The Writer’s Retreat is an irregular feature I started back in October 2013, sending writers off to an imaginary scenario of isolation and standing back to see how bonkers they go when cut off from the outside world.
My very first resident was poet and novelist Anna Freeman, and with her debut novel The Fair Fight hitting the shelves in August I thought I’d take the opportunity to repost her visit. My favourite review of her novel is from Sarah Waters who says, ‘The Fair Fight is a hugely exciting and entertaining novel, written with warmth, charm, authority and, above all, terrific flair. I loved it.’ Waters is a writer that fills me with awe and admiration, so quite apart from the fact that Anna is possibly the most funny and interesting ginger I know, this review had me scrabbling to hit the buy button.
So, with all the gushing compliments done, here is the scenario: You have one month alone on a remote Scottish Island. You have a comfortable cabin and enough food to last the duration. The only contact you have with the outside world is a radio. There is no television, internet access or mobile phone signal.
Anna, what will you be working on while you are there?
Urgh. That question speaks itself in the sliding tones of my own inner guilt-voice. I have too many projects at once, at the moment. Mostly I’ll be finishing editing my novel and re-writing the show I’m doing with Chris Redmond and The Tongue Fu band, which tours next summer. It’s a comedy thing about how music shapes our identity. I don’t know how much of it I’ll be able to do alone, though. Maybe I need Chris dancing about at me.
How will you structure your days?
Oh, the same as here. Hunt around the cabin for excuses not to write, clean stuff that doesn’t need cleaning, drink too much coffee, write a bit, get twitchy, realise what I’ve written is rubbish, throw myself to the floor in despair etc.
How do you feel about being cut off from human contact as well as the social network? That’s what being a writer feels like anyway, when you really get going. It’s possible that I’ll miss Facebook more than real people. I’m a compulsive FB checker, even though I have absolutely no idea what I’m looking for.
What reading will you bring with you?
I’ll bring the to-read stack that sits next to my bookshelf. It’s all the books I’d love to read, but which have no relevance to my own writing, so they tend to get sidelined. At the moment it’s getting a bit tall and precarious, it’s probably time I made an inroad. At the top is The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt and State of Wonder, by Ann Patchett.
What essential items will you be packing?
Um… wine? Wine and winegums.
Thank you Anna, and if you need some quiet in a Facebook-free zone to write your next book you know where to go, I can even organise some complimentary wine gums…
Anna Freeman is a multiple slam champion, novelist, creative writing lecturer at Bath Spa University, and an activist for ginger rights. Her work is often humorous, with a spine of genuine pain and humiliation at the inarguable fact of her own existence.
Anna has performed her poetry in myriad cities including Edinburgh, London, Bristol, Manchester, Vancouver and Seattle, and appeared as part of Radio 4’s Bespoken. Let The Pig Out, Anna’s brand new spoken word/live music collaboration with Chris Redmond and The Tongue Fu Band, is taking bookings to tour through the second half of 2013 and into 2014. Her first poetry collection, Gingering the World from the Inside, is published by Burning Eye Books and her first novel, The Fair Fight, won The Tibor Jones Pageturner Prize 2013 and is published by Orion.
‘A superb act of imaginative ventriloquism’ – James Pusey, Tibor Jones
‘A hearty recommendation for Anna Freeman’ – Guardian Books
‘She twists up the awkward, confusing and the painful into slick balloon animals’ – Buddy Wakefield
‘A rising star’ – Venue