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.”
These can be tricky to write – especially with the strict word limit of 100 words. They’re different from a synopsis where you need to tell the whole story and reveal secrets. A blurb sets up all the questions and leaves them unanswered.
You don’t need to have written the book to enter this competition but if you come up with a great idea trying to think of a captivating blurb then I highly recommend you get writing it!
Have a go! Fascinating characters in an untenable situation that just keeps on getting worse. Go on, you can do it 🙂
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.
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.
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
From 2pm FRIDAY 23 OCTOBER – 2 pm 25 OCTOBER 2020
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 to help move those stories out of your head and onto the page.
“I feel transformed, as a writer and as a human being.”
The program includes two yoga sessions, four inspiring writing workshops covering the basics, plus advice on editing and submitting your work. Two nights basic dorm accommodation plus delicious vegetarian meals, morning and afternoon teas and a special dance night are included.
“The fully-catered retreat environment was comfortable and stress-free. Edwina and her team create an atmosphere that encourages, motivates and inspires.”
Connect with other creative women in a beautiful, peaceful location, be inspired by practical, informative workshops, stretch and relax with yoga and release your inner-goddess dancing under the stars. No more putting your dreams on hold. Treat yourself to this special weekend nurturing your writing spirit. You deserve it!
RETREAT PROGRAM All activities are optional
FRIDAY 23 OCTOBER 2020
ARRIVAL from 3 pm
5 pm – Meet and Greet
6:00 – DINNER
6:45 – 8:30 WORKSHOP 1– Your Stories
SATURDAY 24 OCTOBER
7:15am – 8:30 – Gentle morning yoga and breathing
8:30 – BREAKFAST
10:00am – 12:30 pm – WORKSHOP 2 – Writing from start to finish – developing a plot and a plan
12.30 pm – LUNCH
1 – 4:00 – FREETIME and FEEDBACK SESSIONS
4 – 6:00 pm – WORKSHOP 3 – Character and Dialogue
6:00 pm – DINNER
7:00– 8:30 pm – DANCING and chatting around the bonfire
SUNDAY 25 OCTOBER
7:15 – 8:30am – Gentle morning yoga and breathing
8:30 – BREAKFAST
10:00 – 12:30 – WORKSHOP 4 – Where and how to submit work, goal setting, questions and collage
12:30 – LUNCH
1:30- 2pm DEPARTURES
Editorial feedback sessions with Edwina available on request $50 extra for those needing advice on a project.
FEEDBACK DETAILS – email Edwina your first 10 pages plus your synopsis at least 2 weeks prior to retreat for full edit/advice plus 20 minutes meeting time. Massages will also be available at extra cost.
COST for the weekend of writing, fun and feasting, including accommodation, all meals, 2 yoga sessions, 4 creative writing workshops and a dance night. Transport not included.
$400 all inclusive!
EARLY BIRD $360 -Pay $200 deposit before 31 AUGUST 2020
These are the important questions, writer and teacher of writing, Robin Hemley gets writers of memoir and non-fiction to ask themselves. Seven times. Each.
So, what is your story about? What is it really about? Write your way down to find the hidden depths and themes of your work. It’s not just for non-fiction writers either, fiction writers benefit from exactly the same process. If you ever get the editorial comment, “Go deeper”, you need to ask yourself these questions and delve into the emotional and spiritual heart of your story.
You can try doing this before you’ve written a first draft but for me it always works best once that crappy first draft is on the page.
Amanda Lohrey, esteemed Australian author, who I was lucky enough to have as an advisor for my Masters Degree in Creative Writing at the University of Queensland, calls this initial stage of writing, that shitty but all important first draft, EXCAVATING. And that’s just what we’re doing, digging around, digging deeper and wider, throwing everything in until somewhere along the line, maybe two or three drafts later, we strike gold. But we can’t find that gold until we do the messy work of delving deep.
For me this process works best if I sit and focus first, clear my mind and send that troublesome inner-critic from the room. See my guided meditation on how to do this. Once you’re centred and settled, tune into your body and the emotions that are stirring and wanting to be expressed in your story. Sit with that story or scene or section, FEEL it, then plunge into a big free write around it. Throw in everything that floats to the top of your consciousness. Anything. Everything. Write fast and furiously until you have exhausted the topic.
Usually I’m a big believer in less is more, but in this case more and more and more is better. Sometimes there’s a whole mountain of scrap metal, rocks and dirt that has to be cleared away before you strike that shining vein of gold.
Write your way deeper and deeper, right around it and through it and you’ll eventually find your gems. Then you extract your precious jewels from all the detritus and insert only the very best, polished stones into your story.
Don’t worry about all those wasted words. I keep files of offcuts, just to soothe my anxious self, and though most of the time all that trash stays in the trash, sometimes I fossick out another hidden gem to use in a different story.
Are you shying away from the emotional heart of your story? Don’t. Dig deep. Mine your body and life for feelings and meaning and allow them space in your writing.
After all, what are we writing for? I don’t know about you, but I write to move people. To make them feel something. To give them a chance to walk in someone else’s shoes. As writers we have the greatest tool for spreading compassion at our fingertips. Through story we get as close as is humanly possible to the world experience, life, and heart of another human.
That is a great gift.
Don’t be afraid to write your heart onto the page. It is what creates connection. And in these challenging times, we need connection more than ever.
So, what is your story about? What is it really about?
Earlier this year Matthew Wengert – publisher at AndAlso Books who published Bjelke Blues last year – approached me about co-editing a collection of stories about the COVID crisis. So, along with Caroline Gardam, Louise Martin-Chew and Nathan Shepherdson, I put up my hand to help out. This collection of over 50 short stories, essays, poems and memoir pieces reflecting Australia’s early experiences with the pandemic, is the result.
Wendall’s main message was this – Structure your plot through character decisions.
As we know the very best plots spring from the intrinsic motivations and flaws of our characters. Their goals, hopes and weaknesses create meaningful plotlines that are compelling because we are invested in the characters. Alternatively, plots that are imposed on characters can feel contrived and don’t have the same emotional drive that keeps us reading.
According to Wendall, each decision has three elements.
MOTIVATION – what situation/idea/goal/event forces a decision upon this character?
DECISION – what choice do they make in response to that motivating factor?
CONSEQUENCES – what events does the characters decision set in motion?
These elements remind me of my days teaching kids with behaviour disorders in juvenile justice centres. On every wall were posters proclaiming a very similar process to get them to reflect before they took rash actions that could potentially land them in even deeper trouble. STOP. THINK. OPTIONS. CONSEQUENCES. ACTION.
A character has to act not just react. This process of shaping the plot through their decisions forces them to take active responsibility and turns a sappy passive protagonist into a vital force in your story, novel or screenplay.
In all forms it’s important to transform these internal decisions into external actions. To not just say, Bobby realised that killing the cat would get him in trouble, but to show Bobby, swinging the cat by the tail until it shrieked, but then stopping, holding the cat to his chest, wrenching its face up to look in its eyes, then setting it free.
Each decision has its consequences. Some good, some bad. As Wendall kept saying – every decision takes your character one step forward and then two steps back.
Let’s just say Bobby made that decision to set the cat free, but it was wounded and someone had already seen him with it. When it limped home, the owners called the police and Bobby was arrested. As the police approach him Bobby starts throwing punches, swearing and reacting as he’s always done, but one of the officers speaks kindly to him and Bobby thinks better of it and calms down. Goes with them peacefully.
After the inciting incident that sets up our story, the protagonist must decide whether or not to take up the challenge it presents. Once they do, they are propelled into the second act and continue to make decisions that move them one step forward and two steps back all the way through to the climax. Some decisions seem sensible, but others, motivated perhaps by their fatal flaw or a deep-seated weakness, we know from the start are only going to make things worse, much worse.
At the watchhouse, Bobby is taken aside by a corrupt officer who tells him he’ll let him go if he becomes an informer and feeds him information about the drug running bikie gang Bobby’s violent uncle heads. Bobby shakes the corrupt officer’s hand, puts the cash in his pocket and we know things are only going to get a whole lot worse from here.
So remember, MOTIVATION, DECISION, CONSEQUENCES and show us those decisions in ACTIONS that manifest the characters feelings and realisations.
As we hurtle towards the climax of our stories, propelled by decisions that really aren’t going so well, the decisions become increasingly reckless as the character is put under more and more pressure. Consequences get more and more dangerous.
Let’s say after informing a couple of times, Bobby sees Uncle Roger stash a couple of gym bags full of cash under the house before he heads out on his Harley. Bobby gets his phone and clicks on the police officer’s number. But then, just as the officer answers, Bobby shoves the phone back in his pocket, and scrambles under the house, emerging with a bag full of cash.
Then he turns up at his young girlfriend’s place and tells her to pack a bag. They’re both heading off down the street when the cat he hurt crosses their path. His girlfriend stops to pat it and they waste precious time. The bikie gang roars around the corner.
Decisions that your character makes early on in the story manifest themselves in consequences in the final act. Bobby’s decision to become an informer brings him into all sorts of dangerous circumstances he could have avoided. Even the cat plays a role in delaying his escape.
In every book you read and every film or TV show you watch, keep an eye out for how those character decisions are shaping the story.
And if in your own story your character isn’t making any decisions of their own, but is only reacting to external forces, give them some backbone and get them making decisions to give your plot a whole lot more OOMPH!
Hope that helps you whip your stories into shape.
Keep smiling and keep writing through all the madness now surrounding us.
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.
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.
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.