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Writing can be a lonely business ... but it doesn't have to be

Jessica tells us about a lovely weekend with writing friends

Writing can be a lonely business, locked away in an office with a computer, and a selection of imaginary friends for company. I’ve therefore always valued being part of a writing group, The Write Romantics. The ten of us live all over the country from Cumbria to the Yorkshire Coast to Kent to Cardiff, so meeting in the same place at the same time presents a challenge.

Earlier this year, we mooted the idea of getting together for a weekend and hoped that we’d find a date that would suit everyone. We the date for last weekend but, in the end, we managed to coordinate half of the group for the Friday night and three of us for the Saturday night. Although it was only a small section of the group, we had a lovely weekend.

Derby was chosen as a central venue. It wasn’t a city that any of us knew so we were hoping we’d picked well.

My husband, Mark, decided to join us for an opportunity to nip into the Peak District for a spot of photography. We gave Sharon Booth a lift and the three of us arrived before anyone else so Mark took his camera down to the river while Sharon and I headed into town in search of food. We loved that the first café we encountered was called The Book Café. Doesn’t get more appropriate than that, does it?

We were staying in the Cathedral Quarter and had found information online suggesting it was home to many independent retailers … except we couldn’t find any! Eventually we found the entrance to what turned out to be an enormous shopping centre which was fabulous if you wanted high street, but not so great when you’re keen to find independents. Fortunately Mark had found them on his photography wanderings so we were able to track them down the following day. There’s nothing lovelier than finding a lovely independent shop full of unique, beautiful things.

By late afternoon, Jo Bartlett, Helen Phifer and Jackie Ladbury had arrived and half of The Write Romantics could all meet. I’d met everyone before but Sharon had only met Jo previously so it was brilliant for her to get to meet three more of the group.

Writing – past, present and future – was inevitably the main topic of conversation but we weren’t short of other topics to explore, getting to know each other a lot better.

We said goodbye to Helen and Jo after a lazy breakfast on Saturday morning, then found the independent shops before finishing the day with a trip to the cinema and a meal. Our film of choice was Paddington 2. Yes, we were three women of a certain age, unaccompanied by children, but we all love Paddington so why not? I can highly recommend it. It's hilarious and lovely. And if you're someone who is inclined to dash out the cinema as soon as the credits roll, DON'T! There's a hilarious Hugh Grant scene that you must stay and watch. The man is amazing in that film.

Sharon and I both live reasonably close to each other so we see quite a bit of each other, and we’re planning to go to the RNA Conference next year in Leeds. Hopefully a few other WRs will join us there but, if not, I’d love us to meet up again. Because with fabulous friends like that, writing isn’t such a lonely business after all.

Jessica xx

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