Head above Water: A mother’s writing retreat

It’s been busy here lately hasn’t it? All Housewife with a Half-Life and liveliness but it will become a little quiet here for a while. I’ve been awarded a writing retreat in Cill Rialaig, a writer’s and artists retreat of six cottages at the edge of the world, overlooking the sea in one of the most beautiful places on earth, Ballinskelligs in County Kerry. Ballinskelligs looks over the Skellig Islands, the site of an early Christian monastic settlement. It is a similar monastic tradition that permeates the Cill Rialaig site. The individual cottages are stone, have no TV or internet and the setting is isolated and tranquil. My retreat runs for 8 days. 8 days! As a mother of four children aged almost 12, just 10, 7 and 4, my thoughts have not been my own for many years and my ideas are seams hewn out of the rock of the everyday prosaic, sandwiches, homework, housework. This unprecedented quiet might in itself be overwhelming who knows?

I aim to work on my second literary novelThe Exhibit of Held Breaths. At the heart of this story is an exhibit – then another – which changes the ordinary life of the reluctant creator and the people of the town. I will look at how the drive of the artistic, or the passion (I can’t think of another word) takes its hold over the individual and how belief in an artifact can take over groups of people (my psychology degree & fascination with social psychology stepping in here).

But who knows? Focusing on that is what I aim to do but I can imagine that the silence and the freedom of thought will take me by surprise. Who knows what might come of it this retreating?

Note: I will post a photo when I get back, for now, I’ll let you imagine, the stone cottages, the cliff, the sea relentless and the gulls hanging above the brine.


  1. The Exhibit of Held Breaths is a lovely title — good luck with the retreat. Eight days… imagine the sleep! Oops, sorry, I mean ‘output’.

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