As I’ve kept it no secret that I’ve been lucky enough to be invited to run two courses abroad, this year, I thought that I’d report in on the first – Chez Castillon in the gorgeous Dordogne, SW France, which took place last week.
The way the course is (loosely) structured is that we worked in the mornings, had a break after
lunch and convened again in the late afternoon. The first day or two, I also managed to write 1200 words here, 700 words there. But my energy flagged slightly on the writing front, probably because I was just enjoying myself so much.
The house, Chez Castillon, is gorgeous. Three hundred years old, the town house is part of a sweet little shopping street in Castillon-la-Battaille. Stepping through its doors is stepping into a quiet, cool world of high ceilings and ornate plasterwork, with a huge friendly welcome from hosts Janie and Mickey Wilson. From the front door you can see right through to the wrought iron doors leading to the secluded oasis at the back of the house. The pool, sun loungers, tables, umbrellas, warm stone and rampant greenery. Further into the garden is the gite, which includes the course room. Whether we actually used the course room or settled ourselves
outdoors, in the sun or shade according to preference, we found it a wonderful place to work.
For those interested in the course content, we created characters, analysed structure, sorted out whether everyone in our books deserved to be there and what their function was, worked on settings, dialogue, viewpoint and all sorts of technical stuff. Participants were offered one-to-ones and I was able to pretty much structure the course around the requirements of the individual.
The structure of the days allowed plenty of time to write or to wander through the quaint streets of Castillon, lounge around the pool or settle down for a coffee or a glass or something stronger at Monique’s bar.
And for those interested in food and drink … let me just say, ‘Wow!’ Gorgeous. Long, relaxing meal breaks filled with chatter and hilarity. I could understand why Janie said that running courses is just like hanging out with mates.
A residential writing course is a fantastic opportunity to not only try fresh techniques and swap feedback, but to really move a project forward. Groups are small so the tutor can tailor courses to suit participants.
Thank you, Janie and Mickey, for inviting me to run a Chez Castillon course – and inviting me to do so again next year.
So now I have just over a week and I’ll be setting off for Italy and fabulous Arte Umbria, in Umbria, Italy – the next course. I have every expectation of it being another fabulous experience.
Can’t wait … I’ll be posting again to let you know how it went.