Kate Woodward is telling tales again



Treating myself to a writing retreat

imag0593_1It’s okay. I deserved it.

It started as a vague idea to reward myself with a short break for completing the first novel. It   became a six-day retreat during which I wrote more than I had done in the previous six months.

I’ve not been idle – I’ve been editing. And tweaking. And moving commas. And removing commas. And putting commas back in. And deciding that none of it was worth bothering with. And – just occasionally – enjoying a few moments of satisfaction before my inner critic started shouting again.  But eventually, the months of editing had to end. The MA programme I was on had a submission date and there was no way on God’s good green Earth that I was going to miss it by shifting more of those pesky commas.

During those months, another project had been nagging. Write me! Write me NOW! I’d had some feedback on an initial chapter that convinced me it was an idea worth pursuing, but it had been gathering dust since the start of the year. I wanted to write again and not just the routine morning pages. Liz and Neil (bear with me – one day you may be able to meet them in print) were demanding to be heard, so instead of a trip to Lisbon or a walking break in the Yorkshire Dales, I opted to shut myself away in Shropshire at Arvon’s new Clockhouse retreat.  imag0594_1

What a brilliant set-up – Wi-Fi because writers need to research, books because reading is lifeblood. A comfortable apartment, a constantly refilled fridge and a mountain of teabags. Peace and quiet, the odd spot of fresh air and the chance to compare notes on progress with fellow retreaters over supper. What else does a writer need?

In six days, I took my characters through a messy few years. I had left my editing head at home and the commas recommenced their usual riotous behaviour, but I will deal with the little blighters later. Words flowed, not always effortlessly, but they flowed, and I began to believe in myself again. I can write. I will write. I will tell this story.


But then, I had to come home. Back to the real world of the day job and household chores. The car needed new tyres. My dentist was missing me and demanded an appointment. I had to attend a training course, turn up for choir rehearsals, bike rides and the running club. I had family commitments, a fridge to fill and a garden buried under fallen leaves. Myriad distractions began to eat up my days.

There was only one thing for it. I have booked to go back in the spring.



Ta Dah! The Ultimate Guide to Being a Magician’s Assistant

Chapter 7: Leave the Arguments Backstage

Although it can be entertaining, and have comedic value, to have the audience take your side against the magician, remember that any on-stage tension must be an act. Even if you are partners off-stage, with all the inevitable irritations that that brings, leave those things backstage. This is especially the case when the act to be performed includes fire-eating, knife-throwing or the classic sawing-a-person-in-half routine.

An Illustration:

A notable example is provided by the case of Magic Circle member, Joe Derbyshire, alias the Great Stupendo, and his assistant and partner, Ms Ava Kopowski. An argument had begun before the performance, of all things, about football. Audience members later testified that the couple had come on stage, ‘daggers drawn.’

The performance started well but deteriorated quickly. The couple were said to be sniping at each other throughout. One woman, interviewed later, said that she had heard Mr Derbyshire say that Ms Kopowski looked like a warthog in spangles. Ms Kopowksi retaliated by threatening to boil Mr Derbyshire’s bunny.

In court, the Judge heard that the sawing-in-half routine, had not been rehearsed recently and was not intended to form part of that evening’s performance, but the linked rings had been set about with bolt-croppers, and the doves had been plucked and drawn. With the audience already demanding a refund, Mr Derbyshire wheeled his apparatus on stage and, using bodily force, placed his assistant inside it.

The audience, used to the spectacular theatrics of master illusionists, assumed that the blood and screams were part of the act, and roared Mr Derbyshire’s efforts on. Fortunately for Ms Koposwki, the theatre’s sharp-eyed sound and lighting man, noticed her increasing pallor and raised the alarm.  The amputation of her leg was completed later that evening under more hygienic conditions. At the time of writing, Mr Derbyshire remains under the care of the mental health services.


As an assistant, you are part of a team. There are extreme dangers in some illusions and trust is essential. Never go on stage in the heat of an argument. A baying audience can be a powerful influence, but remember that you are there to help manipulate them, not the other way around.

Website Powered by

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: