The moment I stepped out of the car at Montville Country Cabins, I was enchanted. The scenery was stunning and peaceful, yet excitement simmered beneath the surface — a refreshing combination of relaxation and anticipation. Connections were immediate and genuine — I had stepped into a writer’s paradise. Even the local wildlife wanted in, and who can blame them?
As a day visitor, I was up for two masterclasses, run by two authors who I adore. What a treat. And as if this wasn’t enough, we got to refresh our minds in between with a spread of home-cooked food while enjoying the beautiful gardens and opportunities to network.
The first masterclass was run by Samantha Wheeler, author of Spud and Charli, Smooch and Rose, Mister Cassowary and Wombat Warriors.
Samantha graciously stepped us through the intricacies of plotting and structure, explaining the mysteries of the three-act structure in a way that I’d never heard so well described. No matter if you were a plotter or pantster, we could all take away gems of wisdom and techniques from her sound advice.
With handouts and diagrams, Samantha guided us through practical exercises, while also using real examples from her own delightful work. We thought up real ideas with imagined conflicts and characters and put them to work straight away. I wouldn’t be surprised if the seeds of future books were planted in that very room.
The afternoon’s masterclass plunged us into the world of magic, run by Karen Foxlee, author of A Most Magical Girl, Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy and The Midnight Dress, amongst others.
Karen had us tapping into our childhood, where magic lurked at every turn and our desire to explain the world wasn’t so important. We thought about our own magical experiences, living them, breathing them, and remembering them, as only a child can. We found objects to imbue with magic and understood the bounds and laws and intricacies we needed to consider. For me, it revived a childhood passion that had long been buried in layers of realism. But the dragon is stirring — thank you Karen!
I left the retreat with new connections, a heart full of joy and a head bursting with ideas. Hats off to Aleesah Darlison and the team at Greenleaf Press for a perfectly executed and immensely successful first retreat — I can’t wait to attend next year.
Some blog posts from other ‘retreaters’: