Put yourself in this picture! Escape the winter blues and join me and other like-minded women writers on beautiful Magnetic Island, off the coast from Townsville in North Queensland.
As the world continues to roll with the punches of Covid-19 (who else is feeling a little bruised?), there are still places of retreat and recovery where creativity is valued and time slows down to let you settle deeply into your writing, and yourself.
Come along and join the fun at RELAX AND WRITE IN PARADISE June 25 – 27 2021.
At Amaroo on Mandalay! Yes, a resort! No bunk beds here, but studio apartments with their own kitchenettes and bathrooms, singles, or bigger rooms for those who bring along a writing buddy.
Is your creative spirit crying out from some TLC? It’s been a crazy year, take some time out to cherish yourself and refill your tank.
Join a wonderful supportive group of women in a fun and safe 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 yoga sessions, dance night and four creative writing workshops. Whether you’re writing memoir, fiction or screenplays, these sessions cover the basics of character, dialogue and story development, as well as advice on editing and submitting your work. Two nights comfortable, airconditioned accommodation plus delicious vegetarian breakfasts and dinners are all included in the cost.
PRICES START at only $550 twin share!
Come along and join the fun, make new writing buddies and renew your love of writing. Contact me for more info and bookings.
HURRY! Repeat retreaters – or mermaids as they’re better known – have already snapped up a lot of spaces. Places are limited to a maximum of 15, so you get plenty of attention for your projects.
Whether you’re researching historical details for your fiction, or using your own journals for a memoir, there’s a danger that your story will be swallowed by all the information that you’ve uncovered.
It’s exciting to discover or remember the world you’re writing about, but our job as writers is to figure out which of the multitudinous details we find are the perfect fit for our story.
Researching a place or a period of time can be fascinating, I know. I’ve fallen into that rabbit hole many a time. Hours, days, weeks of writing time can be lost as the lure of ever more information tempts us on until we have a mountain of facts that obscure the shape of our story.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to do this research (though maybe not quite to the extent I’ve done sometimes). We need to understand the world our characters live in. However, we really don’t need to include every little thing we’ve learnt about that world in the story.
Instead, the knowledge we’ve gathered acts as an informed backdrop to the actions and choices of our characters. If we fall too much in love with all the quirky facts, they can drown out the voices of our characters and kill our story.
The discovery of long forgotten diaries, either your own or a relative’s, is indeed a treasure trove for a writer. But again, fascinating as it all is, not all of those day-to-day details are worthy of being included in a memoir or fiction piece based on them. We really don’t need to know what time you woke up or what you had for breakfast or what you did at work. Unless that workday or breakfast includes a major event that has emotional import, most of this daily grind can be omitted without doing a disservice to your ancestor, or your previous self.
My best advice with managing research, whether personal, historical or geographical, is to spend a week or two reading everything you can get your hands on, immersing yourself in the world you want to write about. But then –
Put that research aside. You can make notes about big moments or life/historical events that will help to shape your story, but apart from that rely only upon your memory once you start writing. Your brain will have absorbed the world and the feeling of the story world, but not all those facts that are irrelevant. Focus on your plot and characters and write your heart out, all the way to the end.
If you hit a section where you just HAVE to check an historical detail, resist as much as you can. Highlight the sentence or make a note for yourself on the manuscript about the question but be strong and keep focused on the story. Otherwise, you run the risk of being sucked into the vortex of research and losing your momentum.
KEEP WRITING until you type “The End.” Then during your second draft you can check on all those bits you weren’t sure about and find interesting specific details that enhance your story perfectly without overwhelming the reader with an overload of unnecessary facts.
Research is there to provide a backdrop, not take centre stage. Don’t let it hijack your story!
Hope that helps! Have you been sucked into a vortex of research?
I’ve just finished reading Henry Handel (or as I like to call her Ettie) Richardson’s memoir, Myself When Young.
I’ve been a fussy reader lately, picking up the latest literary best sellers, then putting them down again, unfinished. This though, I read all the way to the end.
Even though H.H. died before she’d completed the manuscript, her notes and her husband’s jottings were used to flesh out the final section. I found it a fascinating read, not only because it gave us a woman’s perspective of Australia in the late 19th century, but also because her writing is such a pleasure to read. Clean and clear. Her voice carried me through, even without a plot driving the story forward. Even though she was writing almost one hundred years ago.
Her life wasn’t easy. Her father died young and the family struggled, despite their middle-class privilege. But she knew this:
“To a writer, experience was the only thing that really mattered. Hard and bitter as it might seem, it was to be welcomed rather than shrunk from, reckoned as a gain and not a loss.”
H. H. Richardson
I’ve been telling myself and my writing students the same thing for a long time now. As creative artists, all the shitty stuff that happens to us has value. It is the gold we mine for our stories. And a wonderful way to find a way to be grateful for the traumas in our life.
EVERYTHING IS MATERIAL!
Every experience is be relished. Treasured even, no matter how painful. Because it all increases our depth of understanding of the human experience and that is what writers need, more than any fancy turn of phrase, or fast-paced plot. Because we write to make sense of what it is to live in the world, of what is is to live a human life.
The more we live, in all the pain and muck and glory, the better our writing will be.
Thank you, dear Ettie, for your words and for your wisdom.
And rain it did! Over 500 mls overnight on the Saturday of our retreat in beautiful Springbrook. Rain thundered down and ran in small rivers through the camp, but we all stayed nice and dry, writing in our cosy nun rooms.
It was cold too! After sweltering in Brisbane for the past few weeks, hiding out in air-conditioning wherever we could find it, suddenly we were wearing our winter gear and I was loaning out jumpers and hoodies to people who didn’t believe it would really be that cold! What a treat it was to be somewhere cold and rainy at the start of our long hot sub-tropical summer. And as all writers know – nothing’s better than a rainy day for writing! And write we did.
Our biggest camp yet with a full house of fifteen writing women across all genres and stages of experience, bonding over a shared loved of words and making sense of life through story. Feedback groups were formed and new writing buddies found. The magic of retreats working again. It makes my heart sing every time, watching new friendships form and the wonderful collaborations and joy that comes from sharing your work and ideas. Everyone contributes a unique piece to the puzzle of what makes a retreat so much fun.
What a wonderful bunch! This time we self catered as well with our amazing chief cookie Gay Liddington (repeat retreater, memoir writer and poet) cooking up a storm with Bianca and Kathy both chipping in to make sure the starving hordes were well- fed. Choc-chia pudding anyone?
As usual we feasted, wrote heaps, learnt some new tricks, collaborated, did some yoga and danced our little hearts on on Saturday night. This camp was DISCO! And again my personal camp highlight was the dancing – splendid Sue leading us all in Nutbush City Limits!
I was too busy dancing my heart out to get any happy snaps of the dancing – let’s just say we all looked fabulous and not at all dishevelled or sweaty. One thing’s for sure — we all had smiles a mile wide.
The weather was really pretty extreme, we may have got our socks wet and had to run around a lot packing up (thank you everyone who chipped in and made it so much easier) and driving down from the mountain littered with forest debris was a bit scary, but we did it together and really, it just added to the fun.
All the best adventures involve an element of risk!
I love running these retreats. Sure I may come home and lie flat out on the rug for a few days recovering, but I wouldn’t swap the joy of bringing women together to share stories for anything.
Three retreats are planned for next year.
Relax and Write in Paradise – tropical MAGNETIC ISLAND – North Queensland, JUNE 25 – 27 2021 Character and Dialogue, narrative techniques focus
Relax and Write in the Mountains – HIGHFIELDS – near Toowoomba west of Brisbane OCTOBER 22 – 24 Life Writing – memoir/autobiographical fiction/ new writer focus
Relax and Write Feedback and Revision Retreat – SPRINGBROOK – Gold Coast Hinterland DATE TBC Structure, self-editing, redrafting and the business of writing focus
All camps are as affordable as I can make them to ensure everybody has a chance to come. $200 deposit will secure your spot at any retreat. Spaces are strictly limited to 15 so book in early to avoid disappointment.
Contact me for more info or to book a spot. Hurry – Magnetic Island is filling fast!
THANK YOU to all the wonderful women who make these retreats such a joy. And a special big thank you to Kathy Ewers for the fabulous photographs.
Trees as big and beautiful as this one start as seeds. Stories start from seeds too.
Here are some story seeds to plant in the garden of your imagination or memories.
These prompts can be used for both memoir pieces and fiction. For fiction just invent situations for a character, not yourself.
A moment of joy. Big or small. Where were you? What was happening? Use all five senses to describe what was going on. Go into your body – how does the emotion of joy feel in your body? What happened just before this? What happened just after?
2. Shame. Not for the faint-hearted but great story material. A moment of shame, maybe one you’ve carried a long time. Get it out of your head and onto the page – or give it to a fictional character.
3. The biggest lie you’ve ever told and why. Again you can write from your own life or give it to a character.
4. The best decision you’ve ever made. Why was this decision so important? Great stories are born from these moments that change us.
5. An oxygen mask moment (or light bulb moment). A point in your life when you suddenly felt like you’d had a blast of oxygen, or a light had been turned on and you saw the situation you were in clearly for the first time.
6. A piece of clothing from childhood. This could be something you wore, (like my favourite Donald Duck T-shirt that I wore until it was in shreds and my mother threw it out), or a piece of clothing someone else wore. What story does it have to tell. Why do you remember it?
7. A smell you love, a smell you hate. Smell can open all sorts of doors. What story of yours starts with a smell?
8. Witnessing an act of small cruelty. Once, when I was living in Singapore, I saw a harried young businesswoman dragging her screaming five year old across the street, screeching at her, “After all I’ve sacrificed for you!”. It’s stuck with me all this time. A teacher at school? A mean girl at a party? Start there and see where it takes you.
9. A found object. Next time you’re on a walk, keep your eyes open for something. Anything. A scrap of paper with a few words on it. A rock. A piece of rubbish. A leaf or a feather. What story starts here?
10. Rewrite a favourite religious story or myth, updated to present day.
Now set a timer for ten minutes and write like a fury. Don’t stop for anything. If your pen breaks, write with your fingertip. Find your momentum and just keep going. If you’re still going when the timer goes off, ignore it!
WOOHOO! Well that last retreat was just about the best fun you can have in the woods. As usual, the magic of a group of women coming together began as soon as we arrived, with everyone chipping in to help set up and show newbies around. My favourite moment from the first night was when, after the first pair of writers who’d met at a previous retreat introduced each other as “my friend”, the rest of the group did exactly the same. Even people who’d only just met fifteen minutes earlier. So right from the start we were a group of friends.
Our bunk bed cubby houses worked perfectly and everyone had plenty of room to spread out and much needed privacy. Not that most of us spent much time sleeping.
I’ve never seen such a group of avid writers, staying up into…
Whether you’re aiming to get stuck into your writing, or if you have a manuscript almost done, this is the retreat for you!
3 pm FRIDAY 11 to 2 pm SUNDAY 13 December 2020
Connect with like-minded women in a beautiful location, be inspired by practical and informative workshops, stretch and relax with yoga and release your inner-goddess dancing under the stars.
This retreat is tailored for those who have a major project underway and who are looking for some feedback and advice on the redrafting process. Share your work with other writers at a similar stage and pay slightly more to receive individual editorial feedback on your writing and advice as to how best to move forward with your project.
Workshops focus on finding the heart of your story, structuring for success and publication pathways.
Also joining us is fabulous masseuse, Janine Maegaard, to help ease those writing-induced aches and pains. Extra cost.
The program includes two yoga sessions, dance night and three creative writing workshops.
Two nights basic but comfortable accommodation plus all meals are included in the cost.
FROM ONLY $420 all inclusive, for a room of your own.
COST for the weekend of writing, fun and feasting, including accommodation, all meals, 3 yoga sessions, 3 creative writing workshops and a dance night. Transport not included.
A wise writer once said that grief is the primary impetus for writing. It is certainly what forced me to sit down and bring the stories out of my head onto the page back when I started writing in 2002.
Through writing out the pain of my losses I began to heal.
By reimagining the circumstances and outcomes of my losses, I was able to glimpse another way of being.
By helping others to write out the pain of their hearts, my own heart began to mend.
We write to bear witness to our own pain, to leave a mark for those we love who didn’t have the time or inclination or the power to make their own. As writers we have the power to do all this.
We can free ourselves from the endless reruns of traumatic moments in our lives by recording them on the page. But even more than this, by applying the magic of the imagination to the unchangeable facts of our losses, we can transform those stories into meaning. We can create hope and joy where perhaps none existed.
Better yet, the power of the imagination is so strong that the brain, after a while, can no longer differentiate between memories and our imaginings so our gentler, kinder, more hopefully imaginings begin to temper the trauma of the truth.
I have always written to search out or create meaning from the losses in my life. And it has worked. I write my way into being. I write my way through emotions I can’t understand. By finding the right words, by giving my story structure and form, by giving my pain to imagined characters, I am able to leave behind my attachment to these stories of loss.
I am able to create beauty from what had previous only felt like ugliness.
So write! Write out your pain. Reimagine the stories you tell yourself and transform them. Create beauty from the darkness.
That is our power as writers.
“To see that your life is a story while you’re in the middle of living it may be a help to living it well.”
If you’d like a hard copy here in Australia just CONTACT ME and I’ll send you one. Soon you’ll be able to purchase directly from my website.
“Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the self-same well from which your laughter rises is oftentimes filled with tears. And how else can it be? The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy it can contain.”