Jan Cornall’s writing retreat in March brought together a large, vibrant group of writers ranging from experienced and published authors to complete beginners. Let’s start with the beginners. Dinny Laufenboek describes her experience:
“All too conscious of being a complete novice as far as writing fiction was concerned (if you discount the “spin” placed regularly on poor corporate results!), I took the precaution of emailing Daku to ensure that the presence of a wannabe-story teller starting from scratch would not hinder the flow of ideas to/from more experienced workshop participants. “No problem”, the answer came back from Jan. And here’s the thing – it wasn’t! My personal breakthrough wasn’t immediate – indeed, I spent the first two days floundering, wondering whatever I was doing in the group. I did not yet have any idea which of the number of stories sitting in my imagination may be the one to tackle let alone how to tackle. It would be difficult for me to pinpoint what triggered my “breakthrough” but my experience truly was just as promised by the Workshop write-up i.e. Jan doing what she’s so good at: focussing on what’s swirling around in your mind, accessing it and getting it down on paper in your own voice. And that’s what happened! My turn to read in the evening, I was told at the morning’s workshop session – so I went back to my room and I wrote. And I wrote again. And again. And haven’t stopped since!”
Jan Cornall takes up the story:
Writing in Paradise! How is it possible to write like mad with breakthroughs a’plenty while still managing to sip cocktails by the pool, snorkel away the afternoons and enjoy delicious Fijian feasts each night for dinner? By being completely supported and nurtured by Fijian hospitality is how. For one week; no meals to cook, beds to make, supermarket shopping to do, no other people to care for, just total focus on your writing. This year’s bunch were here to work hard, you tell by the determined look in their eyes as they arrived to take up the challenge. Rising early before the workshops, using afternoons and evenings to complete writing tasks, putting everything they had into the group work sessions and bringing powerfully unique excerpts of their work to the evening readings. And we had the extra benefit of having experienced writers in our midst including fantasy author Margo Lanagan and playwright/short story writer Caroline Reid. For me it is always a privilege to facilitate such a group, to encourage the sharing of knowledge and practice, in the spirit of making our writing the best it can be. So why did they come, what did they find in Paradise and what did they take home? Here are the answers some of them gave:
Margo Lanagan: I came here for the companionship of other writers, and to shake my mind and my writing loose from their usual patterns by listening to other people’s stories and discussing their work and my own. I found affirmation in what I was writing, and that lifting of spirits that happens when you’re being transported by someone else’s writing, whether halting first draft or polished near-done chapter. It’s not just the companionship of sitting around talking about process; there’s a particular energy and community that gets generated by being present at the source, or present at the birth, or present at the breakthrough moment for someone else’s story. I’ll take home a new chunk of writer’s network, a new set of memories of a different country (so, new fodder for story settings) and 20 pages of the story I came here to work on.
Margo writes literary fantasy short stories and young adult fiction. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margo_Lanagan and https://twitter.com/margolanagan
I found the meditation and writing exercises gave me a way to begin writing even on those days when I felt I had nothing to write. I found multiple new ways of entering the work, that brought back a sense of play. It made writing so much more interesting and fun and also took away the inner critic so that I was free to write and trust my impulses.
I found camaraderie with other writers.
Caroline is a playwright and short story writer http://carolinereidwrites.blogspot.com.au/
Arienne Alphenaar, fiction writer, says:
I came here to get the writer in me to come out; to stop holding myself back and to decide whether to keep writing or to give it away for ever. I take home an inner acceptance, a strengthened desire to write and a direction for the future. I’m taking home the key to unlocking my stories.
Deb Fleming, fantasy writer, says:
I take home with me a lot of great material. A sense of joy in the journey. It may be hard sometimes grinding out the words, but there doesn’t always have to be angst about it. I learned that it’s not a failing to find it difficult to write sometimes. In fact you need to go through the grindstone in order for things to get smooth. I learned how to persevere.
And asked for special memories of the week, Johanne Shepherd mentioned “sitting in the lounge each evening with a pre-dinner drink listening to fellow writer’s read their stories. It was then that I realised, writing is not so difficult after all.”
Jan will be back in March 2014.