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How to Cook a Book: A Food Writing Retreat

Food writers and would-be writers, if you fancy cuddling up over a good book with a bunch of fellow food scribes, this is the retreat of your dreams.

The book is yours-in-the-making, a mass of words, probably in the wrong order and all a bit unfocussed. But, with a bit of magic, some creative writing exercises, expert advice and lots and lots of time to write among a supportive gang of people, you'll leave with a clear vision of what you want to say in the world, to whom and why.

Each retreat, which runs from a Monday evening to a Wednesday afternoon at my home in East Sussex, I invite experts from the publishing industry and guests from my Cooking the Books podcast to Zoom in to share their insights, process and advice. With inspiration from our muse-in-residence, you’ll come with a dream and leave with a plan.

You’ll have plenty of time to retreat and write, with a large bedroom with en-suite and writing desk overlooking the meadow for £365 or a slightly smaller room with shared bathroom or en-suite in the upcycled barn for £355.

Our Zoom panel experts have included  Gill Meller, Gurd Loyal, Tara Wigley, Lerato, Felicity Cloake,  Sophie Grigson, Rachel Roddy and Dominique Woolf, and agents Emily Sweet, Emma Bal and Charlie Brotherstone.  Bloomsbury Publishing Director, Rowan Yapp joined Mark Diacono and Skye McAlpine. Melissa Hemsley joined Don Sloan from the Jane Grisgon Trust Awards. Our muses in residence have been Elisabeth Luard and Jo Thomas, and Lori De Mori from the Towpath Cafe.

The next retreat is on May 15th - 17th.  The one after that won't be until July so get in quick!

Prices include all your food; all you need to bring is your laptop, your yoga mat and wine. Email for more info and to book.


I was struggling as a humble potter and avid cook, how to develop an infusion of the two. After a weekend at Gilly’s food writing retreat I left with a melting pot of idea, some transformational writing techniques and a fabulous supportive bunch of new foodie friends.  Katrina Riley @naturalpottery

Having had a concept for a series of short stories for many years, Gilly prised the idea out from inside me and onto the table. Gilly and fellow retreaters then helped me scrape away the viscera and form it into what is fast becoming a collection of recipes and murders ready for publication.  Mark Watkins @matthewmarkemurders

The ‘House of Dreams’, a beautiful, modernist eco-house in the heart of the Sussex countryside. Here Gilly Smith (‘Cooking the Books’ podcast, hosts monthly food writing retreats where legendary food writers, aspiring food writers, agents, publicists, publishers, experts and talents from all avenues of the food writing world gather round her table to talk about life through the prism of food. Every take on this infinite subject is unique and fascinating.

Vicky Radtke

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