Sally O’Reilly – Tutor
Sally Magnusson – Guest Reader
Guest Reader
29th April – 4th May 2024
Course Date

This course is suitable for writers at any stage of their creative journey, whether just starting out, working on a novel or short stories, or in the process of developing an idea.

We will look at key elements of novel writing, including plot, structure, character, conflict, dialogue and setting. There will be writing exercises relating to different aspects of the novel writing process, as well as the chance to share work in progress. We’ll also discuss theme and ideas more broadly, and look at short extracts from novels and stories which exemplify some of the aspects of writing we are considering.

Sally O'Reilly

Tutor: Sally O’Reilly – Writer/Novelist

Sally O’Reilly is an award-winning writer and novelist. Her novels have been published by Penguin, Myriad Editions and Picador US, and her short stories have been published in South Africa, Australia and the UK. She has a PhD in English and Creative Writing from Brunel University, and has worked as a senior creative writing lecturer for the University of Portsmouth and The Open University, where she supervised three PhD novels to completion and was a lead member of the team which produced a new MA in Creative Writing.

Her journalism has been published in the Guardian, Sunday Times and New Scientist and she has written about the climate crisis for Writers Rebel.

Sally Magnusson - The Garsdale Retreat

Guest, Wednesday evening: Sally Magnusson – Author/Broadcaster

Sally Magnusson is a best-selling author and broadcaster based in Glasgow.  Her 2018 fictional debut, The Sealwoman’s Gift, based on the true story of a 17th century Algerian pirate raid on Iceland, was shortlisted for six literary awards. The Ninth Child (2020) blends Victorian social history with ancient folklore in the Scottish Trossachs. Her latest novel, Music in the Dark, inspired by the experience of women in the Highland Clearances, was published to critical acclaim in 2023.

Her 2014 memoir about her mother, Where Memories Go: Why dementia changes everything,  has been credited with helping to drive change in our treatment of this widespread brain condition. In 2013 she founded the music and dementia charity Playlist for Life, and received an MBE for this work in the 2023 King’s Birthday Honours.

PRICES Fee includes all day and evening tutored workshop sessions, readings, accommodation and full board (not including alcohol).

Single – En-suite room £990
Single – Shared bathrooms £940
Shared Room (2 Beds) £890pp – single supplement £50

TO BOOK £150 deposit payable on booking by bank transfer, PayPal or cheque, to secure place. Balance due six weeks before the start of the course/tutored retreat/untutored retreat.
Please see Terms and Conditions.
Accommodation Professional tutor and mid-week guest
All Meals Sheets & Towels
Boots/outdoor shoes/trainers suitable for walking on rough/wet paths.
A waterproof jacket or coat.
Warm Clothes
Toiletries – we do have one hair dryer available
Writing materials: your personal writing preference – laptop, paper, pens etc.
USB memory stick: for printing your work. (We do have air printing so may not be necessary)
Cash: for books on sale (written by tutors, guest readers etc.), alcohol, sundries. The nearest cash machine is in Hawes, six miles away. We do now have a card reader!

Please arrive between 3:00pm and 4:30pm on Monday 29th April 2024

Tea, cake and housekeeping notes 4.30pm

Introductory Workshop 5.30 – 6.30pm

Dinner 7.00pm


After breakfast, 10:00am on Saturday 4th May 2024

LOCATION The Garsdale Retreat, Clough View, Garsdale Head, Sedbergh, Cumbria LA10 5PW
Nearest railway station: Garsdale, on the Leeds – Carlisle line.
For directions, see Find Us section on the Contact page.

Courses (Tutored and Untutored Retreats – see below)

The Garsdale Retreat provides an inspiring place to develop as a writer. Our courses offer opportunities for new, emerging and experienced writers. The tutors, all professional writers, lead workshops and also give one-to-one tutorials to help the individual student. In the remote and beautiful setting of The Yorkshire Dales, The Garsdale Retreat gives a wonderful opportunity to escape from the daily stresses of life and to draw inspiration from fellow participants, tutors and the landscape itself.

All courses start on Monday afternoon, arrival time 3.00 – 4.30pm.

4.30pm – Housekeeping information, tea and cake

5.30 – 6.30pm – Introductory workshop

6.30pm – Complimentary welcome drink

7.00pm – Dinner

All courses end after breakfast on Saturday (10.00am).

Course Structure

Although there will be slight variations, according to the type of course (see below), participants can generally expect the following outline:

8.00 – 9.00am: Breakfast

9.30 – 11.00am: First workshop – Participants explore particular aspects of the chosen genre and take part in writing exercises to further their understanding and expertise. All participants have opportunities to share their work with the tutor and fellow writers in a safe, supportive and nurturing environment in which individual work is respected and confidence developed.

11.00 – 11.30am: Coffee break

11.30am – 1.00pm: Second workshop

After lunch, participants are free to do whatever they like, such as: relax, go for walks, read or work on individual writing projects.

4.30pm: Tea and cake

5.30 – 6.30pm: Third workshop

7.00pm: Dinner

All participants on a course have one individual tutorial of 30 minutes with the tutor in the course of the week. These will take place in the afternoons.
Each evening, at about 8.30pm, there is an after-dinner event. The precise nature of this varies according to the type of course but participants can typically expect a tutor reading on Tuesday followed by a reading from a guest writer on the Wednesday evening. There is an informal activity on Thursday such as a writing game or a poetry/music performance from Hamish and Rebecca. On Friday, there is a shared reading of ‘work-in-progress’ produced during the week.

Poetry Course Anthology

An integral part of poetry courses is the production of an anthology of writing produced in the week. It is, of course, accepted that the writing is essentially work-in-progress. However, the aim of the anthology is to reflect a flavour of the work accomplished on the course and to provide participants with an attractive record of their time at Garsdale. The Retreat stores copies of anthologies in the library, providing pleasure and inspiration for future participants.

Tutored Retreats

These follow the same basic structure as above except there is only one workshop in the morning and participants will have a daily 30 minute tutorial, four per week.

Untutored Retreats

The only formal structure of the week is determined by meal-times (see above), allowing participants to concentrate totally on their own writing. After dinner, there are optional events such as writing games and poetry/music performances from Hamish and Rebecca. Participation in such events is entirely voluntary and people are free to continue with their writing in the evenings if they prefer. However, we do like to end the week on Friday evening with a shared reading of work-in-progress as a celebration of the week’s writing.