The Mini Writers Retreat for Carers Bursary aims to support writers who, due to their role as carer,* find it difficult to find time to write.
“A writing residency is a gift of time.” —Lynn Buckle, Rose Servitova and Michelle Walsh offer insight about the Carers Mini-Retreat at Greywood Arts, how it offers a much needed pause, time alone and with others, and a chance to focus. There are two bursary places available now.
Rose Servitova—How it started
In November 2017 I sent an email to Greywood Arts in Killeagh, Co. Cork. The title of the email was ‘2 Nights Residency?’
Despite working full-time, my husband and I were struggling with all the usual costs like mortgage, childcare and loans, I was running an Austen bicentenary festival in Limerick on a voluntary basis, was the proud owner of two children under six years, ageing parents, and had just self-published my debut novel.
Despite feeling tired, I still wanted to write and was convinced that if I could just get two nights away to focus on my next manuscript, I could make progress. Thanks to the flexibility of newly established Greywood Arts, that’s what I did—and had something solid to return home with at the end of my short stay.
There are many unsung heroes in our communities and one of the most important, though often invisible, are our carers.
I’ve worked in the disability sector for twenty years. My uncle, who has an intellectual disability, lived with us; my mum was a carer so my understanding was that caring was what people did for those they loved. What struck me over the years, however, was the sacrifice that carers make—how much of their own lives, freedom and dreams are put on hold so that they can help another who is in more need than themselves.
When I met with Jessica Bonenfant of Greywood Arts at the foot of the stairs that December, I thanked her for her willingness to take me for such a short stay. We got talking about all those for whom longer stays are not practical or affordable.
Carers in particular need to find the freedom to avail of a writers retreat, which might mean paying for agency staff to care for their loved one or asking a relative—only allowing them a short period of respite from their responsibilities. The same obstacles arose for workshops and festivals.
Carers who write
Could we do anything to make attending a writer’s retreat more accessible for this particular group – carers who write? Other individuals and professionals were willing to step forward to offer assistance. Soon we had a great package full of supports that could be taken over a one year period.
This year the package on offer is even better than before. We would love to hear from creative carers and offer them this opportunity and encouragement to keep writing.
If you feel you would benefit from a three-night writers retreat at Greywood Arts as well as the other supports listed below (to be taken up in 2023), please consider applying for this opportunity.
*The Oxford Dictionary defines a carer as “A family member who regularly looks after a child or a sick, elderly, or disabled person.”
Lynn Buckle—a gift of time
A writing residency is a gift of time. Time dedicated to writing without the interruptions of daily life.
Yet for many carers, bound by caring duties, daily life is inescapable. Some of us really are indispensable when the costs of replacing us are factored in and there are no supports for the support we give.
I rarely applied for writing residencies, despite the kudos they bring to a writer’s career and the prospect of writing non-stop. That was until Greywood Arts launched a Carers Bursary back in 2018.
There I saw a bunch of people who understood the practicalities faced by carers, who tailored their award accordingly. I was offered flexible dates and a fully funded residency that was manageably short. I was also given money to further facilitate my stay. Sponsor Kit de Waal wisely suggested I spend this on chocolate.
I worried whether I could write without having to juggle my carer commitments, whether I secretly thrived on chaos and overload. To take a break, do your thing was a scary invitation. Luckily, I wrote and re-drafted prolifically, exploited every hour by filling it with words.
Glimpses of peace and sanity
At the time, my debut novel The Groundsmen had just been published and I was busy polishing my second. I took random breaks from writing by walking the adjoining Killeigh Woods and I ate alone, or spent long lunches discussing creativity, art, politics, dance, and theatre with the other international residents.
It breaks me a little to read that last sentence. Only a carer would marvel at the enormity of it, of being able to do those things and to glimpse some peace and sanity.
Yet my stay at Greywood Arts was just one part of the bursary. On my return home I began another journey with professional editor Sally Vince, which was impeccable timing! This expanded my understanding of editorial processes and clarified the direction my manuscript was going in. A lot of pressure comes with a second novel, so it was reassuring to have an outside voice and the gift of a thorough edit before handing the manuscript over to époque Press.
The award also included free membership to an online writing group. Long before Covid’s online meetings became the norm, this was ground-breaking in its flexibility and accessibility.
Facilitator Sharon Thompson organised workshops, masterclasses by industry specialists, and encouraged us to share our collective knowledge. Most importantly, this group provided a forum to exchange ideas and network within a mutually supportive community of authors – one which was all too difficult to access in my circumstances. We have all soared in our varying writing careers since that time, held together as a group by the vision and kindness of its founder Sharon, and encouraged to fly.
Michelle Walshe—a much needed pause
I started writing in 2017, around the time my mum fell ill and needed a lot of help. I wrote in the cracks of time around caring – in waiting rooms, in the car, tapping into my iPhone notes or scrawling sentences onto the back of appointment letters.
When I won the Mini Writers Retreat for Carers in 2019, I was still finding my way into the writing world. I’d had some pieces published and I’d set up my writing website after taking a short course at the Irish Writers Centre, but I found it difficult to find time to write or to put any kind of structure onto what I was writing.
Winning this bursary affected me in several positive ways. The prizes were a selection box of treats for writers – a 3-day residency at beautiful Greywood Arts in Killeagh, Co. Cork with a writing room that overlooked a river giving me much needed time and space to work, a session with editor Sally Vince which was my first introduction to editing, and membership of Sharon Thompson’s online writing group Indulge in Writing, which I am still a member of and which opened the door to a network of writers who support and encourage each other.
As a new writer it gave me confidence in my ability and motivation to keep going and gave me courage to keep applying for other opportunities (and if you’d like to see what I’ve achieved since have a look at www.thesparklyshell.com).
A glimpse of the writing life
Those three days at Greywood Arts provided a much-needed pause in my caring duties and gave me a glimpse of the writing life. I liked it so much I’m still writing three years on, and my first novel was highly commended in the Irish Writers Centre Novel Fair earlier this year.
I’ve won other bursaries and residencies since 2019 and been awarded Arts Council of Ireland funding and an Emerging Artist grant from my local county council, but this early win remains close to my heart because it was at the start of my writing journey and it’s linked to my caring role.
It remains a balancing act—protecting my creativity while at the same time needing all my physical and mental energy to carry out my caring role— but writing and caring share some common characteristics: perseverance and resilience against the odds.
Awardees will receive the following:
- 3 nights residency at self-catering artist’s retreat Greywood Arts, Killeagh, Co. Cork www.greywoodarts.org (Sponsored by Greywood Arts).
- €100 stipend to assist with costs of travel/food etc… (Sponsored by the Irish Writers Centre).
- An online or in-person workshop of your choice at the Irish Writers Centre www.irishwriterscentre.ie
- 1:1 mentoring with award-winning writer Niamh Boyce (virtual or in-person) on three chapters of novel/three short stories/creative non-fiction Niamh’s Bio
- Editing of piece of work/ etc (approx 15hrs) with editor, Sally Vince www.editorsal.com
- One year membership of the Irish Writers’ Union (Full or Associate, whichever best fits the awardee) www.irishwritersunion.org
- 1:1 creative coaching with Marie O’Halloran of Soul on Fire Coaching. Soul on Fire Coaching
Closing date for receipt of applications is Friday November 11th 2022 (5pm)
See all details and complete an online application form here.