About us

A history in words

Writers’ HQ is an idea that started with a frustrated Sarah trying to run away from her VERY LOUD family for five minutes’ peace to write. And boom, a monthly writing retreat fuelled by caffeine, biscuits, sandwiches and gold stars was born.

When Jo arrived at that first Brighton Writers’ Retreat – an equally time-starved, height-challenged, sweary, and tea-obsessed writer – the future really was a done deal. We know all too well how hard it is to hold down a job and a family and deal with the evil imposter syndrome and guilt that comes with trying to carve out time to write, and we quickly found a whole load of writers who felt the same and were desperate for some help.

There are plenty of lovely, sparkly writing courses out there, but most of them come with a whopper of a price tag and require taking time off that is just not feasible for most scruffy little writers. And so we decided SOMETHING MUST BE DONE.

In 2016 we wrote a ten-gazillion page application to the Arts Council and were awarded a development grant to bring our procrastination-busting, arse-kicking, profanity-laden, low-cost writing courses to the great big world of the internet.

We still run on-site writing retreats, workshops and spoken word events in the South East, but NOW (drum roll) you can also access all our literary awesomeness from the comfort of your laptop with our suite of online courses. Booyah. Thanks, Arts Council England, you’re ACE.

Over the last three years WHQ has mutated in ways we couldn’t even imagine right back in them there early days (like, five minutes ago). In that time, we’ve helped our writers produce over 500,000 words, drunk over 10,000 cups of tea, and said “fuck” at least 5,000 times. Also in that time, Jo and Sarah have written two and a half novels and a tonne of short fiction between them, won a couple of bookish prizes and popped out some sprogs. We’re not bestselling authors (yet!) but we are as deeply embedded in the journey towards literary greatness as you, and dagnamnit we’re not leaving you behind.

We’ve also seen our retreaters get published, amidst much pom-pom waving and supportive screaming. Alexa Radcliffe-Hart’s book of short stories is out in August 2016; Paul Macauley recently put on two plays at the 2016 Brighton Fringe; Mark Cassell is killing it on the self-publishing scene; and there have been several short fiction competition wins and agent-acquisitions along the way. Most importantly, you guys are writing. And finishing stuff. And editing. And then writing more. And more. And feeling good about it. And that’s really the point.

A history in images


Sarah Lewis


birdy-draw-bigSarah is a human who writes endlessly and is never satisfied. She graduated in the top 20% of her MA creative writing class at UEA, won the David Higham Award, won an Arts Council grant to complete her first novel under the mentorship of critically acclaimed author Peter Hobbs, was one of the NWS10 talented early career writers, and gained a rarely given special mention in the BBC Short Story Award. She is on the millionth iteration of her first novel because her mean agent keeps sending it back for the never ending tinkering of doom. Sarah runs the Worthing Writers’ Retreat and is the queen of spreadsheets, novel plotting, and whip-cracking extraordinaire.

Jo Gatford


jo sqJo is also a human who procrastinates about writing by writing about writing. Her novel White Lies won the Luke Bitmead Bursary and was published by Legend Press in 2014. She’s also had a bunch of short fiction published, nabbed a (different) Arts Council grant to write the (shitty) first draft of her next novel, is attempting a screenplay adaptation of the first book, and is currently elbow-deep in an MA in Shakespeare because she’s a literary badass/masochist. Jo runs the Brighton Writers’ Retreat and is the queen of editing, swearing on social media, and flip-chart facilitation.

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