Review. SUZIE REYNOLDS
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.