Writing Retreat at Sundari

What a superb way to start the writing year!

Having been entreated to do so for quite a few years now, I bit the bullet late last year and organised a writing retreat/workshop, which took place over the weekend just past. I had no idea how it would go – I tend to fret about things like:

  • how many people will want to come?
  • How do I manage things like food?
  • How much money is an ok amount to charge?
  • How do I manage the catering?
  • What on earth will people want to do?
  • Where should we have it?
  • How do I arrange food for everyone?
  • How do I not go mad and start biting myself?
  • Argh?

Gail and Janet reassured me (repeatedly) (and very kindly) that the food would be fine; people would largely take care of themselves; seriously, no, the food would be fine; it will all be great just for the love of god stop turning yourself into a pretzel worrying and just put something together and see and it will be fine. (For the record: the food thing. I’m not a social person, so on those occasions when I do invite people in to my space around a meal or similar, I feel the need (to misquote The Martian) to cater the shit out of it.)

After much faffing (technical term), a couple of sessions wandering around AirBnB, and a couple of extended consultations with Janet and Gail about logistics, I found a place that looked really promising – Sundari Eco Retreat. It’s a beautiful place, nestled into the side of the mountain above the Okuti Valley, near Little River. Peace? Check. Plenty of table space for writing? Check. Places to go if we need to be on our own? Check. Chickens and peacocks wandering through the kitchen? Che– What? Oh. Yes. Check.

It was glorious. The weather was perfect – beautifully warm without being hot, and just the occasional gentle breeze. We wrote, and discussed, and drank wine outside on the beautiful outdoor lounge. We’d agreed on a potluck approach to the food, and as promised, it just unfolded – seemingly effortlessly, and certainly without any effort on my part (other than a spot of stir-frying on the second night). There were some seriously good poems begun too, which is the thing that makes me happiest professionally.

But the thing that struck me most strongly was how supremely collegial it all was – no need to run around and organise people to do X or Y. It just … happened. When there was something that needed to be done, someone was already doing it. Every time. Being someone who naturally (or possibly unnaturally) worries about things when I’m in charge, and who therefore likes to plan at least two or three fallback positions in case of mishap (Rain! Grumpiness! Boredom! The place burning down! Everyone hating the exercises! Everyone bringing egg salad!) this came as a surprise and relief, with a dawning sense of wonder and gratitude.

And I worked out what it was: this is the first time I’ve been on something like this with a group of adult women. Just … adult women. Who run their own homes, as well as having families and partners and jobs and lives, so don’t need to be asked to do something, because of course not. I feel a bit as though I’ve been away for a pampering session myself, and am slightly in love with them all at the moment, just as I invariably am with every masseuse for a day or two afterwards. (For the record, my own partner does at least his own share of the jobs around the house, frequently more, and without being asked. Ahem.)

So there it is. A really great weekend. None of the things I feared came to pass, and everyone seemed to have a great time. And I even managed to make a start on some poems myself, which feels amazing.

I can highly recommend Sundari as a venue. I think we’ll definitely be going back.

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