RELAX AND WRITE IN THE MOUNTAINS!

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Is your creative spirit crying out for a little TLC? Come along and regain your love of writing and life at the next Relax and Write Retreat at Camp Koojarewon in the mountains near Toowoomba, Queensland.

From 2pm FRIDAY 26 APRIL – 1pm 28 APRIL 2019

Join like-minded women in a fun and supportive environment discovering just how much some deep relaxation can ignite your imagination and get you writing again. Relax and unwind with gentle morning yoga sessions and get writing with innovative workshops that use yoga and drama techniques to help move those stories out of your head and onto the page.

The program includes two full yoga sessions and four creative writing workshops covering the basics of story development, whether you’re writing memoir, fiction or screenplays, as well as hints and tips on editing and submitting your work to publishers.

Cost includes two nights basic dorm accommodation –we have the run of the whole camp so no one will have to sleep on a top bunk unless they want to and we’ll have plenty of room to spread out (a couple of ensuite rooms are available for those with health issues or special needs) — plus delicious vegetarian meals, morning and afternoon teas and suppers.

Come along and join the fun, make new writing buddies and rekindle your love of writing.

Contact Edwina for more info and bookings.

COST
Includes basic dorm accommodation, all meals, two yoga classes and four creative writing workshops.
$400 for the weekend of yoga, writing, fun and feasting – Or pay your $200 deposit before 8 March 2019 for EARLY BIRD $360

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Edwina Shaw has been writing and publishing since 2002. She teaches Creative Writing at the University of QLD and is also an experienced yoga teacher. Her book Thrill Seekers was shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards and has recently been released as a new imprint through Raven Books UK. Her feature film project M is under development with a producer attached. She is a registered teacher and runs workshops at schools and writers’ festivals through Speakers Ink and the QLD Writers Centre and also works as an editor and mentor. She lives in Brisbane where she can most often be found writing, doing yoga, or daydreaming. She loves helping other women rediscover their creative spirits and get their bodies moving again.

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SENTENCE BY SENTENCE, WORD BY WORD – 5 Hints and Tips for cleaning up your prose

On retreat I always make sure there’s one session that focuses on the nitty gritty of writing, though most of the time we’re generating new material. It’s important to learn some elements of craft.

Over the past 17 years or so of writing, editing, studying the craft of writing, and teaching writing in the community and in universities, I’ve learnt a few easy tricks to help get your sentences working hard.

My favourite quote on the craft of writing is from George Orwell – “Good prose is as transparent as glass.”

For me this means, keep it simple superstar! Don’t get carried away with trying to sound “Writerly”, clever, witty, mad or however you think a writer should sound. The writing shouldn’t detract from the story itself. If a reader is stopping to ponder the meaning of your sentences, then they’ve lost touch with your story and that’s never good.

Let your story shine by keeping your writing as clean and clear as a pane of glass. Every sentence, every word has to serve a purpose. It must either drive the story forward, illustrate character, establish setting or add to the story in some meaningful way.

Whether you’re writing flash fiction, short stories, novels or screenplays the same rule applies. Which leads me to my first tip –

1. Does that sentence need to be there at all?
After you’ve written a fast and furious first draft and fallen out of love with it a little, go back and check. Is every scene really necessary or did you just get carried away and veer off course? Do you really need a full paragraph describing that lake or will one good sentence combining the best of that paragraph work much better? The same applies for every word. Go through your work with a fine-tooth comb – think nit comb!

In longer works you need to apply this to large chunks as well – Does that chapter need to be there? Does that scene?

Be brutal – save cut bits in another file so you won’t be heartbroken. I do this all the time but have rarely gone back in and rescued one of my darlings. But they’re still there – just in case 😊

2. Trim adjectives and adverbs

Yes, you’ve heard it before and for good reason. Writing styles have changed since those 19th century novels you love to read. Readers these days have a multitude of fast-paced alternatives to a book and most won’t wade through pages of description of a room Henry James’ style. In my university classes I still have many students decorating every noun with a string of adjectives because that’s what they’ve been taught to do all the way through school. ARGH! Get rid of them.
Think of adjectives and adverbs as salt and pepper – a little adds flavour but too much and you’ll ruin your dish.
Metaphors and similes are like chillies – hot peppers. Yes they’re great, but use too many at your peril.

3. Use specific nouns and strong verbs

Instead of all those adjectives, use nouns that do their job instead. Be specific.
For instance, instead of “colourful noisy birds made loud noises in the tall riverside gum trees”, write “Rainbow lorikeets screeched in the branches of a flooded gum.”

The same goes for verbs. Instead of “She walked slowly”, you could use strolled or ambled or limped or staggered. See how much meaning can be packed into one good verb? English has lots of them – put them to work!

4. Get rid of “There is”

Although we use these words (and “It is” and “There are” etc) often in speech, they create unnecessary clutter in our writing. When we were in high school padding out words for assignments they were useful, but now we know better.
For example; “There is an old car sitting in the driveway of the old house,” can easily be improved by cutting the “There is” and using a strong verb and specific noun (and an adjective) “A beat-up old Holden ute lay rusting in the driveway.”

5. Get rid of “I can,” and “S/he can”.

It’s still perfectly okay to write, she can ride a bike. I’m talking about when you are detracting from the reader’s experience of the visceral in your writing by always filtering it through your characters’ perceptions.
“I could feel the rain falling on my face” – changes to “The rain fell like tears on my face.”
“She could feel the sun burning into the back of her neck” – becomes “The sun burnt into the back of her neck turning it hot pink.”

Of course, these are only hints and tips and all rules are meant to be broken. So if you really need two adjectives for the rhythm of your sentence go right ahead and use them. Just please, pretty please never write “She whispered very quietly” or I may have to scream!

I hope these ideas are helpful. What hints and tips are your favourites? I love to learn about writing and learn most from other writers, so do share your ideas in the comments below.

Write like furies!

Lots of love

Edwina

 

7 POWERFUL NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS FOR WRITERS

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Happy New Year everyone – here’s hoping 2019 is the best year yet!

Here are a few powerful resolutions that will make a real difference on your writing adventures.

1. Make realistic goals.

When I first started writing my goals were huge and grandiose – things like “I’ll have a best-selling novel by the end of the year!!” Not only was this totally unrealistic, it ended up being depressing too when it didn’t happen. These days my goals are more like – Write a decent first draft of “Castaway”. That I can control.

2. Submit 10 points worth of stories.

Have you heard of the 10 points plan? My friend, writer Fiona Robertson, first put me onto it. Score yourself 1 point per story submitted, aiming to have 10 points worth out at any time. The more stories you have out the better your chances. It does mean you sometimes get a flurry of rejections, but as we know rejections are badges of honour – and mixed in will be a YES (or two)! You can wiggle it around too – 3 points for novels/ full length works, and Helena and I reckon all grant applications are worth 3 too – they’re not much fun to do. How many points do you have out right now?

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3. Read more books!

For me this means watching less crap TV. I can get hooked on the most ridiculous shows – did anyone say The Bachelor? I’m a sucker for romance. But really, it’s a waste of my precious time. I love reading all kinds of books and you can learn so much about writing – what to do, how to do and even what not to do. So instead of switching on the idiot box I’m going to open a book and read. How about you?

wishing well

4. Fill up your writer’s well.

Ernie Hemmingway first talked about writers having a well of inspiration that they draw from that they need to keep replenished with images, adventures and ideas. My recent trip to the UK has given me an overflowing supply of inspiration, story ideas, images, conversations and joy to keep me going. People who are familiar with The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron will know that Artist’s Dates are usually the first things we let slide. I’m guilty as charged. But this year I’m determined to make more time for adventures and fun because I know it all helps my writing. Otherwise I’ll keep pumping my well dry and it will show in my work.

5. Take time out.

Writers need quiet time. Much as I love people, I really love solitude and silence as well. If I don’t get enough alone time, I start getting very grouchy. If that’s combined with no writing as well then— watch out! Take yourself off for an afternoon. Send the kids to grandmas and spend the day lying around in your pyjamas and staring at the ceiling if that’s all you have the energy to do. Take yourself on a solo retreat and write your heart out. Or find a week or weekend away with other writers that will fill your tank and renew your mojo. Here’s a link to find out about our next retreat if you’re tempted.

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6. Be your own cheer squad and find others to cheer along with you.

Writers face a lot of criticism and rejection. We really don’t need a noisy inner critic dishing out more of the same – usually meaner and harsher than anything we get from others. Send your inner critic from the room or train her to be your best friend who believes in you and your writing no matter what. Train her to say – “You know I still really love that story – maybe if I just fiddle with it one more time and send it out again, I’ll get lucky.” I’m working on a YouTube deep relaxation to share with you to help quiet that nasty voice.  Connect with other like-minded writers to encourage and support you through the ups and downs of the writing life. Going to writing groups, workshops, festivals and retreats is a great way to meet writing buddies.

7. Keep a journal. journal writing.jpg

I’ve kept the most important till last. Dancers do stretches, artists do sketches, writers keep journals. It doesn’t have to be first thing in the morning. It doesn’t have to be three pages. A few lines every day, or every few days. But make sure it’s uncensored blah. Complaining, moaning, hoping, dreaming, remembering, planning, it all goes in. The main thing is to get used to writing fast and furiously without editing yourself or trying to sound “writerly”. Journaling is the best way I know to find your authentic voice.

What are your new year’s resolutions? Have you got any really good ideas that should be on this list? Let me know. I’d love to hear from you.

Keep safe over the New Year’s festivities and write like furies!

Lots of love

Edwina

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TEN GREAT CHRISTMAS GIFT IDEAS FOR WRITERS plus DATES FOR RELAX AND WRITE 4!

 

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Here’s my pick for great gifts for the writer in your life – or as a special treat for yourself if you’re the one scribbling away like a fury.
1. The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.artists way

 

I recommend this book to just about everyone I meet. It was the book that got me finally acting towards my long-held dream of being a writer. It’s practical, uplifting and guaranteed to get you writing or painting or dancing – or whatever creative pursuit brings you joy.

2. A room with a door that closes – or at the very least a screen to close off a corner of another room. That’s what I have, and it works just fine. Writers need a space of their own and plenty of privacy – we often do quite crazy things when we’re writing, and it can scare other people!
3. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott – another wonderful book about the writing life that’s bird by birdwritten with humour and understanding of the ups and downs of the hard yakka of getting stories written.
4. Stationery. It doesn’t have to be fancy leather-bound journals or gold-plated pens – though they’re really glorious, but simple journals and pens and coloured pencils and all sorts of paper and writing tools usually make writers drool. We sometimes just hang out in Officeworks fondling nicely bound notebooks.

 

5. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert – this is the most recent edition to my collection of big magic.pngbooks to uplift my writing sprit when battling an onslaught of rejections. By the author who wrote Eat Pray Love this book makes you believe in the magic of writing.

6. A new laptop – that’s if you’re very flash with cash. The writer in your life will love you forever.

7. Writing software such as Scrivener or for the screenwriters – Final Draft. But do check with your writer first – they may want to choose the program themselves.

8. For the more old-fashioned writer – a thesaurus or dictionary or reference book on myths or fairy tales in hard copy.

9. A book by your writer’s favourite author – or perhaps the collected works. You can get Penguin classics at very reasonable prices these days, so you could buy a few master works to inspire great writing.

10. A retreat – shout your writer to a week or a weekend away to nurture their creative spirit and network with other writing folk. Retreats range in price and duration from luxurious weeks in Fiji to retreats like mine coming up in Toowoomba where the accommodation isn’t posh, but the creativity, fun and camaraderie is real. Check out the fancy retreats here and dream on!!

Which leads me to the grand announcement –

Are you ready for more? It’s Relax and Write 4!

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Dates and venue are now locked in for the next retreat:
WHEN? 26 – 28th APRIL 2019

WHERE? Camp Koojarewon in the mountains just north of Toowoomba in Highfields.

koojarewon view

WHAT? – a combined yoga and writing retreat for women.

The program includes four writing workshops covering the basics of setting, character and structure with lots of writing activities and deep relaxation to help quiet the inner critic and free your imagination. workshop helena STAR
It also includes two gentle morning yoga sessions suitable for even the creakiest bodies – focusing on breathing and calming the mind, with every posture adjusted to your individual needs (you can do it on a chair if you like). There’s also plenty of quiet time to do your own writing, explore the surroundings, or just catch up on some shut-eye.

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Plus ALL MEALS! In fact, the lovely folk at Koojarewon are planning to stuff us like pate geese with delicious vegetarian meals, as well as morning and afternoons teas and even suppers!

cumquat cake

WHY? Because writers usually work alone and empty out their tanks of inspiration and determination. A retreat like this one is perfect for renewing your love of writing, and life, and for connecting you with kindred spirits and new writing buddies.

cheers!

HOW MUCH? For two nights’ rustic accommodation and all meals, plus all workshops and yoga classes only $400!

And, if you’re very clever and pay your deposit before the 8th March it’s only $360 early bird price.

HOW? By clicking HERE and filling in the form for more information.

Bring a friend or make new friends when you come. A warm welcome awaits you.

I’d really love to have you along. Treat yourself to a retreat for Christmas – you’ll have lots of fun!

Wishing you all a fabulous festive season and the best year yet in 2019!
Edwina xxx

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Off on an adventure!

 

Heidi

One more sleep till I take off for a grand adventure to the UK to walk some ancestral earth.

Retreats in Toowoomba, north QLD and northern NSW are shaping up for next year.

So if you’re interested please do get in touch through the contact form.

I’m back in early December and will have some dates for the retreats set by then.

Until then, keep looking up and HAPPY WRITING!!

Lots of love

Edwina xxx

KOOJAREWON!

koojarewon view

Yesterday I drove up the range to Koojarewon, the site of the forthcoming retreat and this is the glorious view that awaited me at the top. Koojarewon is an Indigenous word meaning “top of the range” – it was an important waypoint on the local people’s way to a scared celebration site nearby.

The camp is in a beautiful spot – that’s a picture of the view! It has 16 acres of old growth trees and while I was there the only sound was birdsong and leaves rustling. An owl hoo-hooted throughout my visit, so calming.

 

I met Jodie and Dallan, the lovely workers there, who are super excited to be hosting writers and yogis and are preparing vegetarian feasts for us to enjoy. Behind me in this shot is the fire pit for Saturday night’s festivities. Jodie has promised us marshmallows! YAY!

The dorms are actually quite pleasant. And, as we have the run of the entire campsite, we can spread out through them, making little private rooms for ourselves with a few sarongs strung up here and there. The  communal bathrooms were inside and lovely and clean with plenty of sinks and showers.

There are also a couple of private rooms with ensuites – but only a couple. If you have health issues or a terrible snore do let me know and we’ll see if one of them has your name on it! Koojarewon me

What I liked best, apart from the trees, the fire pit,  and the view, was the cosy sitting room with couches, beanbags and a kettle – just perfect for settling in to do some quiet writing of your own. Jodie also told me about a wonderful place to visit for sunset drinks with a magnificent view of the Western Plains.

It took me about an hour and a half to drive up from Brisbane. My Sat Nav lady sent me through Murphy’s Creek which was actually gorgeous – much more pleasant than the highway. I felt like I was driving back in time 🙂

Or if you’d like to ask me anything email me HERE

Spoil yourself with a weekend of writing and gentle yoga and relaxation in the mountains. We all need a little time out now and then. Come and roast some marshmallows with me 🙂

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New Review!

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New review just in from the fabulous Jenni Mulligan – she’s the one in the fancy chequered flares!

Last year I subconsciously made a commitment to attend a Relax and Write Retreat having seen a few enticing event invitations and images float through my Facebook feed.

When the Evans Head event notice popped up I decided to go for it even though it involved a complicated calendar reshuffle. This effort was rewarded a thousand-fold.
Edwina’s blog post covers the details and structure of the retreat, so I’ll just summarise my highlights.

I loved the daily yoga and meditation sessions, was at the edge of my seat during the fascinating, emotional and hilarious writing sessions, was in awe listening to the writing of my fellow retreaters, partied at Saturday’s Open Mike Night and felt so pampered having a wonderful dinner cooked for me each evening. As a bonus, the retreat was located across the road from the beautiful Evans Head beach… so was able to have early morning and sunset walks.

I feel confident saying that the long weekend will be in the top 2 of my annual 10 Great Things I Did This Year… and I’ve had a bloody amazing year.

My thanks to Edwina and Helena for not only sharing their experience, industry insights and talent with us, but also for creating a safe and loving space and time for creativity, open heartedness and laughter. Suffice to say, Relax and Write Retreat at Evans Head 2019 is already in my calendar.

Jenni Mulligan.

Thanks so much Jenni! See you next year 🙂 xx

Next retreat is in the mountains near Toowoomba. See here for more details.

Come along and join the fun!

RELAX AND WRITE IN THE MOUNTAINS!

Come and join me in the mountains!

Edwina Shaw

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RELAX AND WRITE YOUR WAY TO WELLNESS!

I’m excited to announce the next Relax and Write Retreat – this time in the mountains west of Brisbane – from Friday 5th October to Sunday 7th October 2018.

As part of the Unleash the Beast, Writing and Wellness Symposium, I’m holding a special retreat in a beautiful mountain-top location, for women to relax with gentle yoga and meditation, and get writing with inspiring creative workshops.

The lovely people at Koojarewon Retreat, in Highfields – 12 kms north of Toowoomba, are turning the entire place over to us, and they’re providing all the meals, so it should be truly relaxing, even if the accommodation is pretty basic.

It’s dorm style but we have plenty of room to spread out through the dorms to claim a patch for privacy. And, best of all, the bathrooms are inside, so there’s no traipsing out to…

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WEAR THAT BRINY CROWN

A new poem from one of our chief mermaids and poet laureate, Nina Woodrow. And a fabulous blog post from new mermaid Nicola Wardley with some of her beautiful writing. Helena and I are always amazed by the fabulous writing that is created on camp.

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WEAR THAT BRINY CROWN
mermaid testimonies
start small
tiny grits
like celery seeds
mermaid testimonies
start tentative
they come in fits
grow slender tendrils translucent
in the coloured light
rooted deep in fecund matter
mermaid testimonies
start in a wild place
breathe slowly
take some time
give them rare grace
gentle air space
and mermaid memories
gather force become
effervescent and if you
are not still enough
not awake enough
not brave enough
you might not feel
the disturbance
you might not sense
the current change
you might be numb
too slow to succumb
to this stream of life
this trouble
this strife
this oddly fierce
dark humour
(mermaid testimony
blindness in fact
afflicts many)
mermaids know though
that home grown
trauma syndrome
blooming through generations
has no other
antidote
what other answer
is there?
what else dilutes
the granular poison
of ancient brutality and grief
like this testimony?
what else dissolves
alchemically evolves
exposes this dark matter
to the light
sets the celery seeds
a-germinating
like mermaid tears
like mermaid songs
like mermaid laughter?
so ahoy there
sea faring folk
landlubbers
and story grubbers
the tides have turned
there is a new game
its time to heed the siren call
let mermaid testimony
take its place in the
hall of fame
and mermaids
take your time
say the things
that need to be said
shed all the tears
that need to be shed
sing your fearsome songs
and wear that briny crown.

AND here’s a link to our new mermaid Nicola’s take on the retreat.

https://www.nicolawardley.com/blog/ever-wondered-what-happens-on-a-writing-retreat

 

THE MAGIC OF MERMAID CAMP

 

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Relax and Write 3 at Camp Koinonia in Evans Head finished up yesterday. Helena and I are always amazed by the wonderful women who come along and how quickly the magic of Koinonia and the sea and writing and yoga starts to make itself very evident.

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Within twenty-four hours, or even less, secrets we swore we’d never tell are shared and held and then let go. Old wounds are uncovered and start to heal. We realise very quickly that all of us have stories that need to be told, alongside those we want to tell. But it is the kindness and upholding of each other which is most precious. With this sharing of secrets a deep bond is forged and we transform from the ordinary creatures we are in our everyday lives as teachers and accountants and mothers and business women and writers and workers into mermaids and scribes.

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We did a tremendous amount of writing with workshops on writing your way into a story, writing the body, dialogue and more, and had heaps of fun along the way – laughing and singing and swimming and feasting and dancing.

 

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Katrina taught us all the Samba on Saturday night and with Jenni did a performance that made us all gasp! Maria became our photographer and took most of the beautiful shots I include here.

 

 

Carol and Helen and Angela did a fantastic job getting our delicious dinners ready. I loved Helena’s macerated cumquat and almond cake. YUM! That and Nina’s dhal were my food highlights.

 


Josie’s enthusiasm made us all feel good. Jude’s bawdy jokes made us laugh. Helen-Ellie scored a new name and a place in our hearts and Loma humbled us all with her tale of recovery. Nicola wowed us all with the book she’d made herself. Everyone shared hints and tips and made leading the groups easy.

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It was sunny but the swims were still cold. I saw a shooting star and had my heart opened again and again by the wisdom and compassion of the women who came along.

 

Special thanks go to Craig and Marie of Camp Koinonia for hosting us all with such generosity. All the years Helena and I have been coming to Koinonia we never knew it’s meaning, but we do now.

The lovely Kathy provided this translation and the beautiful shot below.

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“In spite of fragmentation, which is an evil from which we need to be healed, there has resulted a kind of rich bestowal of grace which is meant to embellish the koinonia.”

Koinonia is a transliterated form of the Greek word, κοινωνία, which means communion, joint participation; the share which one has in anything, participation, a gift jointly contributed, a collection, a contribution.

YES! That’s the magic of mermaid camp – union – like yoga – a community of women sharing as equals. Each of us feeling valued and embraced.

Come along and join us at the next one!

Lots of love, Edwina and Helena xx

LOVE Log STAR