Where I write … and the top 10 writer retreats

I’ve just launched my new website, and I hope it’s a colourful, comfortable place for readers to visit. A website feels like a home in some ways – somewhere that reflects your taste and interests, and where you invite people in to find out more about you.

Ideas 2015-10-20 It got me thinking about where I write. I have a wonderful shed in the garden, and the picture featured here is of my Danielle Scutt Barbie (my good luck charm when I wrote Threads) standing on my desk in front of my mood board. You can see more of the shed, inside and out, here.

I know that all a writer really needs is a tabletop, something to write on and with, and her own imagination. But a shed helps too! I’m not the only lucky writer to have one, or some sort of special retreat. Here are my top 10, and where to find out more about them …

10. JK Rowling’s first writing cafe in Edinburgh – The Elephant House

9. Dylan Thomas’s shed in Laugharne

8. Phillip Pullman’s garden shed in Oxford

7. Roald Dahl’s super-famous Writing Hut in Great Missenden

Dahl-GreatMissendenThere’s a lovely piece in The Guardian featuring these last 3, and more. Check out the pictures and stories here:

Five best writers’ sheds in pictures

And there’s more on Dahl and Thomas in another great piece, which also features some lovely quotes about George Bernard Shaw, Virginia Woolf and Mark Twain: Famous writers’ small writing sheds and off the grid huts

6. George Bernard Shaw’s shed at Shaw’s Corner, called ‘London’

This is my favourite description of it, via the BBC

The tiny structure of only 64 square feet (5.9 m2), was built on a central steel-pole frame with a circular track so that it could be rotated on its axis to follow the arc of the sun’s light during the day.[2] Shaw dubbed the hut “London“, so that unwanted visitors could be told he was away “visiting the capital“.[3]

5. Virginia Woolf

“She was always being distracted – by Leonard sorting the apples over her head in the loft, or the church bells at the bottom of the garden, or the noise of the children in the school next door, or the dog sitting next to her and scratching itself and leaving paw marks on her manuscript pages. In winter it was often so bitterly cold and damp that she couldn’t hold her pen and had to retreat indoors.” – from The Guardian

4. Mark Twain

“It is the loveliest study you ever saw…octagonal with a peaked roof, each face filled with a spacious window…perched in complete isolation on the top of an elevation that commands leagues of valley and city and retreating ranges of distant blue hills. It is a cozy nest and just room in it for a sofa, table, and three or four chairs, and when the storms sweep down the remote valley and the lighting flashes behind the hills beyond and the rain beats upon the roof over my head—imagine the luxury of it.” – Mark Twain, in a letter to William Dean Howells, 1874.

Finally, my favourite article on the subject, 7 Inspiring Writers’ Retreats, includes…

3. Lawrence of Arabia’s Cloud’s Hill cottage (best retreat name)

2. The bandstand TS Eliot borrowed in Margate to write bits of the Wasteland …


… and last but very not least …

  1. Vita Sackville-West’s tower at Sissinghurst

Sackville-sissinghurst-Oast House Archive and National TrustWho needs a shed when you have one of these …?

Which is your favourite? And where do you write?

11 thoughts on “Where I write … and the top 10 writer retreats

  1. I LOVE writing more than anything in the world.

    The thought of weaving ideas in and out of a story, finding out how people tick and putting that into characters that feels like part of your family, and then having them stay with you for a year, (in my case, I just finished my final edit last night, YAY!!!!) it’s the best feeling ever! 😀

  2. I have been to Vita Sackville-West’s tower twice and each time almost wept with envy. At the opposite end of the spectrum, however, I went to Jane Austen’s house at Chawton this week. She wrote at a tiny sort of lamp table, in the drawing room, presumably surrounded by people coming and going. It made me feel better about not having a writing tower…
    For want of a tower, I write in cafes.

  3. Fab post – although of course The Elephant House opened in 1998 and was therefore not JK’s first writing cafe – it was the Nicholson Cafe which closed after Philosopher’s Stone was published and was turned into a Chinese, (hence she then went to the Elephant House). The Nicholson Cafe has now reopened and is the proud owner of the official plaque. I will now slap myself for being such a nerd about this!!!! (Though that is the Elephant House in the clip and the cafe itself is full of Potter stuff)

    • Oh that’s so useful, Sarah, thank you! Now I’m not sure which one I’ve seen in Edinburgh. I remember the plaque, but not which building it was on when I saw it. I’ll have to go back and check. Great news about the Nicholson Cafe – I’m sure being the birthplace of Potter can’t have done it any harm ….

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