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Sunday, 5 February 2012

Writing in the Surrey hills and using snow to make a character vulnerable

On Friday I went to Peaslake, a village in Surrey for a writing course with teacher Ruth Brandt. We stayed at The Hurtwood Inn Hotel, a charming hotel with a log fire in its cosy bar. I couldn't get a signal on my mobile phone and it was an opportunity to focus solely on writing (as well as eating and drinking wine). We knew that snow was forecast on Saturday night and we waited for it to appear, which it did after dinner. The snow settled and we wondered if we'd become stranded.


Saturday night (L-R - Liz Cooper, Gill Green, Michele de Casanove, Liz Manterfield, Ruth Brandt, Eleanor Williams, Brian Simmons, Me.)
It was great to be immersed in the world of writing and Ruth talked about Plot, Character and Setting. I think we all enjoyed workshopping as we could get lost in each other's stories. Some of us gathered in the bar after dinner which bustled with locals and the cast from Dick Whittington which was on at the Peaslake Memorial Hall.

Sunday lunch (L-R Me, Gill, Ruth, Liz M, Liz C, Brian, Michele, Jenny)
It's interesting how a change in weather can make us vulnerable. Fortunately our lovely teacher, Ruth had brought a shovel which we borrowed to clear the snow from around our cars. We worried about whether we'd be able to make our way along the winding and sometimes steep country lanes back to the A25 without getting stuck.
On Sunday afternoon Liz C and I set off with her driving. Liz M followed in her car. As we pulled onto the road out of Peaslake, Liz C said, 'this is fine, we've got nothing to worry about.' We continued to chat about the weekend and what we'd do when we got home. When we reached a junction, I suggested we turn left without a second thought.  After about ten minutes the road became what is known as a sunken lane.  (I looked it up on Wikipedia-Click here for more info.) It was single track, covered in snow turning to ice and we were surrounded by woodland which seemed to be closing in on us. A car ahead had pulled over as if it were stuck. Liz C said 'Are we going the right way?' Of course we weren't!

A young fearless couple driving past rolled down their window and said, 'you can get to the main road this way but it gets really steep'. We managed to turn around in a passing place which was covered in snow. Liz M who was following us, quite rightly didn't want to risk getting stuck whilst turning as it has happened before in her car. For ten minutes or so the setting worthy of being on the front of a Christmas card became threatening.  This was ironic as we'd been talking about how to use conflict in a beautiful setting only that morning. It was possible that Liz M wouldn't be able to turn her car around. It would be dark in forty-five minutes and there was slim chance of a mobile signal. Liz M reversed, her car slipping and sliding until she reached a turning which was clear enough for her to turn around in. Liz C and I made our way to the A25 on the right road, allowing ourselves to laugh with relief.
I've been writing a scene for Book 2 where my main character visits a town in the heart of the Cotswolds for the day. The snow in Peaslake has inspired me to set this scene in February rather than in May. I can use the snow to make my character vulnerable. She can have trouble getting her car out of the car park and she'll need to find somewhere to stay as the roads out of town aren't safe.
Thank you to Ruth and everyone else for a wonderful weekend with lots of laughter.

10 comments:

  1. Oh wow. This looks like a fantastic workshop. It must be so nice to be able to put everything aside and just focus on the writing.

    How did you find out about the workshop? I'm a Londoner myself and would be interested in doing a few workshops to keep the writing flowing!

    Gorgeous pics - I took some too before the rain took it all away:

    http://unpublishedworksofme.blogspot.com/

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    1. Hello,
      Thanks for your comment. I agree that Workshopping really helps me with my writing. You can find all the info on Ruth's website if you click on her name above.

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  2. I take back all my rude comments about blogging made over dinner on Saturday! Yours is great.

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    1. Thank you-I think I know who you are!

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  3. Well if that scenery didn't get the romantic juices flowing, I don't know what would. It appears you had a lovely time.

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    1. Thanks Susan. It was a special weekend that I won't forget in a hurry!

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  4. I have come into at The Hurtwood Inn this evening to tales of a lovely writers weekend - it seemed it went really well. Quite envious!

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    1. Thanks Nicole. It was wonderful and I'll definitely be returning to The Hurtwood Inn-what a lovely hotel.

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  5. That sounded like a great week end even with getting stuck in the snow.The photos are beautiful as you said they should be on a Christmas card. so good it gave you ideas for your book.

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  6. Gorgeous pics, and looks like it was a wonderful dinner. If one must be stranded, seems like a cozy restaurant would be a good choice.

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