And breathe...

We gather for coffee and to listen to Zoe Gilbert's Costa prize-winning short story, Fishskin Hareskin. There is something very special about listening and reading in a group and I feel a deep calm settle upon the room.

After - we walk to the estuary. It's cold but sunny. Waves sparkle and dance, birds wheel and cry. The sleepiness of Wigtown is gentle - and friendly. Everyone says good morning. Everyone smiles. We feel welcome - wanted, even.

Lunch is made for us by Maria, who caters for the Wigtown Book Festival of which this bookshop is the beating heart. We linger, get to know each other. Share our stories.

Reading is often, necessarily, a quiet, solitary activity. It's something we do at night, in bed, alone, or next to someone special. We read bedtime stories to our children and the magical world we enter then - parent, child, book - is perhaps subconsciously sought when we read to ourselves as adults.

People tell me they only have time to read at bedtime, or on holiday. It's a guilty pleasure. An illicit indulgence. I want them to read by daylight. To make reading an active, vibrant part of their daily lives.

Being on a Readers Retreat gives permission to read. To prioritise reading. To talk about it. To be passionate about it. As we settle about the various parts of the house and bookshop this afternoon, the activity of reading fills the rooms with the steady thrum of silent focus.

Anna x