My first writing retreat took place in Donegal Ireland. My life as a travel writer is in the incubation period. I am grabbing at every straw I can to become a better writer. There wasn’t much information describing the workshop. I took my chances. It was not disappointing. I made friends with other writers. Two of them were Irish and one was from the US.
Many new and experienced writers are looking for places to help them perfect the art of travel writing. I hope to help anyone who is thinking about attending this retreat and is looking for facts.
7 things to know about the Ireland Writing Retreat in Donegal
The Ireland Writing Retreat is held and organized at Teac Jack in Donegal, Ireland. I spent six days in Dublin before heading to Donegal. I flew from Dublin to Donegal. The second most scenic approach in the world. I thought we were going to land in the ocean. Others took the bus from Dublin.
Teac Jack is a B&B located in Gweedore in Donegal. It has a bar, restaurant, and a beautiful view out the front door. Breakfast is served every morning from 8:00-10:00. A full Irish breakfast includes fried ham (bacon), eggs, sausage, and a warm tomato. The eggs can be ordered as sunny-side up, boiled, poached, scrambled, and over easy. Orange juice, milk, apple juice, and coffee are available for drinks. There is a table that includes yogurt, cheerios, rice cereal, and oatmeal. Types of bread include wheat, white, and dark brown. Bread can be toasted in a toaster oven. There are no pancakes or waffles. Scones are not served for breakfast, but you can ask and you shall receive.
I went for the full breakfast on the first day. The second day, no bacon. The third day, no mushrooms. The fourth and fifth day, one egg, yogurt, and a warm tomato. The last day, ordered the whole breakfast for the last time.
Disadvantages: Teac Jack is isolated. The only place to walk is the beach. There are no other shops, bars, or restaurants nearby. I began to get cabin fever. We were also blessed with rain for two days.
An Irish breakfast
A house nearby. One of the Irish writers and I took a hike.
The program description includes the following activities.
Boat trips to the island of Gola:
The boat to Gola
There was one trip to Gola. The island was once inhabited by families. We were greeted by a couple who prepared lunch for us. Lunch included sandwiches, scones, cupcakes, and drinks.
Hiking in Gola
Cemetary for Catholic babies not yet baptized
Leisurely walks and a tour of Glenveagh National Park and Castle:
The history of the Glenveagh castle is a tragic one. Unfortunately, on the day we visited the castle it was raining. The gardens are beautiful. I couldn’t get many pictures of the garden. There is a little café that serves, scones, cakes, tea, and coffee. We stopped in to have tea and dry off.
Irish language and dance classes and lively, heart-warming, foot-tapping traditional music concerts:
There were no dance classes. Every Tuesday night Tech Jack hosts the residents and their friends to a Ceili (Kaylee), Irish traditional music. I attended with some of my classmates. Two of my classmates were Irish and one of them was an avid Ceili dancer. Most of the dancers were women. They told me that they leave their husbands at home because they are boors.
The dancing starts at 8:30 and continues until 11:00. Most of these women never stop dancing. These are not young chicks. The ages ranged from 60-82. I was dragged out to the floor a few times. I didn’t know any of the steps. I tried to follow and ended up stepping on a few toes. I wish I would have had a few lessons before we attended.
There were no traditional music “concerts”. An accordion was the only instrument used. There was a performance by one dancer and a fiddler for about two minutes. A singer sang one Irish song. This is not a concert and should not be promoted as a concert. I was disappointed.
There was one leisurely walk that took us down to the beach. We picked wild raspberries. They were sweet.
A visit to Teac Mhuiris introduced us to the life that once was in Donegal, Ireland. After the lecture, our host, Maggie, brought out bread, cakes, scones, and tea. A Gaelic teacher taught us a few Gaelic phrases most commonly used in everyday language. Many people in Donegal speak Gaelic as their native language. The pronunciation is complicated. I was never able to get the words to come out of my mouth in an understandable way.
WIFI was available in “Jack’s Bar” and the room where the classes were held. It was not available in the hotel rooms. This was a disadvantage because we had to sit in the bar with our computers to do our work. The heat in the classroom was shut off when we were not using it. The bar was noisy and there wasn’t much space to work.
The writing classes took place from 10:00 -1:00 every day.
Tea time/Story time/Language classes
The information on the site includes the following information:
Hands-on teaching techniques including one-on-one, sentence-by-sentence, paragraph-by-paragraph, critiques of participant’s own work completed before and during the week-long writing retreat.
We were given an assignment and it was due within 24 hours. There was no offer of one on one in person critiques. The critiques came in the form of feedback online. The critiques did help. They were not profound critiques. The critiques were given by Sean Hillen the instructor/author.
A workshop presented by Emily DeDakis, a dramaturg, had us do various writing activities including putting our ideas into various groups. She gave us the assignment to write about something that we would never tell anyone. I didn’t do the assignment. She wasn’t going to give any feedback and I didn’t understand what the purpose was. Why should I tell her a secret when I don’t even know her?
Another workshop was presented by Laurence McKeown, a play writer. Laurence had a very interesting story about being held in prison for 17 years. He was on a hunger strike for almost seventy days. We found his story fascinating. He gave us intensive feedback on an assignment. The assignment was to write a story that included 50% dialog. It was misunderstood by all the class participants. He corrected them in a way that made them bleed. So much red ink!
The agenda listed the Farewell Dinner as an “evening filled with wine snacks, and lively conversation”. We had sandwiches that were hastily made and not tasty and lots of wine. The “lively conversation” included a local guitarist whose voice gave me a headache. He told us that he doesn’t write music, he just sings from memory. Another local tried to sing a traditional Irish song but had a very bad cold. We had some lively music from one of the participant’s husbands who played country western music and she had a beautiful voice. The lively conversation switched to Irish politics.
A magical mystery welcome was the title of the welcome dinner. The owner of Cafe Kitty gave a presentation on potatoes and how they can be cooked. She brought a sampling of her mashed potatoes for us to try. They were good. Later in the week, we went to her restaurant for lunch. Sancho entertained us with a few Irish fairy tales.
There is no public transportation. Cabs were available and expensive. This is a problem if you want to go to another town to go shopping or eat. The cost of transportation by cab to the airport is 25 euros.
Lunch and dinner are not included. You could spend between $30-40 for food and drink per day. Breakfast is included everyday.
Everyone has different expectations when trying something for the first. The overall experience was good. New friends, good food, rainy weather, new places, and a different language. It was an experience. I feel that the people who were running the workshop did not put enough effort into the program. They were trying to save money at the participants expense. I admit that this is my first experience and I can’t compare this program to another.
New Irish friends