This week I’d like to welcome Deborah Dooley to our blog. Deb’s a long standing and very prolific journalist, specialising in health and women’s issues. I had the good fortune to meet Deb years ago when I lived near her in Devon and she was very helpful in getting me set up as a writer, and I also enjoyed some of her legendary hospitality and home cooking. Some time ago she turned her beautiful and very welcoming home into what I suspect is a little bit of heaven on earth for writers and she tells us about it below.
‘First of all, thank you to Lynne for inviting me onto the blog. It’s not easy, this writing lark. Talent is useful, but the ability to become a proficient writer can be learned. Determination, however, along with tenacity, a willingness to put the hours in – and remain ever open to learning, are essential qualities. Support and encouragement can also provide a massive leg up for a writer of any kind, at any stage of their career. And it was this last which provided us with inspiration, when we were looking for a way in which to boost our income.
Following the departure of our children from the nest, we had four spare bedrooms. After working from home as a freelance journalist for twenty years, I knew that a combination of tranquillity and low level buzz provide perfect writing conditions. Both are evident in the small and picturesque village in Sheepwash in Devon, in which we live. So what, I pondered, if we kitted out our spare rooms with desks and kettles and invited writers – of all kinds – to come and write?
It took less time than the pondering to embark upon said kitting out and show the walls of our thatched and cob house a fresh lick of white paint. Some white bed linen and white towels and robes completed a look and feel that’s comfortable but spartan enough not to interfere with the creative process – and a month later, Retreats for You was in business. Six years on, we have welcomed every possible kind of writer. Poets, novelists, playwrights, screenwriters, writers for children, academics – published and unpublished – all have arrived, quickly settled in and achieved a huge amount during their stay with us.
I think reasons for this are that we provide full board and unlimited tea coffee etc. (and homemade snacks), which enables guests to concentrate fully on the job in hand. Nobody is allowed to cook, clear away or do chores of any kind. Bob and I enjoy having people in the house and we have, I think, created an informal and relaxed atmosphere. We all eat together, but if someone is tired or busy writing, we are happy to bring a tray to their room. Guests are free to write in their rooms or anywhere else in the house (by the fire is nice – and can fuel the muse) and may help themselves to banana bread, flapjacks etc, from the kitchen, between meals. Wine time is at 6pm. This is a popular time of day, as you might imagine and can provide a kind of beacon at the end of the working day. (Wine is included in the price and not rationed.) And finally, there is a work ethos in the house during the day. I am in my study a lot of the time, doing my own work and Bob, who is a joiner/carpenter is in his workshop. The house is often so quiet that you can hear the tapping of a keyboard, which is often enough to encourage even the most reluctant writer to get on and write.
Urban fantasy writer Alys West stayed earlier this year and has this to say, “it speaks for itself that of the people I met when I was there, three of them had been at least once before and two of those had stayed many times and were planning to come back as soon as they could.”
Running Retreats for You is exciting, fun, occasionally challenging – and immensely rewarding. I’ve learned a lot from writers who visit and I like to think that I’ve passed on some of my own expertise to novice writers. It’s a huge privilege to help facilitate the work of so many different and varied writers. The job satisfaction involved is immense, because I know (they tell us constantly) that we are making a difference to them and their writing.
And that’s a wonderful feeling.’ It does look very special doesn’t it? I love the bookshelves below, housing books by guests. Thank you for showing us your beautiful house Deb, I’m sure you’ll see more of us in the future. www.retreatsforyou.co.uk