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Travel: Fancy penning your first novel on holiday?

No matter how old or young, everyone has a story to tell – but getting that story onto the page can be a challenge.

Henley Hall in Shropshire, the setting for the Master Storytellers memoir writing retreat
Henley Hall in Shropshire, the setting for the Master Storytellers memoir writing retreat

Whether you dream of composing your very own memoir, a children’s book, a gripping work of fiction (who knows, it may well top the bestsellers list one day!) or any other type of novel, a creative writing retreat is a great way for novices with a big dream to take the first little step in making it a reality.

Here’s our pick of the very best retreats designed to help you put pen to paper…

The ultimate story

Is there any more important story to tell than your own? The pandemic has caused a huge surge in ‘everyday’ people wishing to write their memoirs, in a bid to keep that important history alive for generations to come.

Leading biography writing agency Master Storytellers is hosting a three-night Memoir Retreat in the spring, designed to provide all the insight and inspiration needed to create a gripping and emotional life story.

Taking place at Henley Hall – a 16th century country estate in Shropshire with 12 acres of glorious grounds – the small group retreat will feature bestselling authors and ghost-writers who deliver talks, classes, workshops and private sessions focusing on the key areas that every good memoir should have.

A creative workshop at Henley Hall

You’ll learn all the technical stuff, such as how to structure the book, add pace and drama, and find your unique tone of voice. Plus, tips on how to craft powerful creative components; writing about people and places evocatively so the reader can vividly picture your childhood bedroom or the Greek island you went to for your honeymoon. There’ll also be a segment on tackling painful memories and how to revisit the past.

For those who want their memoir to have a real A-list feeling, there’s also the opportunity to be photographed for the cover of your biography by a top celebrity photographer.

From 19-22 May. Costs from £1,195 per person, including all tuition and full-board accommodation. Visit master-storytellers.com/retreats

A novel idea

North Devon is the setting for this charming five-night retreat that aims to help aspiring fiction writers of all abilities. Stay in a cosy old barn with creaking floors, crackling fireplaces and fine country views, located in the small village of Sheepwash, a 35-minute drive from the coast.

Led by novelist Rebecca Horsfall, the short break balances structured learning alongside lots of free time to focus on your own creativity. The in-depth morning sessions last two hours and cover crucial components from planning and how to develop the strongest possible idea and plot, to mastering the notoriously tricky opening pages and avoiding the ‘mid-novel slump’.

The cosy barn in Sheepwash where Rebecca Horsfall holds her writing retreats

Full of constructive advice and encouraging guidance, there’s no shying away from suggestions on how to make your book as good as possible.

Time is also dedicated to supportive group discussions and individual coaching sessions. Horsfall, who also works as a ‘book doctor’ and lectures in creative writing, is happy to share her personal experiences and valuable advice on how best to increase your odds of getting the novel published – once you finish it, of course.

From 13-17 June. Costs from £665 per person, including full-board accommodation. Visit retreatsforyou.co.uk

La Dolce Vita

Described as an ‘alchemy of escapism, creativity and renewal’, this female-only writing retreat in Tuscany takes place over a week in May and prides itself on supporting writers regardless of their experience or goals – even if they’re yet to write a single word.

Course leader, writer Jess Lourey, takes an holistic approach and aims to help you find the true emotional heart of the story, whether fiction or otherwise.

Montecatini Terme in Tuscany, where Jess Lourey holds her writing retreats

But this break goes far beyond the actual writing.

Time is set aside to help guests reconnect with themselves and also bond with like-minded women – important elements that subconsciously aid the creative process.

The best bit? This is all set against a backdrop of rolling hills, and the medieval churches and cobbled streets of Montecatini Terme, a spa town west of Florence. Expect excursions, memorable meals, pasta making classes and even a little time spent in Rome.

From 14-20 May. Costs from £2,499 per person, including all tuition, accommodation and some meals.

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