The Magic of Magnetic Island

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Oh yes, it really is that beautiful! I arrived home last night from a wonderful extended stay on Magnetic Island, just off the coast from Townsville in North Queensland. Wish you could have been there too! Traditional home of the Wulgurukaba People and a true piece of paradise.

We had so much fun on retreat. A fabulous group of writers, from absolute beginners to those with books under their belts. Now freshly-minted mermaids!img_3710.jpg

It all started with drinks on the verandah with tame blue-winged kookaburras eating out of our hands. Those beaks were a bit scary!

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Champagne still in hand, workshops started and writing dreams began to take shape.

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Then dinner up at the Amaroo restaurant with all the gang : )

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Mornings were filled with yoga and dance with our resident dancing queen Lalita Lakshmi!

Then we got stuck into the business at hand – writing! With two writing workshops covering all the basics and focusing in on character development to shape plot we were plenty busy enough. We got lots of writing done and had masses of information to absorb, so we needed our princess naps in the afternoon.

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Some  retreaters took advantage of the extended break and explored the beautiful island and had a walk and a swim.

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Dinner on Saturday night was at Bikini Tree Restaurant where my friends Jen and Dan had prepared a delicious and plentiful Indian feast.

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Even though we were stuffed to the gills (as mermaids get very hungry!) we managed to rouse ourselves for my personal highlight of the retreat  — candle dancing on the beach! The photo is blurry but you get the general idea of the fun of it. Lalita led us all in a joyful and playful celebration of life. I’m definitely keeping Lalita and dancing as part of the retreats.

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Sunday and more yoga and dancing and deep relaxation, some goal setting and another favourite part of the retreats, collage! Some collages were fun, some surprising, and others full of wonderful wishes that I hope all come true.

After farewelling all the lovely retreaters, my friend Vahida and I stayed on at Magnetic for another week, working on our own projects. Then Vahida left too, and I worked on in paradise editing a book for a friend of mine who lives on the island. Took the manuscript to the beach and worked on the sand : ) Yes! It’s not a bad life.

So now I’m home and back in the saddle, ready for more.

Life Writing Workshop this weekend at the CYA Conference Everything is a Genre Day. For the weekend (or day) ticket you get as many fabulous workshops as you can handle.

The following weekend I’m presenting Building Your Career as a Writer, at the QLD Writers Centre. You can come along in person or participate online as the session is streamed. I call this workshop – Many Fingers Many Pies, because it’s all about how to make money writing or doing things related to writing. We all have bills to pay, but it’s very nice to pay them by doing what we love.

And on Saturday 20 July I’m at Sunnybank Hill Library for a FREE WORKSHOP on the basics of creative writing. Would love to see you there. Come along and say hi : )

While I was away I also received feedback on my feature film screenplay from a Los Angeles script editor, so I’ll be busily redrafting over the next few months. Cross fingers it makes it to the big screen.

Coming soon is the launch of Bjelke Blues, a book of stories about life in Queensland under Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen, that I’ve been collecting and editing for AndAlso Books. Super excited about that. It’s heading to the printers very soon. As soon as I have the cover I’ll be showing it off. Launch is booked for Friday August 23. More on that later,

Next retreat is set for November 8 – 10 at Burleigh Heads. I’m designing it as dual purpose.

A planning and writing retreat to super boost people doing NANOWRIMO.

And for those women with a finished manuscript (or almost finished) already done, a feedback and redrafting weekend, with personalised feedback from me on the first 10 pages and your synopsis and also feedback from a small group of your peers. That way you get to talk about the book you’re working on with people who understand just how much work you’ve done and how precious your project is.

If you’d like more information about the Burleigh Retreat, would like to secure your spot, or just sign up for newsletters to keep you up to date with the retreats or to receive my hints, tips and opportunities GET IN TOUCH.

Hope to see some of you soon at one of the workshops.

Happy Writing till then!

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Lots of love,

Edwina xx

 

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MANY FINGERS MANY PIES Or How to create multiple income streams to support your writing habit.

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We all know the dream – write a fabulous book and start a bidding war, preferably in American dollars. Sell gazillions of copies worldwide and become an international bestseller. Do book tours with mile-long signing queues in New York. Sell the movie rights. Go bigger than JK Rowling and Liane Moriarty combined. Wonder if it should be Meryl Streep or Cher who plays you in the bio pic of your life; and if you really want plastic dolls of yourself.

But wait! You’ve written your fabulous book, you know it’s fabulous because many people have told you so, just not the right ones. Not the ones who could start your high-flying trajectory. You’ve sent your book out to every publisher in the known world, and it still hasn’t found a home. Or maybe it has, just not with a big publisher. Your book has done its best, but the massive royalty cheques have failed to materialise. You feel as if it’s all been for nothing. But the thought of only doing your day job for the rest of your life makes you feel like running off the nearest cliff. You just want to write stories.

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Don’t despair. You’re not alone. You’re a writer.

Unfortunately, the dream is only a reality for a miniscule percentage of writers – the few who shoot up like lucky stars. For the rest of us the trajectory is much slower and not nearly as dramatic. It doesn’t make us lesser writers than those who become overnight successes.

The trick is to keep writing, no matter what. And to find ways to make money related to writing. It’s extremely difficult to do a full-time job, cook dinner, put the kids to bed and want to do anything except stare at the telly. It’s vital to find ways to pay the bills without draining all your energy and creativity. But how?

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Writers and creative thinkers are in demand. People will pay good money for your skills. You can spend each day writing or talking about writing and be paid for it. This also takes time and effort, but it’s worth it if your days are filled with words and the fun of playing in your imagination.

Recently, I was talking to an artist friend who’s been painting since his teens. Even though he’s not famous, he’s making a living too – the same way I do— Many Fingers Many Pies! We each have a number of small contract jobs. He teaches art; I teach writing. He does people’s gardens and runs design courses. I write for online magazines, do blogs, run retreats, edit other people’s work and rework every story idea of my own across multiple genres.

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In a recent interview on Oprah’s podcast channel, Liz Gilbert referred to people who thrive on working this way as hummingbirds. I like the idea of flitting between lots of different flowers, cross-pollinating and fertilising, all while filling up my own tank.

So, if the old 9 to 5 isn’t for you and you’d love to discover many ways to make money doing what you love, then join me at my Building a Career as Writer workshop at QWC on July 13. Making money from your writing skills can be easy and fun!

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Come along and find out how.

Contact me if you’d like more hints and tips and advice on the writing life and if a writing retreat on beautiful Magnetic Island sounds like just the ticket, then HURRY and CONTACT ME NOW to secure one of the last available spots .

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Put yourself in this picture : )

Lots of love

Edwina

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FREE MEMOIR WORKSHOP IN TOWNSVILLE! YAY!

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Yes! Not long now and I’m flying up to Townsville for the Queensland Writers Centre to facilitate a day-long workshop on using the techniques of fiction to bring your memoir to life. And best of all, it’s FREE!

My father’s family is from far north Queensland, so I always enjoy travelling up to the cane fields, tropical sunshine and reef. Such a beautiful part of the world where wonderful people somehow manage to thrive in all that heat.

You can register HERE

WHEN?

Sat., 11 May 2019

10:30 am – 4:30 pm AEST

WHERE?

Aitkinvale Library

4 Petunia Street

Aikenvale

Townsville, QLD 4814

See the map HERE

So if you have a story from your life you’re itching to tell, come along and write up a storm!

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A full day workshop for FREE! YIPPEE!

Keen writers and beginners all welcome.

Book HERE

Hope to see you there 🙂

Edwina x

“HELP!!!!” she screamed loudly. Do’s and Don’t’s for Writing Good Dialogue

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Dialogue is the most immediate mode of expression in writing prose. Used correctly it brings your writing to life, be it fiction, memoir, creative non-fiction or even personal essays. It’s importance in screenplays is vital. Done well, dialogue can move the plot forward, build multi-dimensional characters and add layers of complexity you didn’t even know were there.

However, it can be notoriously tricky, and some new writers find it so difficult to manage that they avoid it completely to the detriment of their writing. So here are some of my best tips for writing effective dialogue.

DOKeep it short and sweet – or not so sweet. While there is sometimes a place for a poetic monologue the best advice I’ve ever been given is LESS IS ALWAYS MORE. Cut the beginnings and endings of your dialogue sentences. Cut excess sentences altogether. How can you say it with less? How can you almost say it, so the reader has to fill in the blanks themselves?

DON’TUse dialogue to explain or describe what went on in a previous scene. If a reader has read that scene, they’ll get it. If the dialogue isn’t adding a radical new viewpoint, or revealing information we didn’t already know, then never ever look back!

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DOMake sure the reader knows which character is speaking. The easiest way to do this is with proper punctuation and speech tags.

Each first line from each speaker is indented and the dialogue itself is enclosed in quotation marks. For example:
1.         “How do I punctuate dialogue?” Julie asked.
2.        “That’s simple,” said Edwina. “Find a good book that uses classical punctuation and follow their lead. The main rule is to put your punctuation marks inside the quote marks and to indent the first line but not the others.”

You don’t need to use classical punctuation, but it makes dialogue much easier to read. Some modern authors eschew it and use italics or other forms of punctuation, but I often then find it hard to tell who’s speaking and get frustrated. Suit yourself, just make sure it is clear who is speaking.

DON’TGo all fancy pants with your speech tags. “Said” is almost always best. It becomes invisible to the reader. Words like murmured, stammered, shouted, protested, and argued have their place, occasionally, but are best avoided. “Lied” is an exception. Keep it simple superstar!

DOGround your reader. This is good to keep in mind throughout your whole story, but especially in long stretches of dialogue when your characters can become talking heads floating in space. Even if they are floating in space, most especially then perhaps, slide in a few words describing setting or actions, that place the conversation in a context.

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DON’TPut everything in. If your characters are out for dinner, for example, we don’t have to read their whole conversation about what they’ll order, and their interactions with the wait staff, unless this contributes to character development or plot somehow. If it’s boring in real life, it’s extra boring on the page. Writer friends of mine have learnt this the hard way by transcribing recorded conversations. Your job as a writer is to trim out the boring bits and leave us with the juicy titbits!

DODifferentiate the speech patterns or habits of each character. After a while your readers should be able to tell each character apart from the way they speak. If your characters are all from similar cultural backgrounds this can be trickier, but if you listen in on conversations around you (put in your earphones, but don’t have your music on, and eavesdrop to get an idea of how people differ) you’ll see how we all have our own individual tics.

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DON’T Use capitals to indicate shouting, that’s what an exclamation mark is for.

DOUse character actions beside their dialogue to not only indicate who is speaking but to add to the tone or develop an undercurrent of meaning. For example:
1.          “What time is it?” Joan lifted her head from the pillow.
And      “What time is it?” Joan threw the saucepan full of cold soup at Brian’s head.

DON’TUse adverbs unless absolutely necessary. If you’ve done everything else right you just don’t need them.

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Here are the links to a couple of stories that use dialogue exceptionally well for you to get an idea of just how effective it can be.

Denis Johnson, “Steady Hands at Seattle General” – it doesn’t use classical punctuation, but it’s genius at creating an entire story almost solely in speech.

“Reunion” by John Cheever. It hasn’t indented the first line of each speaker but again, the dialogue demonstrates character in a way nothing else can.

Try writing your own story almost all in dialogue. Make it a hospital story like Denis Johnson’s or a reunion like Cheever’s.

Let me know how you go.

If you’d like more hints and tips on writing see my post here

or CONTACT  me HERE to get regular (but not too regular!) writing advice and news.

And if you’d enjoy a whole weekend full of learning about writing then come along to my next retreat, More information HERE.

I’d love to have you along.

Lots of love,
Edwina xx

SENTENCE BY SENTENCE – WORD BY WORD: 5 Useful Tips for Cleaning up your Prose

Over the past 17 years or so of writing, editing, studying the craft of writing, and teaching writing in the community and in universities, I’ve learnt a few easy tricks to help get your sentences working hard.

My favourite quote on the craft of writing is from George Orwell – “Good prose is as transparent as glass.”

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For me this means, keep it simple superstar! Don’t get carried away with trying to sound “Writerly”, clever, witty, mad or however you think a writer should sound. The writing shouldn’t detract from the story itself. If a reader is stopping to ponder the meaning of your sentences, then they’ve lost touch with your story and that’s never good.

Let your story shine by keeping your writing as clean and clear as a pane of glass. Every sentence, every word has to serve a purpose. It must either drive the story forward, illustrate character, establish setting or add to the story in some meaningful way.

Whether you’re writing flash fiction, short stories, novels or screenplays the same rule applies. Which leads me to my first tip –

1. Does that sentence need to be there at all?

After you’ve written a fast and furious first draft and fallen out of love with it a little, go back and check. Is every scene really necessary or did you just get carried away and veer off course? Do you really need a full paragraph describing that lake or will one good sentence combining the best of that paragraph work much better? The same applies for every word. Go through your work with a fine-tooth comb – think nit comb!

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In longer works you need to apply this to large chunks as well – Does that chapter need to be there? Does that scene?

Be brutal – save cut bits in another file so you won’t be heartbroken. I do this all the time but have rarely gone back in and rescued one of my darlings. But they’re still there – just in case 😊

2. Trim adjectives and adverbs

Yes, you’ve heard it before and for good reason. Writing styles have changed since those 19th century novels you love to read. Readers these days have a multitude of fast-paced alternatives to a book and most won’t wade through pages of description of a room Henry James’ style. In my university classes I still have many students decorating every noun with a string of adjectives because that’s what they’ve been taught to do all the way through school. ARGH! Get rid of them.

Think of adjectives and adverbs as salt and pepper – a little adds flavour but too much and you’ll ruin your dish.

Metaphors and similes are like chillies – hot peppers. Yes they’re great, but use too many at your peril.

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3. Use specific nouns and strong verbs

Instead of all those adjectives, use nouns that do their job instead. Be specific.

For instance, instead of “colourful noisy birds made loud noises in the tall riverside gum trees”, write “Rainbow lorikeets screeched in the branches of a flooded gum.”

The same goes for verbs. Instead of “She walked slowly”, you could use strolled or ambled or limped or staggered. See how much meaning can be packed into one good verb? English has lots of them – put them to work!

4. Get rid of “There is”

Although we use these words (and “It is” and “There are” etc) often in speech, they create unnecessary clutter in our writing. When we were in high school padding out words for assignments they were useful, but now we know better.

For example; “There is an old car sitting in the driveway of the old house,” can easily be improved by cutting the “There is” and using a strong verb and specific noun (and an adjective) “A beat-up old Holden ute lay rusting in the driveway.”

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5. Get rid of “I can,” and “S/he can”.

It’s still perfectly okay to write,  she can ride a bike. I’m talking about when you are detracting from the reader’s experience of the visceral in your writing by always filtering it through your characters’ perceptions.

“I could feel the rain falling on my face” – changes to “The rain fell like tears on my face.”
“She could feel the sun burning into the back of her neck” – becomes “The sun burnt into the back of her neck turning it hot pink.”

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Of course, these are only hints and tips and all rules are meant to be broken. So if you really need two adjectives for the rhythm of your sentence go right ahead and use them. Just please, pretty please never write “She whispered very quietly” or I may have to scream!

I hope these ideas are helpful. What hints and tips are your favourites? I love to learn about writing and learn most from other writers, so do share your ideas in the comments below.

Write like furies!

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Lots of love,

Edwina x

LET THE GRAND RUMPUS BEGIN!

 

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Yes, like the fool I’m about to head off on grand adventures, butterflies fluttering around my head and a precipice beyond. Not really. But the next week is pretty crazy!

On Wednesday, 10 October,  I’m honoured to be a part of UNLEASH THE BEAST – Writing and Wellness Symposium in Toowoomba as a part of World  Mental Health Day celebrations. This year’s theme is the mental health of young people – a topic which is dear to my heart because of my brother’s battle with adolescent onset schizophrenia, which I wrote about in Thrill Seekers. I’ll be facilitating a workshop on Writing for Trauma in the morning, and in the afternoon I’m on a panel moderated by the fabulous Mandy Nolan about Early Intervention Strategies for Young People. Tickets for both are available HERE.

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Then it will be a speedy drive back down from the range to Brisbane where I’m doing a reading at my fabulous local independent bookseller and community institution Avid Reader

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I’ll be reading an excerpt from my story Cloudland to help launch Within/Without These Walls by AndAlso Books – an anthology of  short pieces, both fiction and non-fiction, about Brisbane landmarks. Cloudland was a Brisbane icon where many parents and grandparents courted and kissed, but my story is about it’s end days, one of the last concerts it hosted before it was demolished in the middle of the night by the infamous Dean Brothers. It’s a FREE event but you need to register HERE.

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The following day I’m off to Calamvale Community College for a full day of workshops with keen high-school writers. Then on the weekend, I’m flying up to Ayr in North Queensland for the Burdekin Readers and Writers Festival

I’m very excited to be travelling north as my father’s family lived in Innisfail for generations and I spent a lot of time among the cane fields in my childhood.

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I’ll be facilitating a memoir workshop and moderating a panel of local authors discussing their pathways to publication and beyond. The workshop is FREE if you’re near enough to Ayr to come along 🙂 Book in to both events HERE

As soon as I’m home, I’m off again – this time to Gympie as judge of their annual Literary Awards. as part of the Rush Festival. I was truly impressed by the depth of talent I found reading the stories and poetry,  and I’m looking forward to seeing the joy on the lucky, and skillful, writers faces when the winners are announced. I’m also running a memoir workshop while I’m there, but it’s at capacity I’m afraid.

Then I’ll have a day at home to pack before I fly out to the UK for a trip to finally walk on the earth of my ancestors, and to visit my UK publishers RANSOM who are releasing a new imprint of Thrill Seekers later this year. More on that later!

Phew! Hope I haven’t exhausted you just reading about it all. I’m looking forward to seeing some of you at the events.

It’s a busy but wonderful life. See you on the other side!

With lots of love,

Edwina xx

RELEASE THE RETREATS!

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Feeling frazzled? Had enough of the rat race and housework and looking after everybody else? Treat yourself to a writing retreat in paradise, at a price you can afford.

A couple of wonderful retreats coming up!

Only a few weeks away until Relax and Write 3 at our Mermaid Base Camp at Evan’s Head. From Friday 31st August until Monday 3rd September our Mermaids and Scribes are taking over Camp Koinonia by the sea to write, relax and revel in each other’s joyful company. Yoga in the mornings, creative writing workshops through the day, lots of free time for beach walks and swims if you dare, and evenings full of feasting and fun. Can’t wait to get there! We still have a few spots available but please do hurry if you’re keen to come.

If you ask very nicely we may even extend our early bird prices 🙂 Contact Helena on helenapastor2@gmail.com for more info and to book.

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But wait – there’s more!!

From Friday 5th to Sunday 7th October 2018, while Helena is away at KSP (we’re both KSP residents this year), I am running a retreat in Toowoomba in collaboration with the Unleash the Beast Writing and Wellness Symposium.

It’s a fabulous initiative tackling mental health issues and discussing how we can use creative techniques like writing to help heal ourselves and others. I’ll be busy on their big day, Wednesday the 10th October, running a Writing for Trauma Workshop and speaking on a panel on Early Intervention Strategies for Children with funny woman Mandy Nolan – looking forward to that! You can check out the program HERE and book tickets HERE.

But most exciting is that I’m running their companion retreat – Relax. Write. Retreat.

High in the mountains, this retreat is set among the trees and views of Highfields near Toowoomba on the top of the range west of Brisbane at the lovely Koojarewon youth camp (Ok ok, we’re not youth but they still let us in!). This retreat is fully catered. In fact it looks like they intend to stuff us like geese- with force-feeding scheduled every few hours!

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Yoga in the mornings, writing workshops through the day, feasting and fun and naps and long walks and lots of good company. For me that’s the recipe for a perfect retreat.

For more info on the Toowoomba retreat and to book click HERE

Whether you want to escape to the beach for a luxurious long weekend of yoga and writing, or just pop up to the hills for a dose of pampering and creative inspiration, we have the retreat for you!

I love facilitating these retreats and watching people relax and write stories that surprise themselves, and the rest of us. The accommodation isn’t posh but we’re not either. Our aim is to keep these retreats as affordable as possible because we know most women don’t have much cash to splash around – especially on themselves.

But sometimes, a bit of time out and nurturing of your creative self is just the ticket!

Come along and join the fun – we’d love to have you.

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Lots of love

Edwina xx