RELAX AND WRITE IN PARADISE JUNE 2021!

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.

Don’t miss out on this luxury retreat at bargain prices. Contact me now to secure your place!

I am so looking forward to getting up to Magnetic Island and relaxing after the craziness of the last year and a bit. YAY! Not long now. 

Early bird prices end tomorrow! DON’T DELAY! You can secure your place with a deposit and pay the rest later. 

Hope you can make it 🙂

Lots of love

Edwina xx

DROWNING IN DETAIL. Managing research in your stories.

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? 

Let me know if you have any questions.

Lots of love

Edwina xxx

PERFECT WEATHER FOR WRITERS AND DUCKS! THE RAINY RETREAT.

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.

Sue, Antoinette and Janine hard at work!
Kim, Jill, Bianca, Mary and Joanne at a workshop

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.

  1. Relax and Write in Paradise – tropical MAGNETIC ISLAND – North Queensland, JUNE 25 – 27 2021 Character and Dialogue, narrative techniques focus
  2. Relax and Write in the Mountains – HIGHFIELDS – near Toowoomba west of Brisbane OCTOBER 22 – 24 Life Writing – memoir/autobiographical fiction/ new writer focus
  3. 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. 

Lots of love

Edwina xxx

THE GIFTS OF GRIEF

Grief is like births in many ways. The first is usually the hardest.

By the time I’d lost the third member of my immediate family, I knew what to expect. It didn’t make the pain any less, or the process any easier.

I learnt a lot though. Everything I’ve learnt about grief, how it works and how you can help yourself feel even a little bit better, I’ve put into my book – A Guide Through Grief – First Aid for Your Heart and Soul.

A few years ago I had a piece from it published through UPLIFT CONNECT.

The Gifts of Grief. You can read it HERE

Because grief is a gift. A terrible, awful gift we are all given at some point in our lives.

I hope my stories bring you comfort.

If you live in Brisbane come along to my MOVING THROUGH GRIEF workshop this Sunday 22 November at the Relaxation Centre in Alderley. Only $25!

Whether you’re grieving the loss of a person, a dog, a job, a marriage, or if you’re just struggling to stay afloat during this crazy mess of a year, this workshop will help.

Lots of love,

Edwina

FEEDBACK AND REVISION RETREAT IN SPRINGBROOK!

Planning to write up a storm for NANOWRIMO? Not sure what to do next?

RELAX AND WRITE RETREATS are thrilled to announce a special Feedback and Revision Retreat at SPRINGBROOK!

Nearby swimming hole!

Super boost your writing this December at this special retreat in Springbrook at the Theosophical Society’s Education and Retreat Centre.

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

Dinner time feasting with fabulous folk!

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. 

Small groups ensure personal attention

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.

Single $450

OR Pay your $200 deposit before 31 October 2020 for EARLY BIRD  $420

Plus optional $50 extra for editorial feedback on your synopsis and first 10 pages from Edwina

Contact me first to ensure availability 🙂

Here’s the RETREAT PROGRAM.

 All activities are optional

FRIDAY 11 DECEMBER

ARRIVAL from 3 pm – get settled and get writing

5:30 pm – Meet and Greet  

6:30 –  DINNER

7:15 – 8:30 WORKSHOP 1– Finding the heart of your story. What is your story’s central quest/question?

SATURDAY 12 DECEMBER

7am – 8:30 –YOGA  

8:30 – BREAKFAST

10:30am – 1 pm – WORKSHOP 2 – Structuring for success. Scene lists, suspense and more

1 pm – LUNCH followed by FEEDBACK GROUPS OR INDIVIDUAL WRITING TIME

6:00 pm – Gentle stretches and deep relaxation 

Deeply relaxed!

6:30pm – DINNER

7:15– 8:30 pm – DANCING

SUNDAY 13 DECEMBER

7am – 8:30am –YOGA

8:30 – BREAKFAST

10:30 – 12:30 – WORKSHOP 3 –Publishing pathways, pitching and proposals, bios, your writing CV – collage

12:30 – LUNCH

2 pm DEPARTURES

All times not indicated are for supervised or solitary writing time and/or individual feedback sessions with Edwina or in your small groups, and/or exploring, massages and sleeping!

FEEDBACK DETAILS – email Edwina your first 10 pages plus your synopsis at least 2 weeks prior to retreat

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

We always have a wonderful time!

Happy Retreaters 🙂

Contact me with any questions or if you’d like more info about this or other retreats. More retreats coming in 2021!

Lots of love

Edwina

CRAFTING WORDS WORKSHOP SEPTEMBER 20 AVID READER

WRITING YOUR WAY INTO A STORY WORKSHOP AT AVID READER

SEPTEMBER 20 2020 10 am – 1 pm

I’m thrilled to announce my first Avid Reader workshop. Avid Reader is my fabulous local bookstore that is the beating heart of West End where I live. The wonderful Fiona Stager and her team of writer-booksellers have created a lively writing community and a bookstore full of the very best of Australian and International writing.

Not only that, they do a great job supporting local writers as well, with a number of us launching our books in store. Or through them virtually now Covid has made things tricky.

Launching Raymond Evan’s poetry collection last year.

Join me at this Zoom workshop where we will use yoga techniques to free our imaginations and write our way into and through a story!

Get into the heart and body of your characters and learn how to shape plot from character goals, traits and failings. Filled with all my best hints and tips, this is a workshop you’ll leave inspired with the beginnings of a story, if not a full first draft.

I’d love to see you! Let me help you get rid of that critical voice. Get all your writing questions together and ask away.

Let’s get writing!

Creative Writing and the Forgotten Australians

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These children were starving and abused, told they were rubbish

I’ve been working with Forgotten Australians – those who suffered institutional and/or out of home care as children – for several years here in Brisbane. But earlier this year, before COVID kept us all inside, I toured around my home state of QLD with program manager, Katie McGuire, facilitating workshops in regional centres.

As with all of my work with these extraordinary survivors, I was blown away by their stories and their resilience and willingness to try everything I threw at them.

We called our workshops The Healing Power of Story and part way through our travels were interviewed by local ABC media.

Here is the article they wrote if you’d like to learn more about Forgotten Australians and the work I’ve been doing with them.

It is a great privilege to be able to contribute even a little towards helping these incredible people heal the pain of their traumatic pasts. As I say in the interview, once I met them, there was no way I could ever leave them.

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They were trained to be domestic servants or labourers and given very little formal education

People like the Forgotten Australians exist in every community. Here in Australia they have been recognised and services like Lotus Place are now available to them, but in many countries this is not yet the case.

Being with them has taught me to never, ever, walk past a homeless person without a smile and a hello. To never judge a book by its cover and to always listen and wait for a story to unfold. You never know what hell a person has been through.

And yet they’ve managed to come through with wide open hearts and great kindness of spirit.

READ THE ARTICLE HERE

Lotus Place and other similar organisations are always looking for volunteers to help out with programs like these, so do get in touch if you’d like to contribute.

Lots of love

Edwina xx

HOW TO WRITE A SCENE IN 6 EASY STEPS

 

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Are you stuck in telling mode and don’t really know how to make the radical leap into writing scenes? Telling is easy, we tell people our stories every day when we get home. However, you’ll notice that gifted story tellers, those we love to hear stories from, paint a picture with their words. They include setting details and dialogue and make us feel as if we were really there too. That’s the trick when we move from TELLING to SHOWING.

Our job as writers is to make our readers feel as if the story is real, happening in real time, that they are experiencing it. When we bring our stories to life with setting details, action and dialogue, we make our stories feel as real as possible.

But how do you write a scene?

It’s really not that tricky.

Start by writing your first draft of your whole story – don’t worry whether you’re telling or showing. Go for it, tell as much as you like, just get those words and basic story ideas down onto the page. Create your big baggy first draft to sculpt your finished story from.

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Groundbreaking artist – Augusta Savage

Then once you’ve had a chance to separate from the story a bit, go back and find places within that big baggy draft where you were telling rather than showing. Or if your whole piece is stuck in telling mode, then find a key turning point in the action or an interaction between characters that feels important and get ready to turn it into a scene.

ARE YOU READY?

Let’s do it!

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First, spend a few minutes with your eyes closed envisioning the scene as if it’s on a movie scene, taking note of how it’s all unfolding as if you’re the camera.

Think about each character in the scene. What does each one want from this scene? Each character wants different things, so thinking about this early will help you build conflict.

Think about the conflict in your scene. If there isn’t any, there should be, so dream up some point of difference to generate more energy and forward motion.

Now write your scene.

6 EASY STEPS

  1. Where is it taking place? This is your setting and it’s important to ground your reader in that setting at the opening of your scene. Find a few specific sensory details that give us a good idea of where and when we are, and perhaps even demonstrate an aspect of your character, or the mood of the scene, or both.

For example: It had rained all night that summer of 1852 as The Enforcer wound its way between the outer islands of New Guinea.

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  1. Who is there? Your characters, that’s who! Now show your character or characters doing something in that setting, preferably doing something that demonstrates who they are and what they want from this scene.

Example: Fred the cabin boy clung to the ropes as he climbed up the rigging to the crows-nest, cursing the captain under his breath for sending him up.

  1. What is going on? What action is taking place? How is this scene furthering your plot? Remember that ACTing is the main job of a charACTer.

Example: From the lookout Fred saw the sun’s glow leaking out under mounds of cloud. They were steering perilously close to a storm with all sails flying. The captain was a madman. A wave crashed against the merchant ship and almost sent Fred flying, but he grabbed hold of the mast as it swung and lurched, creaking.

  1. Add some dialogue. Some folk find writing dialogue very tricky. My best advice is to just write any old blather that comes into your head and then later edit it down to be as minimal as it can be while retaining meaning. Make sure your characters speak at cross-purposes, all following their own agendas.

Example: Fred called down to the captain at the wheel, “Storm ahead! Pull in the rigging?”

“You giving orders now? I’ll have your hide. Just keep your eyes out for rocks boy!” the captain roared up.

“But the storm!”

“No storm’s ever stopped me.” The captain turned the wheel hard left, heading straight for the black-bellied clouds.

  1. End the scene on a cliffhanger. Don’t tie up all the ends but leave the reader still needing to find something out. For example, I wouldn’t show the ship reaching the storm in this scene, only that Fred was very worried and in danger.

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  1. Follow with a scene not immediately answering that question. For example, to increase suspense, instead of going straight to the ship in the storm scene, I’d perhaps do a flashback scene of Fred being punished by the captain earlier, wrongly accused of stealing bread. Rations are low. So not only is there a storm coming but we know the captain and Fred have a troubled history, and not only that, the ship’s rations are dangerously low.

Following those 6 easy steps should set you on your way to writing in scenes. Use all your senses, make sure your characters are DOING not just THINKING, add dialogue and build suspense.

I hope my ideas have helped demystify writing in scenes for you. Let me know how you go.

GOOD LUCK!

Lots of love

Edwina xx

THE IMPORTANCE OF GROUNDING YOUR READER

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What does it mean to ground your reader?

It means you should give your reader enough clues at the start of a story or scene so that they can imagine the setting and protagonist.

Many of my students start straight into the action of their stories, leaving such things as the name, sex and age of the protagonist and where the action is taking place, a mystery. They say they like to reveal these things as the story goes on.

However, while this may work in film when the audience can see a character and setting in action, readers of prose are left scrambling in a dark void, trying to find something, anything, to base their experience of the story upon.

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The writer has a clear image of the scene in her mind. The writer knows where and when and who, but the reader can’t find a way into the story unless the writer shares some of this knowledge.

You can still keep many aspects of your story mysterious, but please, let the reader in on the essentials.

Where are we? When?

Who are we with? Name them.

What’s going on?

Why – you can let that unfold more slowly.

For instance, instead of

She rolled over.

“Get up!” a strange voice said.

She got up and ran as fast as she could in the other direction.

By just filling in a few important details you could have:

Rosemary rolled over in a pile of leaves, deep in the forest. She had no idea how she’d got there, but she recognised the forest as the place her grandmother took her to collect mushrooms in Autumn.

“Get up!” a strange man’s voice said from behind her.

Rosemary bolted upright and leapt to her feet, running as fast as she could away from the voice, along the secret paths her grandmother had shown her.

The mystery of how and why Rosemary has found herself in the forest, and who the stranger is, are still intact. But in the second example the reader can envisage the scene. Not only that, we have an idea how old she is, younger rather than older, and we are more likely to care about her because she has a relationship with her grandmother.

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Because all readings are subjective, with the reader imposing her own world view on the story world the author created, the forest may not be exactly the same as the writer envisaged, but the reader has somewhere to place the action, a protagonist to relate to, and is much more likely to keep on reading.

It only takes a line or two to fill in those important specific details to give the reader enough clues to enter your story world at the beginning of your story.

You’ll need to do the same work of grounding when you start a new scene as well. This can be as simple as, Three long years later… Or … Back at the busy cafe Fred stood in the line for coffee.
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It only takes a few telling details to set up your story world and protagonist in time and place so your reader isn’t left flailing in the dark, struggling to find a way in.

 

Yes it’s a writers job to keep secrets from the reader and reveal them slowly to keep the reader hooked, but some things, like who the protagonist is and where the story is set, are essential to establish right at the start so that the reader can even begin to enter your story world.

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Hope that helps!

Take care and keep smiling. Remember writers need never be bored stuck at home, there’s always more stories to write.

Now get writing 🙂

Lots of love

Edwina xx

 

 

 

CHOP CHAT COOK – Videos with writing advice and chia pudding recipes!

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As the world spins ever deeper into COVID 19 madness (have you got enough toilet paper?) and lockdowns, grab a cup of tea and some chia seeds and have a look at these videos.

Recently my friend, screenwriter and producer Joanne Tindale, invited me to be on her fab cooking and chat show – CHOP CHAT COOK

What fun!! We made chocolate chia pudding and a coconut blueberry chia pudding, as well as talking about lots of different aspects of the writing life. We had a great time making (and eating) the puddings and we cover lots of different hints and tips for people pursuing a career as a writer.

1.

Income Streams in the Gig Economy or Many Fingers Many Pies : )

As every creative artist trying to make a living knows – you can’t put all your eggs in one basket. In this episode I talk about all the different ways I generate an income from writing and writing related activities.

2.

The Healing Power of Story

Over the past few months I’ve been travelling to regional centres across my home state of Queensland running creative writing workshops for Forgotten Australians – people who suffered abuse in institutions and out of home care in their childhoods. I talk with Joanne about why and how this came about and my firm belief in the transformative power of getting your stories out of your head and onto the page – and changing them!

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3.

Career Paths to Writing – or how to build your career as a writer.

In this episode we talk about how to build your writing CV and begin to establish yourself as a professional author. Including my 10 POINT PLAN for publishing success.

And just to put a smile on your face- while I’m on a Youtube binge – here’s KC and the Sunshine Band. Get Down Tonight! 

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Come on, get up and dance – shake away the COVID 19 blues!

Stay healthy and strong and write your way through lockdown : )

Lots of love,

Edwina xxx