|My Room in France|
Several years ago I spent two months living and writing in France. I came away with the first draft of a novel - 80,000 words - and I have to admit that since then I’ve become something of an expert in escaping. Don’t misunderstand me I love my home, my house that’s full of light and looks out over trees and fields to the edge of the Wear Valley. I’m pretty happy with my writing room too – bijoux it may be but it has everything I need as a writer : its full of books, its cosy, warm in winter and has a window with a view (a necessity for me having spent many years working inside prison in rooms with barely any windows to speak of). Yet still I find that writing at home is often difficult; too many other concerns, mainly domestic, intrude and I never feel entirely at ease writing if there’s shopping or cleaning to be done – and I do try to ignore them, believe me.
So for me the most inspirational and productive times as a writer are when I can get away. On a day to day basis this can be as simple as café writing or heading off to the local library, hotels can be rewarding too. I find in large hotels you can easily be ignored for hours and all for the price of a pot of tea or coffee. But getting away for longer is frequently my goal and I managed this recently when I went to Oxford with my friend, writer Wendy Robertson, for four days. We stayed in rooms in Balliol College which fronts onto Broad Street, and sits right in the heart of the city, only minutes from the Sheldonian and the Bodleian.
|A glimpse into Oriel College|
Being free from everything domestic so close to Christmas felt dangerous and delicious. It worked! We wrote whenever we pleased, did whatever we pleased. We had four days of glorious blue sky, intense winter light, immaculate lawns and breath-taking architecture. We explored the city’s lanes and cobbled streets, its ancient gates and doorways: glimpses into hidden worlds. Breathed in the gardens on our doorstep: tree ferns flourishing in sheltered corners and cyclamen flowering on the lawns under the beech, all of which made me think of the lush gardens in my novel The Orchid House.
I'm happy to report that The Orchid House has had some great reviews on Amazon and also on Kathleen Jones’ Book Blog, Kathleen says - I have to say that this is one of the most erotic novels I've read for a while. Getting good reviews is a real boost for any writer and it certainly helped inspire my new writing in those away days before Christmas.
At the end of each day in Oxford we had impromptu readings. We did a great deal of talking about our work, and on one occasion treated ourselves to a glass of champagne in The Randolph!
It was fun. I even did a spot of Christmas shopping in the fabulous Blackwells. But we went to write and write we did. For what more does a writer need than a room of her own, a desk and chair and of course her best writing buddy with her – someone as obsessed as she is, who wants to talk writing into the night over a bottle (or two) of red and a plate of cheese and biscuits? (There’s a handy Sainsburys only minutes away.) You could say it was heaven and you’d be right.
Many universities offer rooms out of student term times you can check them out here