RELAX AND WRITE MEMOIR AND LIFE WRITING RETREAT OCTOBER 21- 13 2022 SPRINGBROOK
Here’s what some of our retreaters had to say about their experiences.
“As a complete “ Rookie”, writing my first memoir, I found the retreat such a godsend. All the helpful tips, such as structure, setting scenes etc. etc. has been an enormous help. The fellow writers were also very friendly and encouraging. The setting, the workshops and the great catering made for a thoroughly enjoyable few days.
The day after I returned from the workshop, I wrote one of the most difficult chapters, that I had been reluctant to tackle. Thank you, Edwina for such an amazing experience 🌺”
Dolina Somerville (memoir retreat October 21 – 23 2022)
“A life changing weekend. I’ve come back with such a different view on my writing and feel really empowered generally. I had reached a point with this project where I felt like I was stumbling in the dark, and this retreat and all the amazing women guided me to the light switch!
I will definitely be back next year. I aim to arrive with my first published book.”
Erin Benjamin (memoir retreat participant October 2022)
“Memoir writing is not my thing, or so I thought. After last weekend’s Relax and Write Retreat, I am inspired to craft at least a ‘slice of life’. Edwina’s enthusiasm and encouragement are infectious. Connecting with others who aspire to put their lives on the page and sharing our experiences became an unexpected joy.”
Raelene Purtill (memoir retreat participant October 2022)
“I came on retreat not expecting so many experienced writers and was a bit overwhelmed at first. But everyone was there for each other. It’s always great spending time in groups of women. The yoga, massage and food were excellent in a perfect location. Even the weather was good!” (memoir retreat participant October 2022)
“Edwina and Gay made everyone feel safe. It made the whole retreat so intimate and joyful and when big emotions hit, the group support was genuine and amazing. I’ll be back!” (memoir retreat participant October 2022)
“Edwina’s ability to create a safe, nurturing space allowed us to improve our technical skills of writing, gain clarity about our stories and confidence to release our voices into the world.”
Dolores Cummins (memoir retreat participant October 2022)
RELAX AND WRITE FEEDBACK AND REVISION RETREAT AUGUST 12 – 14 2022 SPRINGBROOK
“I attended the Springbrook Relax and Write Retreat on 12-14 August, 2022. This turned out to be an amazing retreat. As a new author, I had no idea what to expect. I met the most amazing group of authors, ranging in age from 20 to me being the oldest at 76. They came from all walks of life and stages of their writing; and I found them very supportive. One of the highlights for me was Edwina’s assessment of the first 10 pages of my manuscript and synopsis. We had sent these prior to the retreat, so she could assess them ahead of time. Then at the retreat, we met individually with Edwina for her to go over her suggestions with us and give us a written copy of this. I found this very helpful, comments on how to change to saying what I wanted to in a better way, specific feedback, picked-up on two important things which I had not realised were not clear to the reader, use of conjunctions rather than two words so it read more smoothly, and very positive. I left the meeting with Edwina feeling excited to continue editing my book. Another highlight for me was the atmosphere. My life has included a lot of stress and the whole atmosphere at the retreat was relaxed and accepting. Each morning when I woke up, I simply felt peaceful. And I made friends who I hope to retain for a long time. I would recommend this retreat to any author. What a boost to my journey in writing. Thank you, Edwina.”
This was my first writing workshop and there was initially some doubt as to whether I should do it because I am only starting out as a writer. I went and found it fully rewarding. I felt like a valued member of the group, and to me these workshops are not just about the skills and connections but the journey and self-identity. I gained confidence and more clarity about my future direction. I highly recommend Edwina’s workshops.
“Thanks for a lovely weekend Edwina! It was such a wonderful change from my regular responsibilities and I really loved the beautiful surroundings and being able to have long chats about writing with other kindred spirits. I came home recharged, inspired and wanting to do it all again.”
Nikki Mottram author of soon to be released crime novel Crows Nest.
“Thank you Edwina for another amazing retreat. Springbrook was the perfect setting in the rain, with the wood fire, delicious home cooked vegetarian meals and a fabulous group of women. I was glad I sent you the ten pages, two weeks before, as it prompted me to get writing and it made what you were teaching more relevant. I really appreciated your professional feedback and after our session I felt more confident to share my writing with others. The gentle yoga and relaxation sessions were such a treat, as was the bodywork session with Monique. Definitely feeling relaxed AND I’m writing! See you again next year. “
“Edwina is a passionate teacher and storyteller. She has a warm, down to earth way of connecting with people that makes everyone feel welcome. Her workshops are fun, creative and engaging — full of practical, helpful advice, and the deeper questions driving characters and story, making it ideal for writers at any stage in their work. I liked how Springbrook in the winter feels like a private retreat — tucked away in the Gold Coast hinterland, surrounded by national parks and hiking trails, with yoga workshops and the most amazing vegetarian food! Also enjoyed the late-night chats and readings by the fire, meeting and connecting with such an interesting group of women writers, who all shared a passion for great storytelling. I have to say that as a teacher myself, I am in awe of Edwina’s style of teaching and her ability to create a true, nurturing spirit of openness and community. At the end of the retreat, I felt connected to my work in a deeper way and like everyone else, totally inspired.”
“Edwina’s Springbrook writing retreat has been one of my favourite creative adventures as a long-term writer. We received the time and space in a nurturing environment to unpack our stresses and expand our creativity into new areas. The manuscript development workshops educated us on structure, acts, scenes, and timelines to develop a cohesive storyline and how to pitch our finished product. In perfect balance, the time spent exploring the story’s meaning and the overall aim of our writing goals is focused warmly and gently on the developing writer as they remember why they love to write. My time at the retreat has led to a refreshed love for my writing and renewed creative energy; thank you for this opportunity, Edwina.”
RELAX AND WRITE MEMOIR RETREAT October 23 -25 TOOWOOMBA 2021
RELAX AND WRITE IN PARADISE – June 21 – 23 2019 MAGNETIC ISLAND
I attended the Magnetic Island Relax and Write retreat in June with twelve other women. There was a good mix of experienced and novice writers, a nice mingling of yoga, writing and dancing. The act of writing is so solitary that any gathering of like-minded people is a celebration to me but it is particularly valuable when it is facilitated by an experienced teacher who knows how to cater for a variety of interests, personalities and levels of skill. Edwina is an experienced teacher of both yoga and creative writing, and her steady hand manages to calm down the nervous, encourage the shy and steady the excited. One can never predict what gems may be revealed in any of the writing sessions.
This year’s addition of a vivacious dance teacher was such a delight and a novel experience to me that I can’t wait for a new opportunity to do it all over again.
Thank you, Edwina!
Vahida Berberovic July 2019
RELAX AND WRITE IN THE MOUNTAINS – April 26 – 28 2019 Koojarewon
“A wonderful balance of relaxation and mental stimulation. Edwina is a generous host, giving valuable advice and insight based on her own success in this intriguing industry. Her weekend writer’s retreat is nurturing for body and creativity in a non- judgemental environment with like- minded people. I’m looking forward to indulging again. ”
Gina Wall, May 2019
“When you sign up for a Relax and Write weekend, don’t imagine it’s going to be a walk in the park, (although there are invariably some beautiful bush or beach wanders to be had, if so desired.) It’s not. It’s a lot of writing and that can be challenging.
But neither is it a bootcamp. It’s a nurturing and encouraging environment, a safe space, an exploratory place. Nothing you write is wrong. You can read out what you have written, or not, as you choose. There’s no pressure.
And the yoga – and free dance if you’re lucky – is for the experienced yogi as well as the yoga virgin, and everyone in between. The company of other women writers is a delight and there is so much to be gained, mentally, physically and spiritually from these few days away from everyday life.
All in all, it’s a magical and thoroughly worthwhile experience – highly recommended.
Namaste, nymphs and mermaids.”
Judith Russel Kors – May 2019
“Both Relax and Write retreats I have been to have been cathartic experiences. On both occasions my expectations of spending a few days immersing myself in writing while being surrounded by the fellowship of like-minded writers were met.
Both retreats offered a sense of camaraderie, kindness, positivity and warmth. The new friends and connections made, soon became supports added to my network.
Coming to the last retreat quite stressed about my current project and unsure of which direction to take, I left feeling energised, rejuvenated and excited about my writing.
Edwina’s writing tips, exercises and guided meditations all helped me to convey the imagery I’d been having difficulty with. Thank you, Edwina!”
Kathy Ewers – May 2019
Reviews Relax and Write 3 – September 2018
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 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 calendar.
Jenni Mulligan (Relax and Write 3)
Below is a blog post from Nicola Wardley – a retreat participant in Relax and Write 3 giving you a good idea of how the retreat works – and with some examples of her writing.
Ever wondered what happens on a writing retreat?
Wonder no more … read on, and I’ll tell you. I spent the weekend at the Relax and Write Retreat hosted by Edwina Shaw and Helena Pastor in Evan’s Head.
Why a writing retreat?
Curiosity drove me to this quiet campground set by the beach on a quiet stretch of the Northern NSW coast for my first retreat. What miracles of wordcount would materialise? Who would I meet that would influence my thinking, broaden my experience, perhaps even become part of my ongoing writing community? What does relaxing have to do with writing?
The arrival was what you’d expect: a little awkward, strangers brought together, the joy of the scenery, the mild horror of the shared bathroom (yup: princess moment). We gathered in a timber and stained-glass hall within ears’ reach of surf pounding on Airforce Beach and Edwina gathered us in for what she described as a deep relaxation.
Strangers lying on mats on polished timber floorboards, listening to a dulcet voice urging us to feel our scalps soften, our brains melt, our limbs loosen their memories of action and melt into the floor … at the beginning, I was too busy formulating a fun story to describe this experience to my children at the end of the weekend. By the end I was wondering if Edwina had posted an audio file of her voice onto Youtube that I could download, immediately, to every device I owned. I hadn’t just melted to the floor, I was part of it. Lambent. Pliant. So relaxed I’d forgotten how to spell and couldn’t have cared less.
We eventually roused ourselves and spent some time listing needs and wants. My need-to-dos were practical: finish Chapter One re-write; retrofit some backstory into an old manuscript; submit manuscript to the publishing house I just pitched to. My want-to-dos were a more slippery school of fish: glory, of course, was atop the list; write a novel that book club readers will clutch to their bosoms; write wiser words, clearer words, words that get published; and the slipperiest fish of all: want more time.
Writing prompts: 60 seconds and GO
Helena cracked the whip on the first morning: here’s a prompt, now here’s 60 seconds: GO
Too eager coffee-hands have lifted the black-winged beast up, up its bamboo strut, blocking my sunlight. Gah: the words were flowing, my back was melting, the light was snap-drying my ink … TIME’S UP
Plock. A fat wad of crystal hit the cold bathroom tile, and my colder fingers reached up to my lobe. Damn it. Search and recovery could wait until morning … TIME’S UP
Mr Brixham preened in front of the morning room mirror, swivelling his fat hips and swelling his fleshy chest until he more closely resembled the man he was in own estimation … TIME’S UP
Stuffed with impenetrably-chemicalled peanuts of endless waste protecting it from the sway of oceans, my grandmother’s clock makes its way to me from London at a steady twelve knots … TIME’S UP
Mrs Brixham’s dress strained against her low belly. Another lying-in, another squalling face. Please God her husband’s fat grasping hands could be held off to spare her another.
Writing prompts: 5 minutes and GO
There were a few 5 minute prompts over the days of the retreat, all of them an opportunity to blurt stuff out in an uncensored way – very cathartic; if you haven’t tried it, give it a go. Helena and Edwina used them to have us writing our way into a story, using the senses, dialogue, childhood experiences … and gave us tips for editing.
Here are a couple:
Something I gave away that I wish I hadn’t
I give away books like other people give away their life secrets on Facebook. Status: it’s complicated. That’s not anything I would share. Status: I give away books but secretly it’s like I’ve loaned you the child of my loins and I want it back, spine unimpaired, pages free of hospital corners, and I want it back before so much time has elapsed that I’ve forgotten you and I were ever friends. Verghese, Austen, Cleve, Krakauer, Temple … just font to you: something bold and readable, something that spins no floss from your soul.
But to me: art. To me: the family on my shelves. Status: Nicola is feeling she wants her damn books back.
*Editor’s note: I am actually terrible at returning other people’s books. I had my friend Debbie’s copy of The Prisoner of Azkaban for about 14 years.
What my hands know
My hands found their true use the day I became a mother. I have catalogued that use. I have taken photographs, braided hair, proof read assignments, clutched passenger-side door handles in white-knuckled fear through countless hours of driving lessons.
But the catalogue that is dearest to my heart is one made of flannel. For years, I gathered the flannel pyjamas that my children outgrew. Soup-stained plackets, threadbare knees, 101 dalmations lolloping clumsily through fields of snowy white. Four children – sixty-four years of childhood – gathered, pyjama set by pyjama set, into the hushed darkness of the cupboard under the stairs. The cutting came first. Slice: off came the cuffs. Slice: off came the buttons. Wheel and blade, scissor and ruler, the tops and bottoms re-emerged into rows of neat squares. The stitching came next. Grids and blocks, rows and borders – order restored on a chaotic, fun past. Once the wool was wadded between the stitched pattern and the calico backing, we sat, my children and I, and we regarded this patchwork of time. ‘What will we call it?’ I said. The squabbling about naming rights fell to the side like lint and cotton, remnants from my sewing table. The naming rights became mine and I stitched the label in red and blue onto the creamy back of the quilt. “Myrtle”, XXXX (one for each child) Love Mum.
*Editor’s note: This is one of the few prompts where I wrote something true. We named the quilt after Moaning Myrtle in the Harry Potter series.
Writing Alone, Together
Food, coffee, wine, tea, huddling together on a beach at the picnic in a biting breeze, sharing our widely assorted skills on Open Mic Night – hanging out with other writers was a lot of fun. I learned (almost) to salsa dance, I discovered the joy of having someone chant a relaxing mantra that totally worked, I heard women read out their poems, their stories, their dreams and aspirations.
At the close of the retreat, everyone shared some words of advice with the group, and the words that have stayed with me from a group member were to remember to “wear your crown”. And this was no princess crown we were being advised to wear – but a symbol to remind us to carry self-confidence, courage and gratitude with us into our writerly lives.
*Editor’s note: there was also a lot of talk about Poldark
REVIEWS OF Retreat 2 – March 2018
‘Evans above! Who would have thought so much wellness and so much writing could be achieved in a few days?
Go to ‘Relax and Write’ a short retreat run by two gifted teachers Edwina Shaw and Helena Pastor.
Over 3-4 days, they get you in their sights and recharge you with excellent teaching, yoga, relaxation, good food and time to swim and rest.
Their choice of site, part of effective planning, was inspiring. The beach at Evans Head was magnificent and the weather was perfect.
I am reminded of one of the writing sessions.- pitching to an audience, I hope Edwina that I have pitched this endorsement well.
Book for the next retreat if you want to recharge and renew your spirit. These women will not disappoint you.
I attended the relax and write retreat, organised and facilitated by writers Edwina Shaw and Helena Pastor, at Camp Koinonia from 16-19 March 2018. The retreat was organised, as the title suggests, around relaxation sessions in the early mornings, followed by writing workshops in the morning and in the afternoon. There was also time for a swim each day. Edwina has practised yoga for 25 years, and it shows. She was able to get the best out of all of us, and even a novice and highly cynical uptight person like myself managed to relax and let go. Helena’s workshops focussed on getting into the writing groove, and keeping at it, writing dialogue and pitching, while Edwina workshopped character development and structure with us. Both Edwina and Helena showed knowledge and experience of the writing process, as well as the publishing world, but were also understanding and sensitivity towards our individual needs. Helena was kind enough to give feedback to each one of us on ten pages of our writing. The evenings included a delicious meal and wonderful company.
I very much enjoyed all aspects of the retreat – the relaxation, the socialising, the writing workshops, the food. While the accommodation was quite basic, it was not an impediment to our writing, exchanging ideas, experiences and advice. It pales into insignificance when one considers the benefits. The main benefit for me was being in the company of other writers like myself who work mostly in isolation and whose voices of self-doubt often drown out any other voices we might have. I feel refreshed after the long weekend, filled with new energy to approach my writing project and view it from a new perspective. The retreat has definitely enriched me as a writer and as a person (I can’t believe that a socially anxious person like myself spent most of the stay with everyone else), and I look forward to next year.
Retreat 1 – September 2017
Edwina Shaw and Helena Pastor’s Relax and Write Retreat 1st-3rd September 2017 Camp Koinonia, Evans Head, Northern NSW.
Workshops were held in a beautiful small high ceiling church amongst the cabins or outside on the grass, with a rhythm to the day with early yoga, writing workshops, free time to explore the beach and have lunch before another writing workshop and dinner. Edwina and Helena have an easy style of putting people at ease and making each individual feel welcome and they were flexible in altering the program to meet the needs of the participants.
While the accommodation was very basic, this was made clear in the information provided beforehand ‘its not posh, but neither are we’. As it turned out it was exactly how a good beach shack should be, with basic essentials provided, bed, fridge, kitchen, toilet, shower, and the smell of the ocean wafting through the windows.
The majority of the group were beginning their journey of writing their first manuscript and so I had concerns, as an experienced writer, that the workshops may not be useful to me. However, I used the exercises to prompt work on an idea I had for a new manuscript and found some of the exercises offered a different way into my writing that I hadn’t tried before. Overall, it was a great break away, affordable and I left feeling refreshed and with a significant amount of writing done.
Last weekend I attended the Relax and Write Retreat for women in the glorious setting of Koinonia at Evan’s Head, northern NSW. The organisers, hosts and session leaders Helena Pastor and Edwina Shaw are both experienced and successful writers and writing teachers.
The ‘relax’ part of the retreat included excellent yoga and relaxation sessions run by Edwina and a good amount of free time to walk or swim at the beautiful beach just across the road from our accommodation. Evening meals were taken together in the Koinonia Chapel where fresh flowers, lots of candles and a warm and welcoming atmosphere allowed everyone to get to know each other, share stories and have some fun.
The writing part of the retreat was also excellent and covered quite a bit of ground. I certainly came away with a lot of information about entering into the field of professional writing as well as a wealth of ideas and starting points for fiction and memoir writing. The sessions were activity based with succinct explanations and then down to work. This worked really well for me and for others too it seemed. There was enough teacher talk so that we knew what was expected of us and then a good portion of time to get writing. The exercises were interesting and engaging and we were given the opportunity, if we wanted, to share what we had written and to get feedback from Helena and Edwina.
Some of the content we learnt about and practised in the sessions included using our senses in writing, structuring memoirs and fiction, digging deeper into the emotional core of a memoir, identifying key plot points, basic aspects of creating characters, using imagination, and how to write bios and synopses.
Although I have done a lot of academic and report writing throughout my working life I am a newbie to the world of the creative writer. I recently started writing a memoir about my pilgrimage across northern Spain and I attended the retreat to develop skills and motivation to help me complete this task. I can honestly say that my expectations were well and truly met and I wholeheartedly recommend this retreat to anyone wanting to take a first step into the exciting world of writing.