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

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

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

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