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Memories Are Made Of This…

We were going to post an article about how much we enjoyed being with writers at our recent Travel and Discovery Retreat.

But then we read this delightfully amusing story by one of our participants and realised it portrayed our enjoyable week together better than we ever could. 

And in future, we would like to publish other stories written by participants (with their permission), stories we feel are exceptionally crafted and are proof of the hard work and dedication writers devote when taking part in our retreats. 

We are putting the last touches on the preparations for our fully-booked Summer Writing Retreat beginning next Monday and have only one place remaining for our Autumn Writing Retreat in September, so hurry if you're interested.

And, of course, don't forget to enter the latest 1,000 euro competition.

Let Me Count the Ways: A Travel Memoir

by Kathleen Shine Cain


Miceal is about to pass our table when he suddenly spots the two of us.

“Malbec? Sauvignon Blanc?”

Stunned, Phyllis and I glance at each other. He really remembers what we ordered last evening?

And at this moment, I know that this bar is precisely where I want to spend however many remaining days the Good Lord has allotted me in this life. 

OK, Kath, hold on there. You’ve just spent one of the most challenging, exhilarating, exciting  weeks of your life at this writing retreat, and this is your takeaway?

Well, yeah, but he remembered! And there was the chowder! And the prawns! And those roasted garlic potatoes! And he remembered!

Please pardon me, Dear Reader, while I remind this writer of her priorities, her responsibilities. 

Now, shall we begin again? 

Let Me Count the Ways: A Travel Memoir 

This adventure could not have begun less auspiciously: 

As I awaited my Dublin flight at Logan Airport’s Gate C23, not a seat could be found. 

As I carried my muffin and coffee and steered my carry-on bag through Dublin Airport’s Marqette Café, groggy after a sleepless red-eye flight, not a seat could be found. 

As I descended the seemingly bottomless escalator to Terminal One’s Gate 323C for my Donegal flight, . . .well, you know how this sentence ends. 

Suddenly I heard a tentative voice call, “Kathy?”

Despite my exhaustion and disorientation, I recognized Deborah immediately from her web site photo. At last, I was no longer alone. Although we sat in separate rows on the plane, we arrived at Teac Jack fast friends—thanks to a half-hour cab ride with a reticent driver. 

Teac Jack—the hotel’s name in English means Jack’s House, and indeed, guests are welcomed as friends. I remembered Eoghan and Anita at reception from previous visits, and was comforted to settle into my old room 101, with its stunning view of the lake and wild Atlantic. For the first time in more than twenty-four hours, I felt thoroughly relaxed—and at home. Finally, I could focus on the upcoming Discovery Writing Retreat.

Descending the ornate staircase several hours later, I spotted Columbia, now sporting multihued electric blue hair. Anxious to hear of the plans that she and husband-co-leader Sean had for the week, I gladly joined them, old friend Vicki, and new friends Deborah and Phyllis for a sumptuous meal featuring delicacies from the kitchen of chef Bridie Mc Fadden. I retired that evening content that this would be a remarkable week. 

Now as I write this, I try to identify the most memorable experience. 

Was it fireside music at the Song House? 

Was it lunch in the former prison? 

Was it Glenveagh Castle and Gardens? 

Was it the doll factory turned distillery?  

Perhaps it was the windswept beauty of the Poisoned Glen, or simply the incomparable views en route to these locations. 

Might it have been the retreat itself? 

Certainly, given my age and experience, the prospect of learning an entirely unfamiliar genre was both challenging and exciting. I went into this week thinking “What have I got to lose?” I leave it wondering “Am I embarking on yet another career path?” The instruction, practice, and feedback have energized me in ways I would not have thought possible. 

This week has surely been unique in a most exquisite way. But I know that it wasn’t the excursions, or the instruction, or the writing, or the feedback that made it so transformative. 

It was that meeting with Deborah, the introduction to Phyllis, reconnecting with Columbia, Sean, and Vicki. 

It was being greeted by Eoghan and Anita, and served by Miceal and Mairead. 

It was seeing driver John again, who stopped the van whenever Columbia spotted a vista that must not be missed. 

It was all those people—everywhere we went—whose faces lit up when they saw Sean and Columbia. 

Call it cliché, call it sentimental, but it’s true: What made this week so memorable was the people. 

Well, isn’t that what I tried to tell you at the beginning, Kathy? He remembered!

‘Professor, Writer, Editor, Actress’ - Kathy Shine Cain from Massachussetts has spent 45 years in higher education in various capacities including professor, writing center director, dramaturg and, surprisingly, even a witch (in Macbeth), a fortune teller (in My Fair Lady) and a nightclub/brothel madam (in Cabaret). Much of her career has been spent at Merrimack College. She was also visiting professor at St. Mary’s University College in Northern Ireland. Since retiring, her most challenging venture, she said, was spending a year in Zoom kindergarten with her grandson during COVID lockdown. 


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