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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CREATING SPACE FOR YOUR WRITING

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Are you lucky if you get a corner of the kitchen table to write on? Do you have to squeeze your writing in between all the things you have to do to look after everyone else and pay the bills?

You’re not alone!

Whole books can be written on kitchen tables between shifts and child care, but let’s face it – not very many.

Women writers deserve time and space to write. It can be difficult to achieve when working and with a young family to care for, but it can be done!

When I first started writing in earnest back in 2002, I wrote sitting at a corner of the kitchen table. But that was pretty messy.  Then I found a spot in the hallway, right at the end, where I could squeeze in a tiny desk and a chair and my computer. It felt like a huge achievement and a wonderful space of my own.

2db387c51ec6dac579c24f3a4c7323ccI worked part time and had two children under five, but on the days I wasn’t at work and the kids were down for their naps, I wrote like a fury! I was crazy with stories back then shouting at me to be told. I couldn’t wait to get to my desk and madly type all the stories and plot turns that I’d been thinking about the whole day.

Often at night as I read the children their bedtime story, I’d find myself reciting the stories in my head rather than the book we were reading. Let’s just say the words didn’t match the pictures!

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I’m sure I looked just like that 😀

For the last several years though, I’ve taken up a whole lot of space in the lounge room. I put a couple of desks in one corner to create my own L shaped desk, created semi-walls around me with bookshelves, and a friend found an Indian screen that closed off the other side. I may not have a door I can close, but when I’m in my little writing nook it feels private and, most importantly, it’s a safe space where I can write and create.

These days, it’s where I spend most of my time. I’ve worked hard so that the work I now do is all related to the writing I love. My children are both young adults and can take care of themselves. Writing time is mine to claim.

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But it isn’t just the physical space for writing that you need, it’s the time!

How do you find space in your busy life for your writing?

My friend Helena, likes to set her alarm and wake up at 4, sit up in bed with her coffee and write for a few hours before her children wake up and the day begins. She’s made of tough stuff.

Night owls stay awake after the children have fallen asleep and write into the wee hours.

Other writers I know give themselves one day a week where the children go to Grandma. That day they sit and write like bullet trains.

It helps if you can train yourself to ignore the housework. A messy house is the sign of a creative person!

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Though I do find washing a good way to make sure I leave the computer and have a stretch before immersing myself in work again.

What I learnt from my training as a new writer with small children, is that you can accomplish a lot in a short amount of time. The pressure of a very limited time frame forces you to pump out the words as fast as you can without being overly fussy about whether they’re the right ones. That can always be fixed later.

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Where in your day can you find an hour, or even half an hour? Ten minutes?

Any amount of time you spend doing what you love, what your heart desires is time well spent. And all those little bits add up.

That year I first started writing during my kid’s hour-long nap time, I finished the draft of a 100 000 word novel.

Great things can be achieved in small bursts. People who’ve attended my writing workshops know just how much you can write in as little as five minutes.

It can be done!

Claim yourself a corner that is yours, just yours. For writing.

Then figure out how you can steal an hour, half an hour or even a few minutes from your day to spend doing your writing. Get up half and hour earlier. Don’t watch the news, write instead. Write during your lunch hour. During nap time. Before bedtime. After.

Anytime you can find for yourself is perfect.

How do you create space for your writing? Have you made yourself a special corner to write in? How do you find time to write in your busy days?

Share your ideas in the comments. All hints and tips are very welcome!

Good luck finding space for your writing this week!

Lots of love,
Edwina xx

 

 

 

 

What is a writer’s “VOICE” and how to find yours

 

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When I first started writing I kept hearing this mysterious term, “voice”, mainly in the many rejections I received. Publishers would inevitably say something along the lines of, my “voice wasn’t developed.” It drove me mad. What did they mean? It was me writing, not anyone else. It took me a while to figure out that voice in creative writing terms just means a writer’s own particular style.

Put simply, which is how I like things, it means unadulterated plain old you on the page. Not you trying to be smarter or funnier or fancier than you are. Just you – the way you would talk to your best friend, the way you’d write a letter to someone who’s known you all your life. In my work with new writers I often come across people who think they have to use a whole lot of big words and mountains of adjectives and metaphors to sound “Writerly”. Which brings me to my first point.

Forget about being Writerly!

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Fancy may work for some people who are born that way, or lived a hundred years ago, but these days it’s best just to write as you would speak. Of course you can throw in the occasional unique metaphor and fabulous big word, but most of the time keep it simple.

YOU are enough just the way you are.

Yes, that’s you. Your life and all you’ve lived and who you’ve become because of it is totally unique in the whole world. No one else can write your stories because only you can tell them in your own special way echoing all those experiences. If you grew up swinging around on a hills hoist washing line being sprayed with a hose, the story you tell about childhood is going to be very different to the person who slammed face first into a tree in a tobogganing accident. Claim who you are and let that shine through. The specific details of your life can reveal universal truths.

Once you’ve claimed your voice, everyone who reads your stories will say, “Oh that’s so and so, I’d know her voice anywhere.” Editors will accept your work for publication and say, “Great unique voice”. YES! That’s what we’re aiming for.

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But how to do it?

Read on.

TOOLS for developing your unique voice

1. Free writing

Write whatever comes into your head, stream of consciousness style. No stopping, don’t let your pen leave the page. Set a time for five minutes and just go for it, no editing, no fiddling with grammar, no checking spelling. If you don’t know a word then just put a question mark beside it. Even if you’re only writing “I don’t’ know what to write, this is silly, that’s fine. You can complain as much as you like, just keep writing. Find a writing prompt, set a timer, and go for your life. Write as fast and as much as you can in those five minutes. You’ll be surprised what you can do. Get used to writing rubbish 😊 Once you’re used to that, then you’re free to go! You will need to edit what comes out later, but just think of all the words you’ll have to play with.

2. Keep a journal

Use the free-writing technique to write a journal. Every day write at least an A4 page by hand, letting words flow off the top of your head onto the page. The more you write, the more natural your voice becomes. If you are too busy to do this every day, every second day will do. Writing, like anything else, is all about practice. The more you practice the better you get. The more you get used to writing completely naturally without thinking about sounding flash or clever, the more your natural voice will emerge.
3. Look at emails, letters or texts you send friends – are they different to the way you’ve being trying to write stories/ poems etc? Do you sound like you? If you feel uncomfortable writing in any form it may not. But I’m guessing if you’ve picked this book up then you’re a writing kind of a person and those messages to your friends and family are lighter and more natural than the artificial voice you may have been trying to put on for your writing. Next time you write a story pretend you’re writing to a friend instead of some imaginary publisher.

3. Look at emails, letters or texts you send friends

Are they different to the way you’ve being trying to write stories/ poems etc? Do you sound like you? If you feel uncomfortable writing in any form it may not. But I’m guessing if you’re reading this up then you’re a writing kind of a person and those messages to your friends and family are lighter and more natural than the artificial voice you may have been trying to put on for your writing. Next time you write a story pretend you’re writing to a friend instead of some imaginary publisher.

4. WRITE!

Write every day, whenever you can. Scribble down what you see while you’re on the bus. Who is that strange woman in the purple hat and too much pink lipstick? What’s her story? Play with your imagination. Write down your dreams and give them another chapter. Fill notebooks with lots of messy writing about anything that takes your fancy. Write until it comes naturally.

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Have you found your voice yet? How do you know? I’d love to hear from you if you’d like to leave a comment.

If you’d like to receive more writing hints and tips, drop me a line here.

And if you’d like a whole weekend of writing and yoga to get those creative juices flowing then see HERE for my next retreat.

Until next time – HAPPY WRITING!

Lots of love

Edwina xx

“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

BJELKE BLUES

Bjelke bananaanti joh marchThe man inside the banana needs no introduction to those of us who grew up in Queensland, the sunshine state of Australia, during the Joh era.

He is Joh Bjelke Petersen,  the premier of QLD from 1968 to 1987, which meant that he was in power for almost all of my formative years. He was also the leader of what has been exposed as one of the most corrupt and brutal governments in Australian history. Joh was famous for his country-style witticisms “Look like a crow, fly with the crows, don’t complain if you get shot!” and for his fierce anti-union sentiments and appalling attitudes towards women “Don’t you worry your pretty little head about that!”

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Under his rule Queensland became a police state where surveillance, harassment, beatings and outright brutality were every day occurences. As a teenager I was often stopped and questioned by police in the city as soon as I got off the bus, just for looking different. The Special Branch had files on just abut everybody, particularly if your hair was too long or too short, or God forbid – you went to university or belonged to a union.

Some good came out of living under this repressive regime though. Disparate alternative groups united against a common foe. Incredible creativity flourished as artists, musicians, actors, dancers and writers used their talents to expose the corruption and violence. We all lived in fear though and many people fled the state, scared for their livelihoods, and sometimes their lives.

Now however, all these years later, it’s safe enough to tell our stories.

For a long time I’ve been wanting to bring together a collection of stories from this era, detailing the reality of living in Queensland during the Joh years. I’m thrilled to announce that AndAlso Books, a small independent Brisbane publisher, is just as excited by the project as I am and publication is slated for September 2019.

We’re calling for submissions from anyone who lived in Queensland during the 70s and 80s and has a good Joh story to tell. If that’s you, please leave me a message and I’ll send you more information.

Pieces can be as short as 300 words or as long as 3000. Anecdotes, memoirs or fictionalised accounts are all welcome. Pitch ideas by 15 Jan 2019, with full drafts due by 25 February 2019.

Great stories are already pouring in. It’s as if I’ve unplugged a dam that was just waiting to burst. Looking forward to seeing what you come up with!

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THRILL SEEKERS REBORN!

 

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I’m super excited to announce that Thrill Seekers has just been released as a new imprint through Raven Books UK. I love the new cover – it looks like a best seller!

Best of all is the fact that at last it is going into bookstores! YES!! When it was first released, I had to distribute it to bookstores myself and managed to have it stocked by a handful of wonderful independents, but now Thrill Seekers is going mainstream – and in time for Christmas!! WOW!

I may be just a little bit happy about this.

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I think I’m somewhere between the serene goddess and the camel.

So, if you’d like to buy a copy of Thrill Seekers for yourself, or someone else, for Christmas, it’s now available in all good bookstores throughout the UK and even here in Australia. Angus and Robertson have it reduced at the moment so go for it! See HERE for more information and to purchase.

Never give up on your book babies people. I fought to get Thrill Seekers published many years ago and I thought it had had its run.

But here it is with a second chance at life, going out into the world, not as a baby anymore but as a wild teen – like the characters it portrays. Go forth and conquer little book!

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I’ll leave you with a quote from Brian, one of the main characters in Thrill Seekers

“Feeling ten feet tall with a chest as wide and strong as a bear’s, I roll with the movement of the boat. Salty water sprays my face and my cheeks stretch into a mighty grin.”

What second chances have you been given? Have any of your stories had a second chance at life? I’d love to hear from you.

Lots of love,

Edwina xx

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