Steal away to write that novel
Fancy a room of your own to get your creativity going? A suitably inspiring space awaits you at a writers’ retreat
In 1998 Sue Booth-Forbes, an American teacher, writer and editor who had been running creative retreats on a voluntary basis in Boston, decided to change her life following divorce.
With two friends, she rented a house at Eyries, on the Beara Peninsula in west Cork, for a month-long break devoted to writing.
So inspiring was the experience that she ended up buying a house there and turning it into a dedicated writers’ retreat. Anam Cara, as she called it, has been offering writers a quiet space in which to work ever since.
“It is a way of getting away from the ‘dailyness’ of daily life to work on your creativity,” she explains. “Writers and artists staying here get together for breakfast and dinner but the hours of the day are quiet, working hours. Guests have no responsibilities but to themselves and their craft.”
It costs €600-€700 a week to stay here, and you don’t have to be a published author or a galleried artist to attend. “Anam Cara is for anyone, whether they are just thinking about it or are professionals,” says Booth-Forbes, whose walls are lined with more than 500 books written by former guests.
“Part of what makes it work is that everyone who has come here dedicates, or rededicates, themselves to the creative part of their life,” says Booth-Forbes, who believes the rural silence is particularly conducive to creativity. “The only noise here is an occasional tractor. As you settle in, first the external noise goes away, then the general noise in your head goes away and finally you can hear your inner voice.”
Of course, not everyone’s inner voice says anything worth hearing but of those that do, some of the best will have stayed at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Monaghan, the most famous literary retreat in the country. The house here, Annaghmakerrig, was bequeathed to the State by the eponymous British theatre director, with a proviso that it be used for the benefit of artists. It opened as a residential retreat in 1981.
You have to apply to stay here, with a week’s full board costing €300 in the main house and €150, on a self-catering basis, in one of its farmyard cottages. Bursaries are available from a number of local authorities to help cover the costs.
Dinner is served in the Big House at 7pm and the one stipulation laid down by Guthrie in his will is that residents should gather for a meal once a day. This emphasis on communal dining is an important part of the retreat experience, according to Booth-Forbes. “When you bring creative people together a lot of cross pollination and synergies can result,” she explains.