Diana Plater attended Jan Cornall’s writing retreat in March and this article appeared in The Weekend Australia on 23 April 2011.
The benefits of a creative writing course at a simple resort on the island of Vanua Levu.
by Diana Plater
TEN years is a long time for a manuscript to sit in a bottom drawer, especially when it hasn’t been completed. But that’s the situation with my latest book. I’ve done most of the research and interviews, written an outline and a couple of chapters, given it a title, attempted to turn it into a play and considered a chick-lit conversion.
But two chapters do not a novel make.
I am greatly in need of inspiration and ways to break writer’s block. As Jackie Collins once advised: ‘‘Write, don’t talk about it.’’
So when an invitation arrives to do a creative writing course in an exotic location how can I refuse? And especially when it’s titled Breakthrough Writing in Fiji.
The course, taught by playwright, novelist and performer Jan Cornall, is one of several types run each year at Daku Resort, on Fiji’s northern and less-visited island of Vanua Levu, just a kilometre or so up the road from the colourful town of Savusavu.
Cornall runs courses in Australia and overseas destinations and this is her second at Daku. Delia and John Rothnie-Jones, who own the resort, have been running courses since 2004 in subjects as diverse as literature appreciation, painting and bird watching.
This year they are also including painting, singing, beading, snorkelling and marine life and yoga workshops on the agenda.
Daku Resort offers friendly, no-frills accommodation, which in some ways makes it easier to concentrate on the craft of writing.
The lush gardens and gorgeous views through the coconut palms help play on the senses, another aspect of the course.
As I arrive earlier than the other five members of the group, Delia takes me on a boat trip across the bay where we swim and collect shells. That evening the group arrives, looking a bit worse for wear. They’ve flown from Sydney to Nadi and then Suva to Labasa followed by a hairy taxi ride across the mountains to Savusavu.
Air Pacific assures us that when its two new TwinOtter aircraft arrive in June it will resume frequent services to Savusavu and other islands from Nadi andvisitors won’t be faced with cancellations
and mountainous taxi trips (although I do enjoy the ride on the way back).
The next morning we get stuck into the first of our daily three-hour lessons conducted in an open-air room overlooking palms and sea that Delia says is the only ‘‘custom-built yoga shala in the south Pacific’’.
We are working on a variety of books on very different themes: a memoir, a historical novel, a war history-cum-memoir and three contemporary novels, including mine.
I am pleased to see the other writers have similar problems to mine. They have their stories, characters and themes worked out, but are stuck and none has a completed manuscript. A couple have some trepidation about reading to the group, but we all find the encouragement gentle and genuine. And breaking into pairs to work on mapping plots and themes is also helpful.
Cornall’s aim is to help you focus on what’s swirling around in your mind, access it and get it down on paper in your own voice. She uses meditation and creative visualisation; yoga on a few mornings as well as swimming and snorkelling also help, giving us time to think (or not think), as does the solitude and
peace of writing in a bure.
After a daily 6pm reading session together, we have group dinners with other guests at Daku; meals are simple but substantial with all meals included in the week-long course’s cost.
I’ve had a few distractions since returning home but I’ve almost completed another chapter and I’ve made a big decision: this book is definitely not chick-lit. The course has given me the breakthrough I needed.
Writers Get Creative Amid Palms in Fiji – News article from Yahoo!7