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Jessie: On a writing retreat on the coast of Maine

One of my favorite things in the world to do is to head off to the beach for a writing retreat. I love the experience of being away from the responsibilities, routines and expectations of my ordinary life in order to make room for whichever ideas and stories might care to grace me with their presence. Each time I prepare in a similar way. I make a list of the things I need to do before leaving like setting my email to vacation mode, preparing anything that needs to be taken to the post office, and gassing up my car.

Then I make a list of the things I need to pack for actually writing. I always take a notebook for the novel I am working on, a selection of freshly-filled fountain pens, headphones and a charger, sticky notes in a variety of colors, and my planner. I also make a list of personal items like coffee, clothes, at least one knitting project, running shoes, Kindle. And, of course, I make apacking list for my faithful assistant and constant companion, Sam, the Poodle: treats, a bed, two or three favorite toys, kibble.

I try to head out early, hopefully on a sunny day. The drive takes no more than an hour, but as I crest the top of the hill at the only stoplight in town I feel as though I am a world away. There, just ahead, is the sea, blue and thrumming. I turn onto my street and pull into the drive, eager to throw open all the windows in the house to let in the salt air. Sam and I race the small house, making sure all is the way it was when last we were here. I cart in my kit and caboodle and then, without fail we make our way to the beach for a wander.

In short order, the ocean works its magic and I feel the ideas begin to flow. We head back to the house and I usually make myself a coffee to carry to the front porch which houses my office. Sam springs onto the rattan settee where he can keep a close eye on the goings-on along the street whilst a sea breeze ruffles his ears. I dig out my notebook, settle beside him and begin to ponder. Even though the worlds I write about are far from my spot on the porch they feel closer than ever. If my luck holds and history repeats itself I will have another Beryl and Edwina novel called into being in no time at all!

Readers, is there you love to go to clear your mind and get away from the everyday? Writers, do you go on writing retreats or do you prefer to work close to home?

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