The joy of Chez Castillon

April 2012 – the first time…CHEZ CASTILLON

You never really know someone until you live with them. A truth universally acknowledged by generations of women who’ve been swept off their feet with champagne and roses only to discover too late, that he always leaves the loo seat up and his socks on the floor. No such worries when in one’s own, beautiful ensuite accommodation,  and sharing a house with other females but the rest holds true.

Katie's bookIn return for their own silence, I have promised to be judicious on the matter of what exactly I discovered about my fellow authors when we spent a week together in France but suffice to say I can thoroughly recommend the experience . It was billed as a “Writers’ Retreat”. For which I’d suspected, you could read “Writers’-sit-around-and- Drink-Too-Much”. I was, after all, going with members of the RNA – not an organisation famed for its temperance in pastures new.

summer-time-coverBut when Katie Fforde, Judy Astley, Jo Thomas and Catherine Jones and I moved en masse into Chez-Castillon, a gorgeously restored 18th century townhouse on the banks of the Dordogne, owned by Micky Wilson and Janie Millman who have turned their talents – they are both actors and Janie is also a writer and one fabulous cook – to running creative courses, surprising discipline was shown.  Katie was up at six completing her daily word target before breakfast, Judy was heard to say she wouldn’t have any wine at lunchtime so she could work hard in the afternoon (“say” being the operative word here, I didn’t actually spot her without a glass in her hand) and Jo had completed 7,500 words by the end of day two, (by which time I had managed to pen a TO-DO list and wander down the road for a pedicure). Nor was it just writing!

51UNN9eBnbL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX342_SY445_CR,0,0,342,445_SH20_OU02_Catherine “Brace Up” Jones put us all to shame with dawn  swims; we did walking, shopping and wine-tasting (naturellement)  and in the evening made our own entertainment. “Stars in their Eyes”  saw Katie as Mary Hopkins, me as Joni Mitchell (ambitious, yes!), Jo providing the entire score from Calamity Jane (with hand movements) and Catherine as Edith Piaf.  Micky was Nat King Cole, Judy contributed hilarious jokes (in French no less!) and Janie a poem about knickers and vicars which is now a blur but went down a treat after the fourth bottle. The  whole experience of spending a week with fellow scribes was madly, gloriously, divinely inspiring and even I – Queen of Displacement –  returned with a list of book chapters, a short story, two columns  and some riotous photos. We will be going back….

Fast forward to NOW…

CM blog smallAnd back we’ve been – several times!

I’ve taught a number of  courses, hung out with the usual suspects – which most recently included the lovely Clare Mackintosh, director of Chipping Norton Lit Fest, and used Janie’s recipes in my 100 Ways to Fight the Flab, proving you can eat well, drink copiously and still combat your writer’s bottom if you only know how.

Jo-Thomas-187x300Katie, Catherine (aka Fiona Field) and Judy have each had new books out, see covers above.

Clare’s amazing debut novel, I Let You Go is published later this year, and Jo Thomas has seen mega success with The Oyster Catcher – all were partly-written at Chez Castillon.

The authors will, I’m sure, testify to the magical, inspiring qualities of the place (it’s not just all the wine :-)).

100 Book cover Dec 2013 - front (small)I am back there teaching on May 17th and again in July and October (when you’ll be helped to sell a short story if it kills me! :-)). Other retreat/course dates are available.

See my page here or visit www.chez-castillon,com. Mention this blog for the chance of a discount when booking and feel free to email me for more details.

It is fab!

And I’d love to see you there.


  1. Oh, I couldn’t agree more! What a fabulous place it is, and with what wonderful hosts! I will be starting book two at Chez C in June and have an ambitious word count target, so won’t be indulging in any wine at all*.

    *parts of this comment may not be true.

  2. The place is inspirational, the laughter is infectious, the wine flows and yet amazingly, the work gets done. Sell a body part or two, raise the money and go there! You won’t regret it. Honest

  3. I’m going back in June too (3rd trip. Wheee!) with (I’m sure by then) an entire book to edit, and fast. It’s so brilliant to be able just to WRITE without being distracted (as I always am the minute my bum hits my desk chair) by the fact I haven’t thought of what’s for supper or that the cat needs worming or that there’s so much in the laundry basket that I’m close to considering if the tights at the bottom of it will do another day. As Clare says, the hosts are gorgeous, food fabulous and the little town is sooooo French you think someone’s plonked it there for a film. I won’t have wine either. (she lied..)

  4. Actually, David – honestly we don’t get hangovers (Well Clare got quite a bad one once, but that’s cos she’s a lightweight :-)) but most of the time, because we eat so well, and go for walks and have such a bloody good time, we are all pretty perky in the mornings. Book up and see! 🙂

  5. The weird thing is, I sometimes go without wine! I still make far too much noise and embarrass myself but you can have fun without the wine. We usually don’t make the sacrifice but it is possible. Actually, I’d like to go once a month and then I’d never get behind on my work.

  6. This house runs on laughter! And on mutual support for each other. Words get put on the page and ideas get batted around. On top of that there is swimming, good food and wine and all set against the backdrop of the Dordogne with St Emilion only a 10 minute drive away.

    It’s thanks to the great courses I’ve been on here and the writing time and writing friends I have from this place that I finally got published last November. And now, as I move to my new publishers Headline, I need to keep the words coming and will keep going back!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s