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18/09/2019: The Swanwick Diaries

Earlier this year, I finally made it to a writers’ annual conference that has been recommended to me over the past ten years. For whatever reason, I’ve never managed to go. Until this year.

Day 1

Arrived about 4pm after a nearly 5 hours in my car. I booked in and rapidly freshened up before heading for Orientation at 4.15. After which was the Chairman’s talk, a tour of the site, wine then dinner. With around 300 people attending, some familiar faces and meeting new ones, I excused myself around 8.30pm before a guest speaker began and an ice breaker session ensued.

Talk about hit the ground running!

After that journey and the influx of information and people, I was overwhelmed to took refuge in my room, unpacked, showered and tried to settle down. At midnight I was just about able to settle. Meditated until around 1am.

Day 2

Awoke at 4am unable to get back to sleep. Meditated but it didn’t work as fully as I’d hoped. I’m not used to being away from my family nor driving for so long alone. Washed and dressed by 6.45am and at keyboard by 7am. Quite possibly the earliest I’ve ever sat at my keyboard! Ever. In my life.
After breakfast and the first of 4 sessions I want to attend this week (Character Psychology), I suspect I will crash for at least an hour later. My plan for this week is to give another (hopefully final) edit to Livin’ & Lovin’ in Texas. It is a bitter-sweet romance originally written in 2005 and currently stands at just under 35k.

Day 3

Reasonable day of editing. New faces that are the other residents are becoming more familiar.

Even starting to remember their names too. Had an epiphany with the editing project. My hero is now based on the guy from accounts. (Private joke only daughter and I get). Googled photos of the actor and added a couple to my phone to look at for…ahem…inspiration. Fire alarm went off after midnight so grabbed my laptop, hard drive and phone then headed to assembly area. I’ve done too much work on it for it be lost in potential burning situation.

Back to room within the hour but too wired to sleep so edited some more. Suspect guy from accounts was so hot he set off the alarm. Totally understandable. Sleep by 2am.

Day 4

Blurry eyed this morning especially while absorbing information on psychology course. Napped a lot afterwards and edited when able.

Had a lovely chat with 3 ladies today, all vastly different backgrounds. Time well spent with them. Wanted to achieve more today but fatigued prevented it. Glass of wine tonight so squiffy too. Finished off the night with a swig or seven of Malibu and a handful of frazzles. I’m so classy.

Day 5

My birthday. Kept low-key as don’t want to attract attention. Facebook announces it to the world though and heaps of fb and IRL friends sent wishes which is lovely and makes me smile.

I recall spending only 2 birthdays away from home: one with my girlie in Stratford upon Avon before she was able to drive so I had to and the other time is here. Feels weird not to be around husband and daughter (and cat) but I know they are at the other end of the phone/text/whatsapp.

Might mention it tonight at dinner but will see how the day goes first. Definitely having a large wine tonight and possibly cake too. Ha! Take that, Bembridge Scholars!

Day 5 cont…

Didn’t announce it at dinner, seemed inappropriate and really didn’t want any attention. Did have wine but didn’t have cake. Had a dodgy vegan thing that held onto the plate so hard I had to employ a pneumatic drill just to taste it. (What must vegan digestive systems go through?).

Also there was no psychology course today – it continues tomorrow. Instead I tried a one hour workshop on audio books. Interesting but has reminded me that so much of the digital experience removes a lot of the creativity and relies almost totally on technology – my favourite bedfellow. Not. Made notes though.

Had a couple of uncomfortable moments today which brought out my very best version of anxiety for all to see so felt vulnerable too. Add to that a mishap with a chair which resulted in a broken nail. Dammit! On the plus side I got about 5 hours of editing completed so yay!

Quite possibly my most anxiety-filled lay-low birthday ever. Not fab. Just to add to that not fab feeling, I did the calculations and I might not even finish the editing before I leave Swanwick. That’s sad. Am working out a way to achieve it or else continue at home which I’d rather not do. I mean, this is the reason I came here.

Day 6

Pulled out all the stop and DID IT! Finally finished editing L&LiT removing over 6 thousand unnecessary words. It was one of the most intensive and disciplined editing sessions I’ve ever completed.

I packed after lunch so it will be a smoother evening what with dregs party, dinner, awards & farewell then drinks. Feeling knackered and didn’t get a nap today so going to bed before midnight for a change. Yay.

Day 7

I couldn't sleep until around 1am. My alarm was set for 6.30 so there wasn't much wiggle room. It was also miffing that I fell asleep during a meditation only to awake suddenly and need a wee. I've shared a bathroom all week so creaky floorboards outside my room helped me work out if anyone was on there before I set off. I got back only to see my phone battery was lower than I'd like but the plug for the charger wasn't near the bed so if I did another meditation to get to sleep I had the extra worry there'd be no battery left and I would get the alarm clock in the morning. As is usual I was worrying for nothing as I did awake at 6 30 and put the phone straight onto charge before I showered.

I dealt with the last min bits and needed the loo again so grabbed my key and promptly shut my door only to discover the key I held was my car key. Thankfully dressed, I made my way to reception but it was still too early for staff so I had to phone the emergency number for the duty manager to rescue me. She arrived within 10 mins so I grabbed my room key and went to the loo.

After brekkie, a group photo and an exchange of contact details and promises to stay in touch, I grabbed my cases and headed for the car.

The problem within journeys alone is the aspect of fatigue. To keep awake I began analysing the timeline of my novella. I found I was taking each character and looking at their individual timeline within the story. This is something I might play with in the coming days. I'm happy to know that a fifth and (hopefully) final tweak will be done.

It also crossed my mind if those travelling back were discussing me as I thought about them. Had I made any impact on them as they did me. I suspect the only way I'll know is if they do contact me as we both agreed.

So there you have it, my week at Swanwick, my bucket list box ticked, and my novella finally edited.

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