Regency Writing Retreat – Byron-style

I’m in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, in a wooded vacation house with three friends, winding up a writing retreat. Great experience. It is amazing how much a person can get done with lots of quiet and no interruptions.

It made me think of another writing retreat that took place in 1816, the year without a summer. That year Percy Bysshe Shelley, his 18 year old mistress, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (later Mary Shelley) and her step-sister, Claire Clairmont, joined Lord Byron (by whom Claire was pregnant), and his physician and friend, John William Polidori, at Lake Geneva, Switzerland, for a holiday. The weather, however, was cold and rainy and the party was forced indoors for days at a time, reading ghost stories and discussing galvanism and the possibility of reanimating the dead. Byron issued a challenge. They should each write a ghost story.

Shelley wrote “A Fragment of a Ghost Story.” Byron abandoned his story but his friend Polidori used it to inspire his short story, “The Vampyre.” And, of course, Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein.

It seems to me this is how writing retreats go. Some people are inspired and very productive (Mary and Polidori) and some make some progress (Shelley) and some get distracted and amuse themselves in other ways (Byron—perhaps amusing himself with Claire).

I fall in the Shelley category. Although I have made good progress on my revisions, I’m not quite through with them.

Have you gone on a working retreat? Writing Retreat or some other kind? How productive was it?

I do have writing news, though. The cover of my October Undone, The Liberation of Miss Finch, is here! And on Aug 23 (tomorrow), Valiant Soldier, Beautiful Enemy should be appearing in bookstores. Check my website tomorrow for more information.

About diane

Diane Gaston is the RITA award-winning author of Historical Romance for Harlequin Historical and Mills and Boon, with books that feature the darker side of the Regency. Formerly a mental health social worker, she is happiest now when deep in the psyches of soldiers, rakes and women who don’t always act like ladies.
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11 years ago

Beautiful art work.

11 years ago

Lucky you, though, getting away for some writing time!

Isobel Carr
11 years ago

I love writing retreats, esp with plotting partners. I tool one to New Orleans last year and had a very productive week (I wrote all day while friends explored the city and then we’d all meet up for dinner and music in the evenings).

11 years ago

I’ve wanted to do a writing retreat, but haven’t had an opportunity yet. I probably need a portable computer, first. 🙂 So glad you’ve had a lovely weekend!

The cover is delicious. And I’m reading Valiant Soldier, Beautiful Enemy, now. Alas, other work has to be done, as well.

Elena Greene
11 years ago

My local writer buddies and I regularly rent a lake house for a spring writers’ retreat, sometimes one in the fall as well. We’re all mommy-writers so this is a special opportunity to work without distractions. I’m always inspired and come away with lots of fresh ideas and/or new chapters. I highly recommend it!

Artie Mesia
11 years ago

I haven’t been on a writing retreat, but last week I returned from two intensive weeks in Baltimore studying arts administration. I’m working on a second masters. It was amazing how much stuff we could cram into one day with schedules going from 9AM until 9PM and then homework. I did actually get some writing done while I was there, but not on the novel I’m trying to finish. I’m at a bit of a stuck point in my 124 page Northanger Abbey update. Halfway finished or so! But my novel Hello Vodka My Old Friend is flowing freely like well like vodka at a ladies’ night bar. So it’s all good.

I will have to try a writer’s retreat now that my friend and I are writing a young adult novel together. Right now he’s just helping me plot, but I’d love it if he actually wrote it with me. He has some amazing ideas!

Katherine Bone
11 years ago

Retreats are great getaways for artists. I truly believe there is something about a different environment that helps restore the creative juices.

I’ve been to retreats with my local writing chapter but the focus there is more on networking. We do offer some brainstorming sessions too but unless those are conducted in ‘safe’ climates, most are unwilling to put themselves on the line. And so I think a more intimate retreat setting with trusted friends/critique partners is the thing to motivate the muse.

Here’s hoping you get the encouragement you need! Even if you’re more like Shelley, never forget she wrote a story no one can or will ever forget. 😉

Diane Gaston
11 years ago

Anonymous, thanks!

Carolyn, may your time be your own again very soon.

Isobel, New Orleans??? I would not have written a word. I’d have been letting the good times roll.

Judy, you need a laptop!!!

Elena, I’d envied your writer retreats and now I’ve had one of my own!

Artie! Good luck on your new Masters! And on your writing.

Katherine, the Shelley I was like was Percy, not Mary. Alas. But the Retreat did feel safe and supportive.

11 years ago

Did you ever see the movie based on this event? It’s called Rowing the Wind and Hugh Grant plays Byron. I feel like it could have been done much much better but it was still interesting.

Louisa Cornell
11 years ago

I haven’t been on a writing retreat, but I would love to go on one! New Orleans is the type of city you can sit out on the balcony and write and be inspired just by the music of the city itself.

Nancy Kelley
11 years ago

I admit, my writing retreats are solitary affairs. When I take time off to write, I want to avoid all the people on the planet and just get some work done.

I do wish I had a group of writing friends I could vacation with though–perhaps taking off for a week in Mexico together.

Katherine Bone
11 years ago

Oh! I was thinking Mary Shelley. LOL! But it would be great to be inspired, productive and make some progress too. Right, Diane?

Katherine Bone
11 years ago

Oops! I double posted and when I deleted said double post, it still left me up there. Ackward… 😉

Diane Gaston
11 years ago

Amanda, I have not seen that movie, but I should see if it is on Netflix.

Katherine, you are all fixed now. No double post.

Louisa, I’d love to go to New Orleans to write, but I don’t think I would write there.

11 years ago

I have been on many retreats, but not a writing one. A family retreat in the woods of Maine, a Girl Scout leaders’ retreat in California, a G. S. Mother-Daughter retreat in Maryland, and several prayer retreats in a convent when I was in high school.
Each different and each enjoyable. If I were a writer, a retreat would probably prove to be a productive and fun time.