Seven of us rock up for the start of our intensive three-day creative writing course run by Chalk the Sun. One of the group, the gracious Constanza, has very generously donated her Gaucín home for the duration and the townhouse is cool, spacious and quirky. The inviting smell of fresh coffee greets us, and a plate of croissants beckons from the kitchen counter.
We sit around a table at the shaded end of the internal courtyard and introduce ourselves. Four of the group have been on previous courses but the rest of us are newbies including an impressive young New Zealander who took voluntary redundancy to come and write her novel in Andalucía. Although there is clearly some history here, it doesn’t matter as the group are so friendly, open and honest that I feel instantly included.
Everybody brings something different to the table – humour, exoticism, earthiness, pace, punch and a unusual painterly quality.
Although it is a little scary throwing this blog out there, that is nothing compared to the nerves when reading out your carefully crafted prose in front of a group of peers particularly when the group is as talented as this lot are!
Our tutor Jo is laid back – almost feline – yet commands the room, holding us all in her thrall. Her knowledge and understanding of even the most obscure of books is astounding and in our group discussions she allows us just enough rope to hang ourselves before bringing us crisply back in line. Over three days we learnt about scene setting and subtext, inciting incidents and concretisation, dialogue, ‘showing, not telling’ and so much more. Our mornings are spent on exercises and discussing our work. Afternoons are spent alone developing pieces for discussion later in the day when we reconvene at 5 o’clock.
On our last evening we take to the roof terrace where we polish off two bottles of delicious champagne kindly provided by Constanza before heading off for a group meal at La Parilla. Their menu del dia and large internal terrace is the perfect setting for our jocular group and once partners had joined us, 12 people sit down to eat. It is a great night; the wine is as free flowing as the conversation, which darts from Brexit to life in New Zealand, dog care to Sunderland FC and back again…
And of course the question that always eventually comes up – so, what is your Gaucín story?
We stumble out of the restaurant at midnight promising to all meet up soon!
Jo, who is based in Gaucín, hosts regular meetings for local writers and former workshop participants. This group is going from strength to strength and in May 2015 published their first collection of works “Gaucín Writers/Escritores de Gaucín” with contributions from ten Gaucín writers. Most of the stories are in English and Spanish and are connected in some way to Gaucín, either in content or because the writer lives in the village. The collection is currently out of print but a 2nd edition will be printed at Christmas and the group are working on their second collection at the moment.
Chalk the Sun runs writing courses and events in London, creative writing courses in Gaucín and writing retreats in Italy – for information about future courses go to www.chalkthesun.co.uk
All images © Pip Art