The Winter Writing Retreat

Photo by Ioana Motoc on Pexels.com

The nights are definitely closing in now. I’ve just come back from lunch at our village pub where the log fire and hand pulled Guinness were very welcome. The pub is just over the road, so hardly a trek away, but still- that whipping, biting wind, the bareness of the trees, the general dark cold days that have appeared without warning, somehow taking us from autumn to winter like a shutter coming down- Brrrrr. It’s Sunday and I’m working a few extra hours as the latest issue of the magazine I edit alongside Steve Nash just come back from the printer’s, so there are launches to organise and copies of the magazine to post, publicity stuff to organise etc. etc. and that has to be done around my work commitments. Running Spelt rarely feels like a chore, I love the energy behind it and I’m proud of the values we’ve built into the magazine. I feel like we are really doing something about the need to articulate something about real rural voices, real experiences. This issue has been a challenge, I’ve had a lot of work on, so has Steve so we’re a bit behind. But I think that makes me even more proud, because we put the effort in, and the magazine looks amazing as ever and it’s a genuinely good feeling to give back and provide a platform for these poems, these creative non fiction pieces, these voices. I love that feeling, it’s addictive. You can buy or even subscribe to the magazine here and if you want to come and celebrate with us, the launch tickets can be obtained here. We’ve got Caleb Parkin reading from his Nine Arches Press collection This Fruiting Body and our Spelt Competition judge, Maggie Harris is reading too. It’s going to be a really nice evening, and it’s a Friday so no work the next day!

This week I’ve been busy setting out my stall with all the courses I’m running over the next few months. In January I’ll be using my Society and Authors Grant to dig into the new collection which means everything has to be set up and laid out now, so that I’m not using writing time to do anything but work on the poems. It’s a complicated business being self employed, I have to think three steps ahead of myself all the time and that sometimes feels exhausting, but I also love my work so can’t really complain. I’m living the life I want to and that means that work is on my own terms. The thing about being self employed is that nobody tells you to get out of bed in the morning, no one is going to tell you to go to work or to push yourself, no one’s got your back, but also no one’s on your back. No one is going to sort out all the niggling tech stuff, or answer emails for you or sort out your taxes, that is all on you. And that takes a certain mind set, I think. But also, I have absolute freedom to be who I want and to make my life the way I want it. And that is absolutely priceless. I can work anywhere, I can set my own work schedule. and now I’m starting to get more writing time, more blocks of time to settle into projects and it feels amazing.

The first of my ‘courses’ is the Online Winter Writing Retreat. It starts on the 6th December to 10th December inclusive and it is a chance for participants to write and reflect during these dark wintry days. It’s on zoom, which makes it easier to access the events around your own life. This is the first retreat I have run and I’m really excited about it. I have just five places left on it, plus one fully funded place for a writer of limited means. Drop me a line if that’s you! (wendyprattfreelancewriter@gmail.com). I’m undoubtedly running a lot of the retreat but I also have the wonderful Jonathan Davidson running both a workshop and giving a reading. AND I have the brilliantly talented Gill McEvoy running a workshop and giving a reading, and last but not least my co-ed at Spelt Steve Nash will be running a workshop.

Here’s the full schedule, it is jam packed with workshops and writing events but with enough time away to prevent it from being overwhelming. I think there is something for everyone.


Monday 6th December

9am-10am Meet and Greet

Your chance to meet with other participants, introduce yourselves and find out about the week. Don’t worry if you can’t make it, we’ll get to know each other the curse of the week. 

11am-1pm A Walk in the Woods: Writing Workshop with Wendy Pratt

Using a series of videos as inspiration we’ll be writing winter themed walking poems, using metaphor and simile to explore the sensory experience of being in nature.

2pm – 3pm On the Nature Table Today – Hosted by Wendy Pratt

Come and see what we have on the nature table today and let it prompt you to find your own way into a poem. A different set of natural objects will be presented each session for inspiration, they’ll be identified and explained by Wendy and then you are free to draft up a poem based on them. This is an unguided drop in session, feel free to turn up when you want, within the hour. This is a non-silent writing session so feel free to chat among the group. 

Tuesday 7th December 

9am-10am Dawn Chorus Silent Writing Group

A quiet start to your writing day. The session begins at 9am sharp with an inspirational quote or a poem reading by Wendy before you settle down to an hour of self-guided writing. Bring your current work in progress, whatever it is, and get into your writing groove. The idea is to create a ‘room’ where we will all be working together, but separately with cameras on and microphones muted. Get your morning cuppa, set your intentions in the chat and let’s get some writing done!

11am – 1pm Winter Ekphrastic Writing Workshop with Wendy Pratt

In this two hour workshop we’ll be looking at winter themed art and writing poems in response to it. There’ll be a chance to read some ekphrastic poems for inspiration and discuss art, poetry and the ekphrastic style, as well as getting down to business and writing some poem drafts. 

2pm-4pm Finding the Line: a Steve Nash Writing Workshop

Join celebrated poet and performer Steve Nash for a workshop exploring the fine line between personal expression and universal engagement. In this session participants will be introduced to some key critical theories of writing and practical exercises while exploring ways that writers tuned into their own unique ways of seeing the world produce metaphors that speak to a universal human experience.

7pm – 9pm Evening Event – Wendy Pratt reads from her latest collection, When I Think of My Body as a Horse plus Open Mic

This evening event is the perfect end to a day of writing. Sit back and enjoy the reading, then join in at the Open Mic. Bring your own bottle for maximum enjoyment!

Wednesday 8th December 

9am-10am Dawn Chorus Silent Writing Group

A quiet start to your writing day. The session begins at 9am sharp with an inspirational quote or a poem reading by Wendy before you settle down to an hour of self-guided writing. Bring your current work in progress, whatever it is, and get into your writing groove. The idea is to create a ‘room’ where we will all be working together, but separately with cameras on and microphones muted. Get your morning cuppa, set your intentions in the chat and let’s get some writing done!

11am-1pm A Light in the Dark Writing Workshop with Wendy Pratt

In this two hour workshop we’ll be looking at poems that bring hope in dark times and poems about ancient traditions. We’ll be writing poems to prompts based on the theme in a friendly and relaxed environment. 

2pm – 3pm On the Nature Table Today – Hosted by Wendy Pratt

Come and see what we have on the nature table today and let it prompt you to find your own way into a poem. A different set of natural objects will be presented each session for inspiration, they’ll be identified and explained by Wendy and then you are free to draft up a poem based on them. This is an unguided drop in session, feel free to turn up when you want, within the hour. This is a non-silent writing session so feel free to chat among the group. 

7pm – 9pm Evening Event – Gill McEvoy reading plus Open Mic

This evening event is the perfect end to a day of writing. Sit back and enjoy the reading, then join in at the Open Mic. Bring your own bottle for maximum enjoyment!

Thursday 9th December

9am-10am Dawn Chorus Silent Writing Group

A quiet start to your writing day. The session begins at 9am sharp with an inspirational quote or a poem reading by Wendy before you settle down to an hour of self-guided writing. Bring your current work in progress, whatever it is, and get into your writing groove. The idea is to create a ‘room’ where we will all be working together, but separately with cameras on and microphones muted. Get your morning cuppa, set your intentions in the chat and let’s get some writing done!

11am – 12pm A New Language for Winter? Writing workshop with Gill McEvoy

Join celebrated poet Gill McEvoy for this hour long workshop. Participants will be encouraged to think about what their local winters have been like in these days of changing climate and consider how we can write about that, and to imagine how winters may change in future years if nothing is done to delay climate change.

2pm – 3pm On the Nature Table Today – Hosted by Wendy Pratt

Come and see what we have on the nature table today and let it prompt you to find your own way into a poem. A different set of natural objects will be presented each session for inspiration, they’ll be identified and explained by Wendy and then you are free to draft up a poem based on them. This is an unguided drop in session, feel free to turn up when you want, within the hour. This is a non-silent writing session so feel free to chat among the group. 

Friday 10th December 

9am-10am Dawn Chorus Silent Writing Group

A quiet start to your writing day. The session begins at 9am sharp with an inspirational quote or a poem reading by Wendy before you settle down to an hour of self-guided writing. Bring your current work in progress, whatever it is, and get into your writing groove. The idea is to create a ‘room’ where we will all be working together, but separately with cameras on and microphones muted. Get your morning cuppa, set your intentions in the chat and let’s get some writing done!

11am – 12pm Hearing and Writing – writing workshop with Jonathan Davidson

Join celebrated poet and author Jonathan Davidson for this one hour workshop. How poems sound is important. The silence wants good words! Learning to listen intently and reading aloud with confidence can help us as poets. This one hour workshop will include listening to exquisite poems and writing responses that are satisfying to hear and to read aloud.  

2pm – 3pm On the Nature Table Today – Hosted by Wendy Pratt

Come and see what we have on the nature table today and let it prompt you to find your own way into a poem. A different set of natural objects will be presented each session for inspiration, they’ll be identified and explained by Wendy and then you are free to draft up a poem based on them. This is an unguided drop in session, feel free to turn up when you want, within the hour. This is a non-silent writing session so feel free to chat among the group. 

7pm – 9pm Evening Event – Jonathan Davidson reading plus Open Mic

Our final event of the week and the perfect way to round it off. Sit back and enjoy the reading, then join in at the Open Mic. Bring your own bottle for maximum enjoyment!

Workshop Facilitators and Guest Readers

Jonathan Davidson is a poet, writer and literature activist. He lives in the English Midlands but works internationally. His poetry has been widely published and he has also written memoir and criticism. His radio dramas and adaptations have been broadcast by BBC Radios 3 and 4. Much of his work is focussed on how writing – especially poetry – is experienced by readers and listeners. His most recent collection is A Commonplace (Smith|Doorstop, 2020) and was included in The Morning Star’s best poetry books of 2020 and has been widely reviewed, including in Under the Radar, TLS and Racine. His previous book, On Poetry (Smith|Doorstop, 2018), a combination of memoir and manual, was included in The Guardian’s Top 10 Books About Creative Writing 2020. His blogposts about poetry and the poetry sector are at www.jonathandavidson.net.

Gill McEvoy lives in Devon, belongs to Simon Williams’ Company of Poets in Totnes. She has had 3 pamphlets published by Happenstance Press, one of which “The First Telling”won the 2015 Michael Marks Award. She is a Hawthornden Fellow (2012). Two collections from Cinnamon Press. Recent collection “Are You Listening?” from Hedgehog Poetry Press and in 2022 Hedgehog will be publishing a “Selected” collection of her work. She is about to start a regular poetry reading group here in Devon, from September onwards. Other than that she is involved with Bee-wild, a group focused on rewilding parts of the village where she lives. She is also  a member of YEG, the village Environment Group

Wendy Pratt is a poet, author, mentor, and workshop facilitator living and working on the glorious North Yorkshire coast. Her latest full collection, When I Think of My Body as a Horse, was one of the winners of the Poetry Business Book and Pamphlet Competition 2020. Wendy is also founder and editor of Spelt magazine, a magazine dedicated to celebrating and validating the rural experience through poetry and creative non-fiction.

Steve Nash is a writer, performer, and musician, born in Yorkshire and raised on army barracks across the UK and Europe. A widely and internationally published poet, in 2014 Steve won the Saboteur Award for ‘Best Spoken Word Performer’ from a shortlist that included Kate Tempest and Hollie McNish.


There’s an emphasis on quiet, friendly creativity and the use of ‘retreat’ in the true sense of the word: as a place to back away from the busy pressurised world, the rampant consumerism that defines Christmas and the business of life in general, and to come and reconnect with yourself and your writing and, I hope, with nature too. It’s a bargain at just £125 and you can book your place here.

I have no other news this week, except that life is good, that I’m still here, still writing, still absorbing the world quietly and I genuinely hope you are too. Remember to take some time for yourself this week. The dark can feel claustrophobic, but it can also feel cosy.

Until next time

x

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