My Big Fat Greek Writing Retreat!


Life is like a roundabout

Sometimes you’re whirled around too fast to get anything done, managing only to return a frantic wave to a friend you glimpse in the crowd. When you’re so giddy you feel sick, then you know it’s time to get off.

This week, I did just that.

An invitation

Last year my writing friend, Carol McGrath, invited me to a writing retreat at her villa in the Mani Peninsula in Greece. I’ve been twice before, each time staying with friends who are also published authors. This year we would be joined by Liz Harris

I grasped the opportunity, not only to stay in a gloriously peaceful location but also for ‘time out’ from Life with all its complications.

The timing turned out to be perfect because I received the editorial notes for my latest novel, The Palace of Lost Dreams just before I set off for the airport. The retreat would give me the time and mental space to make a good start on my revisions.

The villa

Carol’s villa is set amongst olive groves with a view of mountains and the sea and there was nothing to disturb us apart from the occasional crowing of a cockerel.

There are a number of places to sit and write: shady and sunny balcony terraces, a rambling garden, comfortable sofas in the spacious living room and desks in every bedroom.

We naturally evolved a routine that suited us.

Waking early, the first one downstairs made the tea and we sipped it in our dressing gowns while we talked about our writing plans for the day.


When two or three are gathered together …

The most exciting aspect of a writing retreat for me is the meeting of like minds. A writer’s life is frequently spent in solitary confinement, hunched over a laptop, but the conversations engendered when two or three writers are together can inspire you for months.

We shared our knowledge, not only of writing techniques but also new ways to promote our books and meet other writers.

One day it was learning how to put together a promotional book trailer.

On another we brainstormed ideas for new novels, had a ‘would she really have done that?’ conversation about one of our heroines, compared the structure of a commercial novel against a literary novel, caught up on industry news … The list was endless!

Spotlight sessions

We were disciplined, all quietly working on our different projects for most of the day, but planned an hour or two out to focus on one writer’s particular concerns. That time was extremely valuable, not only for the writer in the spotlight but for all of us, as we learned new ways to think about our own writing.

Fabulous food and stunning sunsets

 These brainstorming sessions often happened over lunch, a deliciously simple meal we prepared ourselves.

At the end of the day, after an afternoon’s work, we sometimes went to the beach or a nearby pool for a dip.


In the evenings we drove into the mountains or along the coast road to watch the sun go down as we dined at one of the many delightful restaurants.

All the restaurants served inexpensive and healthy home-cooked food, often accompanied by live music.

We drank local wine and feasted on baked lamb, fried aubergines and courgette fritters with huge Greek salads topped with feta cheese. I do love the Mediterranean diet!







Refilling the well of inspiration

I brought home with me many wonderful memories: the little lizard that watched me with unblinking eyes as I worked, playing scrabble with ex-pats in a café, watching gnarled old men playing backgammon as they sipped their ouzo, sunsets turning the sea to molten silver and mountain villages that seemed to have barely changed for hundreds of years.

On my last day, bubbling with enthusiasm, I was delighted with what I’d achieved in terms of writing, rediscovering my inner peace and refilling my well of inspiration.

First published on Creative Writing Escape’s website. To discover more about Creative Writing Escapes’ retreats and workshops visit:

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