It’s been pretty hectic round these parts recently and I could do with a break. So when a good friend mentioned there might be a Highland hideaway available in return for some cat-sitting, I jumped at the chance.
It’s a bit daunting, though. I’ve never been to the Highlands before, it’s been a while since I drove longer than an hour to a castle for research, and it’ll be the first time in ages I’ll be hundreds of miles away from my long-suffering husband. Most of my adventures tend to be either sticking a pin in a Historic Scotland map or doing some urban wandering close to home.
But this time, I have a week in a crofting community an hour and a half from Inverness. When I phoned my friend’s mum for instructions, it was very much a ‘nine miles up the single-track road with passing places, the big house behind the trees, you might want to cut some firewood, it gets cold upstairs.’ The nearest village shop mostly deals in alcohol and sweets. I’m within striking distance of a beach with visiting
selkies seals, the dramatic loch and hills of Torridon, and several Historic Scotland sites. There will no doubt be lovely locals who will give me their life story, which is a passive skill I seem to have got from my mum and turns out to be useful for writing. In many ways, this is all perfect writing retreat material. I expect it’ll end up being a week of living on rice and beans with the odd forage for a local pub with decent whisky. Assuming there, erm, is a pub nearby.
This week, I’m finishing an LGBT YA short story and then I’ll find myself in the odd position of having nothing pressing to write about. The last big thing I tackled was 2014’s NaNoWriMo, a YA time travel historical thing based on local history which I’ve shelved for now. So I can actually spend the retreat shamelessly devouring my latest library haul (mostly as much as I could find from this excellent YA list). I can also finally let the novel characters out of their box. They’ve been stuck in there for over a month. I had no idea where my big plot arcs were going to go. Then a chance conversation with a friend unstuck a major block, resulting in a weekend sneaking moments in between entertaining the mother-in-law to spew words into Scrivener. I suspect when I get to the Highlands- home of a few mythological creatures, methinks- my characters are all going to burst out and getting a plot that makes sense will be a bit like trying to keep a bunch of excited puppies in one place.
August is going to be busy just like last year. It involves a wedding, the NineWorlds convention (see you there?) and mooching around the Fringe and Book Festival trying to look like a proper writer. I’ll need to stock up on mental energy and get practice for tramping around town gathering flyers. The retreat will be a good bit of calm before the storm. It’ll also get me fit for the big holiday in September, which also involves drinking, hills and life stories, but that’s for another overly excited post…