MAGICAL MAGNETIC ISLAND MERMAIDS – RETREAT RUNDOWN JUNE 2022


Alma Bay, Magnetic Island – photo by Kathy Ewers

“What a lift it was to be in such good company and in nurturing hands. On a tropical island in winter! I haven’t stopped writing since. I can feel my project moving forward every day. And my confidence expanding. Thanks, Edwina.”

Clare Leabeater (retreat participant Magnetic Island June 2022

Beautiful Magnetic Island turned on the sun for us in early June with the water still summer-warm. Wonderful, funny, kind and creative women writers from all over Queensland came together for a weekend of workshops, yoga and fun.

This was a special retreat for me because my sister Natasha came along, even though she’s a visual artist not a writer. As she pointed out on retreat, she’s been forced to be my student ever since we were little playing endless games of school. Guess who was always the teacher. Yours truly. It was very dull. Poor Tashy! However, these days my facilitating skills are much better than when I was four and it was lots of fun to share what I do with someone I love. Thanks for coming Tashy. 

Geri, Fleur and Tashy laughing their heads off at our meet and greet 🙂

We started with drinks and nibbles and our first workshop, getting to know each other and the stories we are writing, or wanting to write. We started imagining new stories and went deeper into those already in progress. 

Yoga every morning helped those most in need of a break from busy lives and burnout to recover and find their inner peace again. Only a few breaths away, ever.

Happy yogis having fun. Photo by me.

Workshops at this retreat were focused primarily on developing narratives that are character driven – whether that character is our earlier selves for memoir, or fictional creations. Stories that spring from characters’ intrinsic goals and desires, strengths and weaknesses are naturally more compelling and meaningful.

Here we are hard at work!

During the long break during the day some mermaids headed to beautiful Alma Bay for swims and sunshine and walks along the cliffs to Geoffrey Bay. While others indulged in massages by Mel, and naps. Nurturing the creative spirit takes a lot of work!!

In the afternoon we did a workshop on screenplay. All writers have a lot to learn from this very plot focused form and it was exciting to see writers have their first attempts at writing for the screen. 

Writers at work! Rose and experienced screenwriter Joanne.

Dinner that night was at Picnic Bay, where the not so great food was more than made up for by the magnificent view across the bay to the twinkling lights of Townsville in the distance.

On the pier at Picnic Bay

Sunday was play day! First some serious reality checking on publishing pathways and the Australian publishing industry (everyone go out and buy a book by an Australian woman author!!), some goal setting then my favourite part of every retreat – our collages. We all start with the same pile of magazines yet, as you can see, everyone creates something unique and beautiful in their own ways.

Then to Alma Bay for a picnic and a swim, even some tarot reading! Then those who were staying an extra night all headed to Horseshoe Bay for sunset with some fish and chips. A beautiful end to our special weekend.

Sunset at Horseshoe Bay.

As always, it is the women who come to these retreats that make them so much fun and a joy to run. My greatest pleasure is making new pals and watching other new writing friendships forming. Best of all is seeing a light go on for a writer who has been stuck who suddenly sees the way forward for their project, or even better, seeing a newbie start writing furiously filled with enthusiasm for a story that is pouring from them in a frenzy.

We’re all just a little bit excited 🙂

Thank you to all the wonderful wise women who made this Maggie retreat so magical. Special thanks to Kathy Ewers – repeat retreater, talented writer and brilliant photographer who took the photos you see here. You can see more of her work and book her for your event HERE.

NEXT RETREAT is in SPRINGBROOK!! Gold Coast Hinterland August 12 – 14 at the Theosophical Society Retreat Centre. FEEDBACK AND REVISION RETREAT for those with a first draft done or underway. See more HERE.

EARLY BIRD PRICES END JUNE 30!! Only $440 for the full weekend, all yoga and writing workshops focused on self-editing, all meals and single room accommodation. YES!! Even if you haven’t written much, or you started well but now you’re stuck, come along and get unstuck!!

Only 5 places left so HURRY! PAY YOUR $200 DEPOSIT HERE to secure your place. Contact me to check availability.

Thanks again to all the talented and generous women writers who make retreats such a joy.

Come along and join the fun!

Lots of love

Edwina xx

WRITING IS REWRITING – SECOND DRAFT RETREAT SPRINGBROOK 12 – 14 2022

View from Springbrook retreat

Every writer knows the first draft is only a small part of the work involved in bringing a story to publishable standard. As Ernest Hemingway once famously said, “All first drafts are crap!” (I may be paraphrasing a little :)).

So how do we take a crappy first draft to something publishers are going to fight over? Rewriting! Or if we’re lucky just redrafting – though let’s face it if you’re a pantster like I was, you may have to write whole new sections. Twice I’ve cut back first drafts of 100 000+ words to 30 000 then rewrote the rest!

Ernest Hemingway – redrafting?

How do you self-edit?

The first step of any rewrite is the structural edit

This looks at how the main elements of our story are working: characters, setting, voice, genre-expectations and plot. Mainly plot! 

The best place to start is with a scene list – not just chapter headings but a list of every scene within every chapter. Include which characters are involved, where it’s set, what’s happening (clue – if nothing’s happening – cut now!) and the main focus of the scene, plus whether the scene is moving us towards Hope or Fear. Go through the whole manuscript and you’ll come up with a list of potentially hundreds of scenes.

Photo by picjumbo.com on Pexels.com

Once you have this list it’s much easier to see any repetition, or worst of all, completely unnecessary scenes that are neither developing or illustrating character or moving the plot forward. This is when we press DELETE. Or, for chickens like me, this is when we cut these scenes and paste them into another document called “Good bits I may use later.” I have a few of these documents now for various projects and mostly they remain unused, but occasionally I’ll go back in and pull out a section that has become relevant again.

Your scene list will show you where your story starts to sink in the middle or if a character who was pivotal in the first half fades away in the second. You’ll be able to tell if a character is suddenly acting completely differently to who they were earlier, of if they have taken up too much page space – this often happens when we just go with the flow and let bossy or forceful characters have their way. 

Oh yes, those bossy characters may kick up a stink.

A scene list makes it easier to find any plot holes or if you’re building enough suspense or just having characters repeat themselves over and over without growth or change.

What tricks do you have up your sleeve to help you tackle the dreaded, but actually fun, second draft? 

Have you got a project nearing the stage when it needs a proper evaluation and an objective rethink?

Writers hard at work on their redrafts at the last Second Draft retreat!

If so, come along and join us at Springbrook in the rainforest covered mountains behind the Gold Coast in Queensland for a cosy winter SECOND DRAFT RETREAT – AUGUST 12 – 14.

Come and join the fun!

This special retreat, for women and non-binary writers with a project needing attention, has workshops to help you tackle the second draft, focusing on finding the heart of your story, distilling the themes, the structural edit, and plenty of tips to help with line editing and pitch documents too.

All in a stunning location with cosy single rooms with desks, beauty and peace, like-minded folk to share your story with in feedback groups, fantastic food and lots of fun. 

For only $440 if you book before June 30 2022. See more information about the retreat and other retreats coming up HERE.

Or drop me a line for more information.

The second draft needn’t be a scary or lonely experience. Come along on retreat, connect with other writers, and get a head start on the next stage of your project.

What tips do you have for tackling the second draft (or third fourth or hundredth for that matter!).

Hope you can make it to retreat – we always have a wonderful time 

More lovely retreaters 

Lots of love,

Edwina xx

MAGIC IN THE MOUNTAINS!

KOOJAREWON 2021

Terese’s glorious floral centrepiece for our workshop room

I never cease to be astounded by the magic of women coming together on these retreats. This last retreat up at Koojarewon Youth Camp in Highfields near Toowoomba was no different. Women from their twenties to their late seventies bonded together, laughed, wrote, stretched relaxed, shared stories and supported each other with such kindness it really did feel like magic.

For the first time we had a doggy on camp, a lovely medical alert dog who sat in on all sessions and was a sweet fluffy presence.

We started as usual with bubbles and nibblies, getting to know each other as writers and as women. So many different stories and we hadn’t even started writing.

Once we did, stories poured from people, with laughter and tears and wonder. Beautiful stories from the heart. We focused in on memoir and life writing and how to make a compelling narrative from the memories of an entire lifetime. The situation and the story, the facts and the meaning we’ve found in those facts with the benefit of hindsight. Because for many of us, the reason we write is to make sense of life, to create meaning for ourselves from the seemingly random events that make us who we are.

We did a lot of writing and learning so it was fabulous to have our talented masseuse (and writer) Jani providing excellent massages to relieve those sore spots. Lots of very relaxed women floating around after their treatments.

On Saturday night, the effervescent Jacqui Carr, retired exotic dancer and writer, once more taught us how to strut our stuff with some pretty hilarious, rather than sexy results! We had a lot of fun J Gillian helped us all calm down with some songs around the fire pit and then we hit the sack. Only to be woken at 2:30 in the morning with an alarm and all the lights going on. An electrical storm had taken down a power pole and cut power to the district so all the back up lighting went on and couldn’t be turned off. We managed to get back to sleep though and allowed ourselves a bit of a sleep in.

Yoga on Sunday and party tricks left us deeply relaxed and ready to set some writing goals and discuss publication pathways. We were lucky enough to have a few independently published authors in the group, Terese Eglington, Virginia Miranda and Sallyanne Peters who could fill us all in on the process of dealing with different scenarios. I’m always happy to use the combined wisdom of the group. Everyone has something valuable to contribute.

We got so carried away doing our traditional collages that we went overtime, but it was all worth it to see the beautiful creations that hopefully will help our dreams to come true.

Here’s our hall of fame!

May all our dreams come true!

Wonderful women, bright and beautiful days among the big trees, everything so lush and green. Great food. Big smiles and happy hearts connecting.

I love these retreats and the magic of creative women coming together. Together we can do anything!

I’ll leave you with a quote I found for my collage:

“Everybody is talented because everybody who is human has something to express.”

Brenda Ueland.

Take care and keep smiling. Write like a fury and I’ll see you on retreat one day soon!

Lots of love

Edwina xxx

FIVE FUNCTIONS OF YOUR FIRST FEW PAGES!

Hints for getting your story opening right! Memoir retreat is almost full – contact me if you’d like to come!

Edwina Shaw

The first few pages of your book, or the first few paragraphs of a short story, have a heavy load to bear. These are the pages that make or break your chances with publishers or competition judges and, most importantly, readers. It’s best not to think about it too much when you’re doing a first draft. Just start writing and then, later, once you’ve written all the way to the end, you can figure out the best place to start and whether it’s working well.

Photo by Alexandr Podvalny on Pexels.com

Most importantly your first pages must:

1.HOOK THE READER! Something in those first pages must intrigue the reader and compel them to continue turning the page. But how? SET UP A QUESTION. You can engage a reader with your beautiful prose but really, most of us just want to get our teeth into a riveting story that…

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RELAX AND WRITE IN THE MOUNTAINS 2021

NEXT RETREAT! 22 – 24 OCTOBER IN HIGHFIELDS NEAR TOOWOOMBA. Life Writing and Memoir focus.

Edwina Shaw

RELAX AND WRITE RETREATS are thrilled to announce a special introductory and memoir writing retreat at Camp Koojarewon in Highfields north of Toowoomba.

Is your creative spirit crying out for a little TLC? Always wanted to write but don’t know where to start? Need to reboot your writing mojo and be inspired to tackle that project you’ve been thinking about forever? Come along and regain your love of writing and life at the next Relax and Write Retreat among the beautiful big trees.

From 3pm FRIDAY 22 October – 2 pm 24 October 2021

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 designed to help move those stories out of your head and onto the page. 

“I feel…

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6 STEPS TO SHAPING YOUR MEMOIR

HELP FOR MEMOIR WRITERS from my other website 🙂

Edwina Shaw

Structure is the primary concern of the writer, how to order all the key emotional plot points to keep the reader turning pages.

A memoir is not an autobiography. Unfortunately, unless you are a sportsperson, politician, musician, or movie star, no one cares about where you were born or your ancestral history, how your parents met, and what you did in grade three. Unless, of course, this is of itself interesting enough to be a story. A memoir is a slice of your whole life, focused around a topic, an idea or theme, a specific time, or linked moments that resonate around a search or question of some kind.

Here are 6 STEPS to help you find your structure.

  • NARROW THE FOCUS

When shaping your memoir, it helps to narrow the focus as much as possible – not justMy Journey to Healing, butMy Struggle with Addiction from…

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Rainforest writers and exotic dancers!

Edwina Shaw

A wonderful weekend was had by all at the latest Relax and Write Retreat in Springbrook on the Gold Coast hinterland. From our retreat nestled in the rainforest, it was only a short walk to a spectacular lookout that made the rest of the busy world drop away.

A fascinating group of women, aged from 23 to 83, gathered together to write, do yoga, feast and have fun, sharing wisdom and kindness. I am always inspired and uplifted by the magic of women coming together. These retreats are only as special as the women who come along, and this one was very special indeed.

The highlight for me was our glorious Jacqui and her Exotic Dance performance. Jacqui performed in an international revue in the late 70s and in eh 80s performed with Joe Cocker onstage and even for the Harlem Globetrotters. She taught us all that sexy is sexy…

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OUT OF YOUR HEAD AND ONTO THE PAGE! How to start writing your stories :)

Almost everyone I’ve ever met has stories in their head that swirl around and around and won’t give them any peace, until they’re told.

Certainly, most of the people I met in my recent tour of Far North and Outback QLD had stories that they needed to get out of their heads and onto the page. 

Writing these stories out and playing with them, using the techniques of fiction to transform the way we see them is a powerful way to get these stories out of our heads – for good! And BONUS we may even create something beautiful from all that pain. Because usually those stories that won’t let us rest are stories about the hard times.

But how to start?

Write a list of the stories on the top of your head – you know the ones.

What stories do you want to tell? Set the timer for 5 minutes and write down as many dot points or titles or other words that will remind you of these stories.

  • Write another list. What stories do you NEED to tell? Write for 5 minutes or until you’re done.
  • One more list. This is the scary one. What stories are you afraid to tell? If everyone was dead, if no one ever read it, what stories would you be brave enough to write?

Okay, now you have a list, your head should already feel a bit lighter. Lists are great for taking mountains and turning them back into molehills again. 

Have you got a story about a car you used to have?

Now take your list and a pile of index cards and write one of your story ideas on each card and put them in a box.

  • Set aside some time each day for writing. It doesn’t have to be long. Participants in my workshops know that it’s amazing how much you can write in five minutes. Start there. Pull out one of your story cards, set a timer and write. Five minutes, 10 minutes. Start small and grow the time gradually. We can all spare five minutes, right?
  • Write as fast as you can, don’t stop. We call this free-writing. Just write. Forget about sounding fancy or poetic or writerly, just get down the story as if you were telling a good friend all about what happened. Spelling and grammar and punctuation really don’t matter at this stage. Just write like a fury and get that story out of your head!
  • Write all the way to the end of that story. Chip away at your story a bit each day until you reach the end of that bit. If you find it’s taking a long time, then consider breaking that story idea up into smaller chunks. For instance, instead of writing “CHILDHOOD” on your story list, be more specific, eg: my first bedroom, time with grandma, the bad day, my favourite pet, the secret. Break it up into little manageable pieces.
  • Don’t look back! New writers (and more experienced writers too for that matter) often make the mistake of going back over the first bits they’ve written and spending ages trying to make it perfect. NO! Don’t do it! It’s a trap!! Just keep going forward.
  • Pick up a new card. Write a new story, and another and another, until your pile of cards is gone.
  • Writing is rewriting. Once you’ve got all your stories out of your head and onto a page, many pages, then you can go back and add specific sensory details, make sure you’re writing in scenes and order the pieces for narrative drive. But if all that doesn’t make any sense, don’t worry. Just get those stories written down. You’ll become better at writing just by doing it regularly. You may notice when you start putting your stories together that there are gaps. Fill them in. But not all the boring in between, day to day details, just the important things we need to know.
  • JUST START! YOU CAN DO IT!

If your literacy skills aren’t great, don’t worry – use the dictating feature on your device. Some of the best story tellers I know aren’t any good at spelling. It doesn’t mean they can’t spin a good yarn. 

So, what are you waiting for? Get cracking on those lists and let me know how you go. I have lots more hints and tips for writing on the website. Or drop me a line and I’ll do what I can to help.

Write like a fury!

Lots of love

Edwina xx

ROAD TO THE FAR NORTH! Great northern tour rundown.

In Karumba

Well, what an adventure that was! From Cairns and the sugar cane fields and glorious mountains and rain of the wet tropics, to the harshness of the savannah country, to Karumba on the Gulf of Carpentaria, to Cloncurry and Mt Isa and then across the wide open plains left by the ancient Eromanga Sea to the dinosaurs and roses of Richmond and lovely folk of Hughenden, to Charters Towers where my Nana met her hubby and married him, all the way back to the dry tropics and the bustle of Townsville. All in a little under three weeks.

Thank you, Queensland Writers Centre (QWC) for sending me on this epic tour through rain and storms and mountains and dust and plains so endless we could see the curve of the earth. Thank you most especially too to my dear friend Ivan who did all those long-distance drives, overtaking road trains up to 80 metres long, and grey nomads in their creeping caravans, with glee. He also took some stunning photos that will turn up in a future edition of the QWC magazine – Writing Queensland, featuring stories from the fabulous array of characters I met on my travels.

We made it!

They say we are partly shaped by our environment, and these wild and beautiful places have moulded some unique and talented souls. It was a pleasure to meet a few of them and be a part of their writing lives.

I have been a member of QWC since 2002. Without them I would not have found a publisher for Thrill Seekers or have learnt so much about the craft of writing, and they continue to support me and other Queensland writers with fabulous opportunities such as this. They offer a range of services and support for writers at all stages of their writing lives. You can check them out and become a member here. 

Highlights of the tour were many, but those that stand out now are the beautiful workshop room and big crowd in Atherton, the teeming rain and sugarcane fields of Innisfail – my ancestral home, lovely Tenielle in Georgetown who gave me a kinesiology treatment during our one on one workshop, meeting published author and Karumba local, Sylvia, who first arrived in this wild outstation in 1971 with three children in a caravan when the nearest drinking water was a three hour drive to Normanton, the unexpected beauty of the rock formations in Cloncurry, Porcupine Gorge, the warmth of my welcome in Hughenden (thank you to outstanding librarian and pillar of the community Mim), and coming full circle to familiar faces in Townsville. 

Cloncurry sunset

In each workshop I wrote along with participants and now have a pile of scribbled stories about moments of joy, bad things that turned out to be good things, and hard times in my life transformed into fairy tales with satisfyingly magical endings. Here’s one of my favourites: a moment of joy in Normanton.

Norman River from the pontoon

IN NORMANTON

The Norman River, wide and milky green, swayed the pontoon under my feet. I spread my arms wide, the cool morning air tempering the heat of the sun rapidly rising, soft and warm on my skin. Across the way campers sat on the banks with cups up tea but I felt alone with this wild world, the scent of salt and grass, rich and clean.

I breathed deep filling my body with the energy of this place. I thanked the people of this land, who’d loved it and kept it holy for so long. Birds called and my breath drew deep.

Later, as I waited outside the hall, an old, very black man in a cowboy hat and nylon picture shirt walked by. I smiled and said, “Good morning.”

He smiled back, his teeth white-yellow in his shining face. “You are welcome here,” he said, and my heart swelled. I was welcome. Welcomed by someone whose home this was, who had roots deeper than the oldest trees, connected to place.

“Thank you, Uncle,” I said. And my day was already perfect.

Porcupine Gorge

With thanks and respect to all the traditional owners of the places we visited, the Indigenous nations of far north and far west Queensland.

If you like the photos here, check out my Instagram account for lots more (I went a bit snap happy).

A great big hello to my new writing friends from my travels.

Write like furies people! Set that timer and go go go!

With lots of love,

Edwina xx

Magical Magnetic Island Mermaids!

RELAX AND WRITE IN PARADISE RUNDOWN!

Edwina Shaw

Sunset at Horseshoe Bay

Greetings from paradise! I’ve been having a wonderful time on Magnetic Island with my magical mermaid retreaters over the weekend.

Eight wonderful women writers in a beautiful location. Yoga in the mornings. Writing workshops through the day and lots of feasting and fun in between.

The sun came out for us, and we made the most of it with outdoor sessions and a picnic. Warm enough to swim.

Magda had us all entertained with tales from a life in shearing sheds, Kerstin shared parts of her memoir in process, young talents Bianca and Eliza wowed us with their writing, Julie rugged up and had a great time remembering she loved to write, Annie had us all laughing, and Sitara our tree-warrior made us think about how important our leafy friends are. Poor Antoinette came down with a dreadful tummy bug but luckily was back in action…

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