Writing Excuses Scotland: Research, Writing, and Swordplay Retreat

Fri Aug 2, 2024 4:00 PM - Wed Aug 7, 2024 10:00 AM
  • Select ticketsTickets
  • Select productsProducts
  • Your detailsDetails
  • Review

Select tickets

1 remaining This ticket is for a private bedroom and bath in a 1700s Scottish Manor house $4,550.00 $0.65

10 remaining This ticket is for a shared room with 1-3 roommates at a 1700s Scottish Manor house $3,950.00 $0.65

Our scholarships are run off generous donations from people like you! 100% of your donation goes straight to bring our scholarships winners to the retreats. Suggested amount: $25

Subtotal 0.00

Improve your writing skills while swinging swords, enjoying excellent food, and learning traditional Scottish dances.

One of the most exciting challenges writers face is the creation of rich, immersive worlds for your readers. To do this well, we often look to history.

Historical research can guide inspiration whether you’re writing an alternate history, a period piece, or a jumping off point for your own brand new science-fiction or fantasy world.

But conducting that research and integrating it into your story can be a daunting task.

You’re invited to join Writing Excuses for a unique opportunity to learn how to conduct historical research and incorporate it into your writing—all while staying in a stunning Scottish manor.

Research-Focused Programming

Led by Writing Excuses hosts Mary Robinette Kowal and Erin Roberts, this retreat will help you leverage research to enrich your worlds. Our goal is to provide you with a range of experiences designed to help you find inspiration and write about them.

We’ll take full advantage of our location in Scotland, calling in local experts to build an exciting program schedule filled with opportunities to learn new skills, talk to the experts yourselves, and of course, find time to write.

Expert-Led Experiences

We can’t stay in a Scottish manor without having a ball! The retreat will include a variety of expert-led sessions, including:

  • A traditional ceilidh dancer troupe will give us all lessons and host a dance session.

  • A local Scottish chieftain will join us for a traditional Scottish meal with a bagpiper and haggis, complete with a history lesson behind the food and countryside.

  • A Medieval fighting expert will demonstrate how to use Medieval weaponry and teach us some basic fighting skills.

You’ll walk away from each of these sessions having learned a new skill and gained time with experts.

Historical Weapons & Combat

We have partnered with Matthew & Ross from Medieval Combat UK to lead a full day of programming centered around historical combat. Throughout the day you will have the option to participate in a variety of options to deepen your understanding of Medieval combat and weaponry.

Matt and Ross will be taking participants through some hands-on-hilts sword training to give some understanding of how it feels to work and move with medieval weapons. This will predominantly be a longsword and messer, although other weapons may make an appearance depending on time and space. The training will cover some of the basic aspects of weapon-based combat, and some less obvious fundamentals and principles that make a dramatic difference when applied.

Alongside the physical training, they’ll be discussing how all of this fits in with the practical side of things (“How actually do you look after and maintain a sword?”), the historical side of things (“What actually happened if you picked a sword fight inside a town in the 15th century?”), and the ‘page and stage’ side of things (“What should a master swordsman actually look and move like?” and “Would that actually work in a real fight?”).


Group Classes & Workshops

Both Mary Robinette and Erin will teach group classes designed to take what you’ve learned and incorporate it into your writing.

While specific programming is forthcoming, this workshop will help you gain confidence in:

  • Finding knowledgeable people to interview.

  • Conducting expert interviews in a way that enriches your story.

  • Delving into your own independent research.

  • Identifying how your research findings influence culture and worldbuilding.

  • Incorporating your findings into your writing.

Small-Group Breakout Sessions

Small-group sessions are an excellent way to connect with your fellow writers and receive feedback. Participants will have the option of signing up for small-group breakout sessions with our instructors, Mary Robinette Kowal and Erin Roberts.

Breakout sessions typically include:

6-member Critique Session: Members will submit novel or short-story excerpts up to 3,000 words for critique by the group as well as one of the instructors. *Note: Signing up for a critique session means you are committing to read and critique the stories of other members in your group.

Unlocking Session: These small group sessions are places to brainstorm with a group about your writing project or process. Unlocking sessions in the past have included discussion on everything from how to make time to write to the intricacies of a specific magic system.

*Please note that due to time constraints we may not be able to accommodate everyone with their first choice of breakout session.

1:1 Office Hours

Dig deeper into what’s currently blocking you, ask for clarity over a topic covered in class, or explore a new idea you’re excited about through a 1:1 session with instructors. These drop-in appointments will be made available throughout the retreat.


Meet Your Instructors

Your instructors and guides for this retreat are core cast members of the award-winning Writing Excuses Podcast. Each of them bring their own unique perspective and experience around creativity, writing, and the publishing industry.

Erin Roberts


Erin Roberts is a speculative fiction writer who tells stories across formats. Her short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in publications including Asimov’s Science Fiction, Clarkesworld, Sunday Morning Transport, and The Dark, and has been selected for three Year’s Best collections; she has published interactive fiction in Strange Horizons and Sub-Q Magazine; and her game writing appears in D&D adventure books Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen and Journeys Through The Radiant Citadel (D&D), Hunter: The Reckoning Fifth Edition, Paizo books including Pathfinder: Lost Omens Travel Guide and Starfinder Interstellar Species, and Zombies, Run! Erin is a graduate of the Odyssey Writers Workshop, earned an MFA from the Stonecoast program at the University of Southern Maine, and is currently a Provost’s Early Career Fellow at The University of Texas at Austin.

Visit her website here.

Mary Robinette Kowal


Mary Robinette Kowal is the author of The Spare Man, The Lady Astronaut series, The Glamourist Histories series, Ghost Talkers, Molly on the Moon, and numerous short stories. She’s a member of the award-winning podcast Writing Excuses and has received the Astounding Award for Best New Writer, four Hugo awards, the RT Reviews award for Best Fantasy Novel, the Nebula, and Locus awards. Her stories have appeared in Strange Horizons, Asimov’s, several Year’s Best anthologies and her collections Word Puppets and Scenting the Dark and Other Stories.

Calculating Stars is one of only eighteen novels to win the Hugo, Nebula and Locus awards in a single year. As a professional puppeteer and voice actor (SAG/AFTRA), Mary Robinette has performed for LazyTown (CBS), the Center for Puppetry Arts, Jim Henson Pictures, and founded Other Hand Productions. Her designs have garnered two UNIMA-USA Citations of Excellence, the highest award an American puppeteer can achieve. As an audiobook narrator, she records fiction for authors such as Seanan McGuire, Cory Doctorow and John Scalzi.

Mary Robinette lives in Nashville with her husband Rob and over a dozen manual typewriters.

Visit her website here.

Accommodations & Travel

This five day retreat will be held at McArthur Manor in Perthshire Scotland. It is roughly 30 minutes from the Edinburgh airport.

The Manor House

This historic manor was built in 1795, showcasing an exceptional architectural design and a well-appointed interior with a period character theme. While maintaining its traditional charm, modern upgrades have been made, with a commercial-grade Wi-Fi system and recently revamped en-suite bathrooms in every room, making your stay feel more luxurious.

Perthshire is a historic region in central Scotland, known for its breathtaking natural scenery, rich history, and cultural heritage. Situated in the heart of Scotland, Perthshire is known as the gateway to the Highlands, with stunning mountain ranges, rolling hills, deep valleys, and picturesque lochs.



Meals will be served onsite by an experienced chef and staff (beginning with dinner on the 2nd and ending with breakfast on the 7th). We will work with them to ensure your dietary restrictions are accommodated and we will have access to shops and stores in Perth if additional food is required.


Sleeping Arrangements

We have two types of sleeping accommodations available:

  • A single occupancy room with one bed and ensuite bathroom

  • 2-4 beds to a room with each room featuring their own ensuite bathroom

For the shared rooms you will have an opportunity to either be assigned a roommate or if you are registering with a friend you can enter in their name and we will ensure you room together.

Note: If you are a couple who wishes to share a bed, please buy two roommate tickets and indicate your bed preferences in the box provided.



The retreat will begin on Friday, August 2nd, and end on Wednesday, August 7th.

Your travel to and from Edinburgh must be arranged and paid for by you. Once in Edinburgh, we will provide group transport to the manor via bus at a pre-arranged pick up location. We will also arrange transport after the retreat to bring you to either the Edinburgh airport or the Edinburgh central train station.

If you wish to make your own way to the manor house we will provide you with the address and any other information needed to arrange your own travel.


As always, we are offering scholarship opportunities: four for 2024 Cruise, two for the Minnesota Land Retreat and one for the UK retreat.

We have two different scholarship types available. Half of the scholarships for the cruise and Minnesota will be awarded to those in financial need (the “Out of Excuses” Scholarship), and half will be awarded to writers of color.

For the UK retreat, since we have such a limited capacity, we will only be able to award one scholarship. This scholarship is available for anyone but will fall under the “Out of Excuses” category.

To find out more about the scholarships and how to apply visit our website here.

Our scholarships are run by donations and our Patreon. You will have an opportunity to donate toward them during checkout and we appreciate any amount you can send our way so we can hopefully offer more scholarships in the future!

Retreat Policies

Attendance Requirements

All Writing Excuses seminar attendees must be 18 years of age or older.

We will also be requiring vaccination against COVID-19.

COVID Policy

Writing Excuses will require vaccination for all attendees and staff*. In addition, we will require all attendees and staff to take a Covid antigen test with a negative result within 24 hours of the start of the event; we do not need to see your test result, but you will be required to confirm that you have taken the antigen test, that it was not expired, and that your result was negative.

Writing Excuses acknowledges that we cannot negate all risks associated with in-person group events. However, these are the steps we will take to mitigate that risk

  • We will require proof of full vaccination status for all attendees and staff. We are aligning our definition of "fully vaccinated" with the CDC's definition at [https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/faq.html] or to align with the definition in the country you are you currently residing in. 

  • We will require all attendees and staff to take a Covid antigen test within 24 hours of arrival in the UK or before the start of the event.

  • At this time we are not requiring masking while at the event. However, we will be monitoring the CDC guidelines/recommendations as well as the current conditions and may change to require masking if we deem it to be necessary for safety reasons.
    • We will, however, maintain a mask positive language in our communication and provide a positive environment if you choose to mask at the event
  • We will provide KN95 masks to all attendees at no charge.

  • We will make hand sanitizer and antimicrobial wipes available to attendees.

  • We will provide a clear plan of action for anyone who begins showing symptoms, or who tests positive.

  • All classes will be recorded, and will be made available to those who fall ill, as well as to those who are healthy. Accessibility practices like these are good for everyone!

  • We will continue to develop our plans based on current conditions and CDC guidelines.

*We are willing to discuss granting exceptions to the vaccination policy on a case by case basis if there is a medical reason why you are unable to be vaccinated. Please reach out to us at contact@writingexcusesretreat.com with any questions.

Harassment Policy

Writing Excuses is dedicated to providing a harassment-free conference experience for everyone, regardless of gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, age or religion. We do not tolerate harassment of conference participants in any form. Conference participants violating these rules may be sanctioned or expelled from the conference without a refund at the discretion of the conference organizers.

Harassment includes offensive verbal comments related to gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, age, religion, sexual images in public spaces, deliberate intimidation, stalking, following, harassing photography or recording, sustained disruption of talks or other events, inappropriate physical contact, and unwelcome sexual attention. Participants asked to stop any harassing behavior are expected to comply immediately.

Instructors, staff, volunteers, and family members are also subject to the anti-harassment policy.

If a participant engages in harassing behavior, the conference organizers may take any action they deem appropriate, including warning the offender or expulsion from the conference with no refund. If you are being harassed, notice that someone else is being harassed, or have any other concerns, please contact any member of conference staff immediately.

Conference staff will be happy to help participants contact ship security, provide escorts, or otherwise assist those experiencing harassment to feel safe for the duration of the conference. We value your attendance.

We expect participants to follow these rules at all conference venues and conference-related social events.


The access policy of Writing Excuses follows the Social Model of Disability. This regards barriers to the full participation of disabled people as the fault of society (and more immediately we as the organizers), not the 'fault' of the person with a disability. We further reject any negative value placed on a person because of their disability, or indeed on their disability. Disability isn't good or bad, it just is. Please respect our disabled members by engaging in neither negative stereotyping (eg 'If I was you I'd kill myself' or 'I'd rather be dead than in a wheelchair) nor pity ("I'll pray for you to be cured') - many disabled people do not want to be cured and regard their disability as a fundamental part of their identity.

Additionally, please note that person-first language ("person with disability") is not the universally preferred form of address for disabled people. Many prefer the Social Model and 'disabled person'. Please treat the appropriate form of address for disabled people as you would treat preferred pronoun usage, by asking for their preferred form of address and using it.

For this retreat we are holding it in a house. There are ground floor rooms available and they have walk in showers (the showers do not have bars or benches). If you have any other questions about the house and accessibility in it please don't hesitate to ask and we can reach out to our house contact to get more specifics of what accommodations they can make. 

Refund Policy

Note: Fees are non-refundable. This includes the 0.65 booking fee as well as the 3% credit card processing fee that is not reflected in the listed ticket price but will be added to your order prior to purchase.

  •  Full refund until April 30th

  • 50% Refund from May 1st - 7th

  • 25% Refund from May 8th - 15th

  • No Refund after May 15th

Have more questions? You can also message us at contact@writingexcusesretreat.com.