An Online Day Writing Retreat, Saturday, July 17th, 10-4.30

Photo by Olya Kobruseva on

Booking – details will be publicised – from Wednesday the 9th of June, from 10, through Eventbrite.

10-4.30 (with a break for lunch and a mid-morning break, too) and for a maximun of fifteen people.

A space in which you will be heard, accessible, fun and, hopefully, really inspiring! With frank talk and plenty of time for questions. You can ask anything!

£65 to include written feedback on a small section of your work, if requested. There are TWO funded places for those from an under-represented group or unwaged/low income.

Who is it for?

Those who are working towards first publication in prose, whether a novella, novel or short stories. I am quite aware that some of these people may have been writing for pleasure for some time. Also, there is probably going to be at least one genius in the room! I want to comfort and encourage and reassure you that you are heard and in a safe space. The day is also for those prose writers who are perhaps a bit further on – perhaps they have already had a book published – but want a boost and reboot, possibly because they have got stuck or not had a supportive community around them at any stage. I hope we can provide insight and encouragement to those who are currently querying their work with agents (possibly small presses) and not having any luck, or who have experienced disappointment in their industry experience so far. 

Here is a sketch of the day and the first part is all with me, Anna Vaught. However, at least two of us will look at samples of work sent to us as we understand how vital feedback is. I will be in touch about this nearer the time.


*Questions. Frank as you like. If I don’t know, I will say so and aim to find someone who does know.

*Writing a beginning and netting your reader. How might you do it?

*Close reading exercises. Place, atmosphere, character, punctuation. Observing it in others’ work to make us think about our own writing. Translating this into our own work.

*Techniques to help you with editing your work. Outlines, development, why you should always read aloud.

Short break

*Questions. Frank as you like again. These can be on anything, so on writing, but also on the industry or anything you need help with.

*Confidence. Very short bit because this can make you feel vulnerable and I do not want anyone to feel this way, even in a safe and supportive environment, so rather than asking YOU, I will tell you about me and what my barriers are and how I manage mine. If anyone wants to ask a further question at this stage, that is fine.


*More on close reading; characters hints and hooks and thoughts on a story arc. What is it? How do you create and sustain one and is it true there’s an equation for it…?

*Troubleshooting. Proofing, common errors, homophone checking, speech punctuation, laying out speech, techniques with long and short paragraphs; my observations on the most common problems in the many manuscripts I have seen over the past year – such as too many characters too soon, a beginning that lacks pace or interest, sluggish narrative and many more. Feel free to disagree that these are problems.


In the afternoon, from 2-3.30, there will be three special guests, Michael Langan, Heidi James and Sam Mills. They will be covering a range of topics. Between them, these three have covered novels, short stories and non-fiction work, including memoir. There is a great deal of editorial experience here and two of your writers are lecturers in Creative Writing. So, you are with people who have a wealth of experience. 

Michael is currently in the middle of a rewrite of his next novel, following feedback from his agent so has decided to talk specifically about the redrafting/rewriting process and his experience of what that might entail. 

Sam’s  topic will  be ‘literary fiction v commercial fiction’, thinking back to some years back when she used to teach/critique with the TLC and the Writer’s Workshop and how often authors would ask what category their work belonged in or feel a bit bewildered by the division and what it meant. Having written in so-called genre fiction – YA – and experimental fiction, Sam will discuss the two. She does not see them as hugely distinct categories – which can also be part of the discussion – but knows how it can help would-be writers to think about direction and how publishers might see these categories.

Heidi will be talking about risk and developing the confidence to write against the grain in your work. That is, risk is writing what you need to write, not writing to please/what you think people want.

BUT THAT IS NOT ALL. We will finish with an Agent q&a with literary agent, Jonathan Ruppin, Founder of The Ruppin Agency (keen to find underrepresented voices) & Ruppin Agency Writers’ Studio (mentoring across the UK).

We hope you have a wonderful day!

Sam Mills is the author of The Quiddity of Will Self (Corsair) and several award-winning YA novels publisher by Faber. Her memoir about being a carer, The Fragments of my Father, was published by Fourth Estate in 2020 and shortlisted for the Barbellion Prize; her feminist essay, ‘Chauvo-Feminism’ was recently published by Indigo Press. She has contributed to various anthologies, including Know Your Place (Dead Ink) and Disturbing the Beast (Boudicca Press).She is the co-founder and MD of indie press Dodo Ink.

Michael Langan has worked as an editor, writer, mentor and teacher for over twenty years, and currently facilitates writing workshops and critical reading groups at various locations, including Lisbon, where he lives. He has a PhD in creative writing from Liverpool John Moores University and was Programme Leader of Creative Writing at the University of Greenwich from 2002 – 2012, specialising in the novel and short fiction. As Arts Editor of the online LGBTQ culture journal ‘Polari’, he wrote about visual arts, film, and literature and, in 2016, was a Contributing Editor to the Paris-based ‘Seymour’ magazine, writing a series of essays about his experience of the creative process. For the last five years he has co-facilitated the LGBTQ+ Free Reads Scheme with The Literary Consultancy during Pride month, offering free manuscript feedback to emerging queer writers. His debut novel, Shadow is a Colour as Light Is, was published by Lume Books in 2019 and he is currently working on his second.

Heidi James is the author of critically acclaimed novels Wounding, So the Doves (a Sunday Times Crime Book of the Month) and The Sound Mirror. She won The Saboteur Award for her novella, The Mesmerist’s Daughter and was a finalist in The Cinnamon Poetry Collection Prize. Her short stories, poetry and essays have been published in various anthologies and magazines including, We’ll Never Have Paris, Somesuch, Dazed and Confused and Galley Beggar Press. She hosts a podcast, First Graft, where she discusses the writing process with other writers.

Anna Vaught is a novelist, poet, essayist, short fiction writer, editor and a secondary English teacher, tutor and mentor to young people, mental health advocate and mum of 3. 2020 saw the publication of Anna’s third novel, Saving Lucia (Bluemoose Books – longlisted for The Barbellion Prize) and a first short story collection, Famished (Influx). Anglo-Welsh, she splits her time between Wiltshire, Wales, and the Southern US. Anna’s essays, short and flash fiction, creative non-fiction, reviews, articles, and features have been featured widely online and in print. She has just completed another novel with a novella and first non-fiction book on their way. She is a monthly columnist for ‘The Bookseller’. Anna is also a mental health advocate and campaigner and a passionate advocate for those with chronic mental and physical health problems who wish to write and have their work be seen.

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