had been one of the myriad Lucy Daniels. I still don’t know it.

On the last morning we did a mixture of Tai Chi and Chi Gong, if I have got those spellings right, out on the lawn. It had a lot to do with balancing, which I have never been good at so perhaps my life is about to be revolutionised. And a very important lesson about being stronger than your opponent if you yield a bit. Publishers beware!

I caught an awful cold on the retreat though and have been malfunctioning ever since I got back. Our last session was recommended holiday reads and I chose The Time-Traveller’s Wife. Strange to think that people haven’t yet been on holiday when mine is all over.