Saturday, 22 October 2016

Moniack Mhor with Chris Gibbs

Many thanks to postal member Chris Gibbs for her entertaining and informative post about her recent experience at Moniack Mhor, near Inverness. Chris is such an inspiration, still writing and learning and being published. The photo shows Chris with her lovely daughter at a different venue.

I was wondering what had happened to my 'Get Up and Go’ - had it 'Got Up and Gone', maybe forever? Where was all the fire and motivation I once flaunted? I really couldn't blame everything on growing too old.

And that's how I found myself sitting at the long table with 13 other writers at Moniack Mhor (Scotland's Creative Writing Centre) 1,000 feet above sea level, three miles from Loch Ness, near Beauly, Inverness. We'd signed up for the Monday to Saturday Illustrating & Writing Course, with tutors Mairi Hedderwick, who writes the Morag children stories, and Bob Dewar who wrote for Sunday Post.

After being picked up at the railway station, we were wined and dined with the delicious meal prepared and served by MM staff on the first night. While on the subject of food, we were divided into teams of three students to cook dinner for 14 each following night. If any of you have been on an Arvon Course (as I have), Moniack Mhor is run along the same lines. 

Accommodation is basic but comfortable (their brochure words). My twin room met all my 'golden oldie' needs on the ground floor with bathroom nearby. Both house and cottage (for tutors) are traditional stone buildings with wood-burning stoves and central heating. Scenery is breath-taking - wish I'd remembered cable for the camera. You can have a peek at their website instead (highlighted above).

After breakfast (help yourself), Mairi and Bob took turns to inspire us. A lot of discussion was on whether the art or writing comes first, but it was generally decided that the writing - whether fiction or non-fiction - must come before the sketching or painting of the picture. Buffet lunch was prepared by staff : an ample selection of cooked meats, salads, crisps, gorgeous breads and butter (or margarine), fruits, slab cake. After all that food you could sleep or walk it off, or keep a half hour 'one to one' date with a tutor - you're allowed two dates during the Course.

Wednesday night, we were entertained by Alan Digby who spoke about editing the Sunday Post before retirement and he also sang and played the guitar. Friday was my turn to cook dinner: haggis, played in by a piper, addressed, stabbed and read by my two cooking pals and myself.

Cost of Course? £540 - a bit pricey I thought. But I managed to get a grant for some of it, which anyone can, from £100 to £300 if you match the necessary criteria. The warm welcoming atmosphere and sharing ideas with like-minded people made it worthwhile and inspiring. Ages ranged from 20 something to 92. No prizes for guessing the name of the oldest who is always that now! And has my motivation returned? Ask me that in a few months’ time to see whether I've picked up the pen/laptop yet again to finish THAT BOOK.

Chris Gibbs

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