KSP CabinsIt’s my last day in the Clarke Cabin at the Katharine Susannah Prichard (KSP) Writers’ Centre in Perth. It’s been a varied couple of weeks for me – brights and darks – but that’s life. Someone dear to me is dying from cancer and I felt very far away from my family at times. But yesterday, I discovered the guest books that are kept in the Aldridge Cabin – I wish I’d read though these on the first day of my stay. So many inspirational writers, so much practical advice on where to walk, where to eat, and where to go when you need to get away.

Like other writers have mentioned, it seems to take a few days to settle in here. After living in regional NSW for years, I’m not used to the sounds of the city. But after a few days, the noise from the planes and the traffic didn’t bother me as much. Instead, the sounds of the birds in the garden and the buzz of the bees humming in the tree outside my cabin seemed to intensify. I loved living amongst the garden at KSP. On sunny days, I took a blanket outside and lay under the trees, reading Tracy Farr’s novel The Lives and Loves of Lena Gaunt – marvelling at the fact that I was lying outside on a blanket, reading. Such a simple joy.

Mardi May_CathDrake_Jen Mapleson_me

Over the last two weeks, I’ve made some good progress on a new memoir project, and I feel very fortunate to have stayed here with Cath Drake (all the way from London!) and Jen Mapleson (all the way from Roleystone 30 minutes away!). We had some fun times – sharing meals in the kitchen, laughing about the cats, visiting cafes in Mundaring and Darlington Road, and talking about writing. One afternoon, we had a very special time ‘clearing the energy’ up at the old house where Katharine and her husband Hugo Throssell once lived. I’ll always remember that afternoon – the smell of sage, rosemary and gum leaves, the bouquets of wildflowers, and the honesty of our intentions.

Another highlight was an impromptu tour with garden volunteer extraordinaire Fern Pendragon – where I heard the story of how Katharine and Hugo created the clay path which Fern is painstakingly restoring. I also enjoyed seeing the inside of Katharine’s studio, and was impressed by the writers I met in the Thursday Night Writers’ Group and the Nonfiction Writers’ Group who meet at KSP.

Clay path

Other delights? Cath’s ‘Sundowner’ poetry reading was enlightening, the brownies at Café Mojo in Mundaring were superb, the natural beauty of John Forrest National Park was majestical, the railway tunnel was a spooky thrill, and the dinner at the Principal Bar & Restaurant in Midland with my fellow writers and Mardi May was delicious.

John Forrest NP

To quote Leonard Cohen: ‘I came so far for beauty’ … and I’m glad I came so far to experience the atmosphere and beauty of KSP. I often thought of Katharine while I was in the kitchen or when I wandered down the path to my studio – of her living here for fifty years, of the tragedies she experienced, and of her creating the foundation of this writerly haven in Greenmount.

What a woman. What a gift.

Thanks to all the dedicated staff, volunteers and writers who make the KSP experience possible!

Katharine Mosaic

 

The Backtrack Boys is a new documentary about Bernie Shakeshaft and the crew from BackTrack Youth Works. Following on from the early days of BackTrack which I wrote about in Wild Boys, the film features the stories of three boys – Rusty, Zach and Alfie – and shows the life changing transformation they undergo through their involvement with BackTrack and dogs and all that happens at the shed. At the film’s premier at the Sydney Film Festival five days ago, The Backtrack Boys received a well-deserved standing ovation.

Check out the The Backtrack Boys trailer and a recent article from the Northern Daily Leader:

Congratulations to filmmaker Catherine Scott and to all the crew at BackTrack!

Big screen debut: Armidale's highly renowned Backtrack program will be hitting the big screen on Sunday as one of the features of the Sydney Film Festival.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A month ago, my dear friend Edwina Shaw and I hosted our second ‘Relax & Write’ yoga and writing retreat for women at Evans Head, on the north coast of NSW. We decided to extend the program over three nights rather than two, which made the weekend more relaxed for everyone – especially as we had people travelling from Sydney to attend. Once again the retreat proved a fabulous success. More than half the women who came along last time returned, and it was lovely to reconnect with them and also good to see how their writing and confidence had improved over the past six months. Both the old timers and the new recruits settled in well to the rhythm of each day with yoga and writing workshops interspersed with plenty of time for leisurely breakfasts and lunches, chats, long walks and swims at the beach, or just hanging out on the cabin verandah.

When I think back on the weekend, I realise that relaxing and writing – and being nurtured through yoga, healthy food, friendship, laughter and picnics – is important for a whole host of different reasons. What do I remember? Champagne and candles, the sound of pens scratching across paper, the old-fashioned pleasure of listening to favourite stories, poems and songs at the open mic night, the deliciousness of Edwina’s roasted walnuts with ice cream and cheesecake, morning light shining through stained glass windows in the yoga studio, the stories behind our collages, the glorious temperature of the ocean, and women reading out extraordinary stories they’d written in the writing workshops – stories I’d wished I’d written myself.

When I told them so, the women kept saying, ‘But I’m not really a writer.’

Actually, you are.

The next ‘Relax & Write’ retreat is scheduled for the weekend of 31st August to 3rd September 2018, and Edwina and I are already planning new workshops and exotic dessert combinations. Full details on the retreat will be available soon, but if you’re interested in coming along, please send me an email at: helenapastor2@gmail.com

For reviews and photos of past retreats, check out the ‘Relax & Write’ website:

Hope to see you in spring with the other mermaids and scribes at Evans Head!

p

mermaids-swimming

Bundanon gate

It’s my last night at Bundanon, where I’ve had a residency since the 4th January – which feels like a long time to be away from normal life, but what a way to start 2018. I’ve loved being in this country again … walking all over the property, swimming in the river, working in my studio in the Fern Apartment, having breakfast on my verandah, and meeting an inspirational group of artists – painter Natacha Mankowski, photographer Svetlana Bailey, singer-songwriter Joe Mungovan, and writer Rosalie Ham. I’ve said it before about Bundanon, and I’ll say it again: How lucky am I?

I’ve seen cows, wombats, echidnas, wallabies, kangaroos, kookaburras … and cicadas. When I first arrived at Bundanon, the local cicadas were so loud I had to put my hands over my ears, but I soon became accustomed to their deafening daily soundtrack. I’ve also seen and heard far too many speedboats on the river – but it is summer, after all.

And the writing? Well, I worked on new material for Tattoo Songs, my next collaborative project with composer Christopher Purcell. Then, on the Capricorn new moon,  I worked out the secret ingredient that was missing from my memoir manuscript Yahtzee and the Art of Happiness … a manuscript that has been simmering on the back burner for far too long. And I also put together 15,000 words towards my next major writing project – a biographical work which brings to life the German Occupation of Amsterdam in World War II. Not a bad effort for a two and half week residency.

Huge thanks to Arthur & Yvonne Boyd, to all the staff who make Bundanon such a magical and welcoming place, and to the Aboriginal custodians of this land, past and present.

Bundanon bush

 

Happy New Year!!! I reckon 2018 is going to be a good one. I recently heard that I’ve been awarded a 2018 KSP Fellowship — which means I get to spend two weeks in a wooden cabin set in the garden of Katharine Susannah Prichard’s former home at Greenmount in Western Australia. At ‘Katharine’s Place’, I’ll be able to immerse myself in a new writing project about my family history and Amsterdam in World War Two, meet other Fellows and Writers-in-Residence, and be involved with the local community who come along to a range of writing groups at the centre. A huge THANK YOU to the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre for offering me this wonderful opportunity!

unnamed

Congratulations to all 2018 Fellows and Writers-in-Residence — and special congratulations go to my friend Edwina Shaw who was awarded one of the Emerging Writers-in-Residence positions!

 

Last weekend, I attended the inaugural Artstate Conference in Lismore. Artstate is a new four-year project by Regional Arts NSW that shines a light on excellence in regional arts practice and explores exciting possibilities for arts and cultural development across the state. Artstate Lismore 2017 was an exciting two-day program of speakers who explored themes of creative practice and creative partnerships. Running alongside the speakers’ program was a multi-genre arts program featuring the rich creative talents of artists from the north coast of NSW. Most of the conference was held around City Hall, and on the grass outside the building, local artist Digby Moran had created a beautiful sand installation about his intimate connection to Bundjalung Country.

Digby Moran Sand Installation

I loved it all – the people, the art, the music and theatre performances, the fabulous morning teas and lunches – but I especially loved the strong focus on Aboriginal arts and arts leaders. Thank you to all those who organised Artstate Lismore! I came away with new friends and new knowledge that will help me advance my creative practice and improve my performance as a regional artist. I also met an old friend at the conference – the amazingly creative Mandy Peters, who is now the Décor Manager of dressing rooms for artists at the Mullum Music Festival and Byron Bay Bluesfest. Mandy and I used to share a house in Annandale in the late 1980s and it was fun to catch up again after so many years.

Mandy and me

As one of the other conference delegates said – ‘Artstate lit the fire in my belly’ – and I feel the same way. Many thanks to Regional Arts NSW who provided me with generous funding to go to this life changing event.  My attendance at Artstate Lismore 2017 was made possible through a Quick Response Grant provided by Regional Arts NSW through the Regional Arts Fund, an Australian Government initiative supporting the arts in regional, remote and very remote Australia.

RANSW-INLINE1-BW

 

 

On the 4th November, composer Chris Purcell and I will be presenting a songwriting workshop at the Wicklow Hotel in Armidale. This workshop has been organised through my association with the New England Writers’ Centre, and NEWC have done a fabulous job with the poster. Chris and I recently finished our first collaboration together, a song cycle called ‘Lullaby & Lament’ – where I wrote the lyrics and Chris set them to music. Rather than following the traditional path of song cycles about myths, classical tragedies and unrequited love, the songs from ‘Lullaby & Lament’ cover topics such as grief, loneliness, divorce, estrangement and death, as well as love and happiness – universal themes written in words and music that go straight to the heart. Chris and I both write songs on our own as well, but we enjoy collaborating and are currently working on our second project. We’re really looking forward to sharing our songwriting skills with the people who come along. See you there!

Songwriting_Workshop

Relax & Write 2017

Last weekend, Edwina Shaw and I hosted the inaugural ‘Relax & Write’ yoga and writing retreat for women at Camp Koinonia in Evans Head. The retreat was a huge success – we had ten wonderful participants, all at different stages of their yoga and writing practice, but none of that seemed to matter. Edwina began each day with an early morning yoga session, and then we had workshops in memoir and fiction writing, editing and other matters related to submitting work. Between workshops, there was time to write or sleep or go to the beach or have a massage, and then we gathered again in the evenings for drinks and a candle-lit meal in the chapel. Just before everyone went home, we had a collage-making session that provided us all with insights that we weren’t expecting, and made me realise once again that collage is a very powerful medium.

Morning yoga

 

Edwina and I both agreed that we achieved what we set out to do – to create a nurturing environment where a group of women could relax and write and get to know each other and create ongoing friendships. We now have a ‘Relax & Write’ facebook group – a place to share writing opportunities, and support and celebrate each other’s literary efforts. Edwina and I are already planning our next ‘Relax & Write’ retreat for early March 2018, where we’ll offer a new range of workshops in Writing in Scenes, Creating Realistic Dialogue, Songwriting, and Screenwriting.

Three cheers for our first ‘Relax & Write’ retreat … thanks to Marie and Craig for making Camp Koinonia so special, thanks to Johnny West for his fabulous dinners, and thanks to Becky Holland for documenting the weekend with her beautiful photos!

Outdoor writing class

Writing with friends

 

Candlelit dinner

Beach path

Sunrise at the beach

 

logo relax and write

Whether you’re a writer in need of relaxation and a good stretch, or a yoga practitioner yearning to write, this is the retreat for you.

Edwina Shaw and I have been holding our own private writing retreats at Evans Head since 2005 to relax and write and share our stories. This year we’re opening up our retreat to other women who’d like to do the same.

Relax, write and enjoy yourself in a beautiful coastal setting with experienced workshop facilitators and published authors.

Unwind with yoga and free your creative voice with lots of fun writing activities and workshops. All only a minutes’ walk from a glorious beach surrounded by national park where you can swim, walk, laze in the sun or meditate to your heart’s content.

Cost:

$400 for twin share with ensuite or $350 twin share with communal facilities

EARLY BIRD $380 / $330 if booked and deposit of $150 received before 31st July 2017

This includes:

  • all yoga and writing workshops
  • 2 nights twin share ensuite accommodation / or twin share with communal facilities
  • healthy home-cooked meals on Friday and Saturday nights

Optional extras:

  • Massage with Shannon Radke
  • Personalised Editorial Feedback with Edwina or Helena (10 Pages in 20 Minutes).

Program:

FRIDAY

Arrival from 2 p.m.

5:30 p.m.        Welcome nibbles and drinks, introductions

6-7 p.m.          Introductory deep relaxation and writing exercise

7 p.m.              Dinner

SATURDAY

7 – 8:15 a.m.   Gentle morning yoga with Edwina

9:30 – 12:30   Memoir workshop with Helena

12:30 – 3 p.m. Lunch and free time to enjoy the beach (or have a nap!)

3 – 5:30 p.m.   Writing the Body with Edwina.

7 p.m.              Dinner

SUNDAY

7 – 8:15 a.m. Yoga with Edwina

9:30 – 12:30   Writing fiction using yoga techniques

12:30 – 2:30   Lunch and free time

2:30 – 4:30     Self editing with Helena

4:30 p.m.        Feedback and farewells

 

To book or find out more information, please contact me at:

helenapastor2@gmail.com or call 0447 334 665.

We’d love to have you join us … remember, all roads lead to Evans Head!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA