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

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