01/11/2012 09:03 GMT | Updated 31/12/2012 05:12 GMT

Manorbier Castle Chronicles

The first Manorbier Castle writer's retreat begins this week led by novelist, Esther Freud, of 'Hideous Kinky' fame; remember the movie, with Kate Winslet dancing around Moroccan souks ?

The castle is on the West coast of Wales buffeted by Atlantic winds, sometimes so strong that sea gulls are flung against the ancient mullioned windows. It is a wildly romantic place where authors and fledgling writers can sit down to pen their drafts in round tower rooms and 14th century solars.

People taking part in the course will be told to turn off mobiles and forget about internet and t.v; its all about surrendering time, besides the only reception one can get is at the top of the highest parapet above the old latrines and the castle drawbridge goes up at 11pm.

Every self respecting Aga owner and lady of the 'shires' probably not only nurses the idea that they have a novel inside them but also a cookery book, not withstanding all the celebrity culinary culture. That is why as course director I asked 'foodie' editor Jojo Tulloh to introduce the genre of the Art and craft of food writing; making prose edible, taking place later this month. But note it is not a cookery course, rather how to write a cookery book; not just recipes but memoir and travel too; it is literary rather than practical.

In early December before all the christmas nonsense (I wish unsportingly that Christmas could be cancelled due to Pagan copyright and I prefer to call the festivities after the Roman Feast of Saturnalia) there is another fiction course taught by Tiffany Murray. I have been reading through competition entries for novels, of which the winner gets a free place on the course.

The submissions beggars belief that any of the writers have actually read a novel recently, because they all read like t.v sitcom scripts; think Midsomer Murders fused with Coronation Street, and a plethora of wooden characters, who are frequently killed off when their creators run out of steam and imagination. One of the entries was entitled 'Mystery of the Poisoned Sandwich' about a sleuth; in fact most of the entries with implausible and complex plots are thrillers and crime stories, not novels, as I had stipulated; now I realize what publishers have to sift through.

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