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Saturday, 9 September 2017

The Retreat West Launch, Reading

I had a fabulous time in Reading on Thursday and I'm so glad my mate Mandy Huggins invited me to attend The Retreat West anthology launch. It was even worth putting up with the horrible Cross Country Trains experience!

We stayed in a fabulous hotel, The Ibis Central, just round the corner from the station. I couldn't fault it for cleanliness, efficiency and hospitality. Antonio on Reception was lovely. He even let me put my overnight bag behind Reception free of charge the next day when I wanted to explore the town and have lunch.

For Mandy and I, our evening began with a lovely meal at Jamie's by the river (I think she's now forgiven me for flooding our table with water! I now have a reputation as being 'a bad pourer').  We'd already sought alcoholic refreshment earlier in the afternoon in the pub next to the station, where I decided it was easier to meet, simply because there weren't any benches to sit on on the station concourse (that was my excuse, anyway!).

I love meeting up with fellow writers. It's also exciting to meet online writer friends for the first time (Amanda Saint and Judith Wilson to name but two). The lovely Jo Campbell and her family were in attendance and I fell in love with Jo's 1960s outfit. How I wish I had the figure for such fab clothes! We had a lovely discussion about Amazon Wish Lists and Save For Later! We promised each other that we'd resume our regular email exchanges and commented that emails had now become something akin to letter writing now that it was so much more instantaneous to chat online via Facebook Message or Snap Chat. Such a shame!

Jude Higgins reading her prize winning Flash

There was a special atmosphere at the launch party in Waterstones with the wine flowing freely and lots of interesting nibbles! There was a real buzz in the room and I dearly wished I'd  entered Retreat West last year. I certainly will be doing so this year, as I would love one of my stories to be published in a similar anthology and be invited to the launch next year. Jude Higgins (whom I've known for many years now) won first prize in the Flash category and read her touching piece about a grandfather in hospital. I met Judith Wilson (and her husband/driver) for the first time, unaware at first that she won the short story category. It was a delight to hear her read her story, On Crosby Beach. I could picture the scene vividly, recalling my first visit to the beach and the Anthony Gormley statues last year.

Towards the end of the launch, Mandy and I decided it would be fun to get our anthologies signed by those authors who had pieces published therein. The idea caught on and it all got very confusing!

Mandy Huggins, Diane Simmons, Jude Higgins and I finished off a great evening with drinks in The Pitcher and Piano and had a lively discussion about MAs and the reason why so many people don't think you're a real writer until you've had a novel published. We then had 'one for the road' in The Ibis Hotel bar. It has to be noted that Mandy was on the Diet Coke by this time and Jude went to bed.

Hotel bar nightcap!
All in all, a most enjoyable evening! I had a lovely time exploring Reading shops and had lunch in Bill's the next day. My son, Matt, has an interview in Reading on Wednesday and I am crossing everything, hoping he gets the job, because I think it would be a wonderful place for him to live and work (and I'd have an excuse to visit the town more often!).


  1. Sounds like a good night! Think I'll be entering that comp next time too!

    1. You must! It would be a real treat, if we were both shortlisted and featured in the anthology.

  2. It was a fabulous evening and so good to see you again, Jo. I loved catching up with you and hope we meet again soon. Wishing Matt all the very best with his interview on Wednesday xxx

  3. Sounds like it was a great evening, Jo.