Heavenly Retreat

** This post was first published in 2009, but I’m posting it again here because 2015 will be ‘The Year of Retreats’ on this blog **


75323_173120436038856_3551589_n‘Welcome to Heaven.’

This is how our small cohort of writers was greeted at our DIY writing retreat over the long weekend. Five of us (four full-time participants and one part-time participant) locked ourselves in a tiny cabin at Heaven in the Hills in Maleny. We were surrounded by rain forest; were warmed by a fireplace that glowed 24-hours a day for four days; slept to the sound of silence; were without mobile phone reception; lived without television or radio; and had the most wonderful time. This is despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that we had gone with a cheap DIY option and were crammed into such a tiny cabin that left one man sleeping on the verandah in a pink ‘fairy’ bed and one man sleeping on the floor in a nest of cushions. (Sometimes there are advantages to being female.)

Locked into such a tiny space we talked and brainstormed and problem-solved our way through twelve hours of conversation at a time. And never once did we fight. On the contrary; we were bursting with enthusiasm and support and laughter.

I came up with the idea for a DIY retreat after reading an article in The Writer magazine. I wanted to go on retreat and wondered who I could convince to come with me. I cast the net wide and left it up to fate as to who turned up. It worked like a charm. I wrote a program and everyone agreed to it. I offered a choice of two locations and everyone unanimously voted for the cabin. We slept little but dreamed lots. We wrote little but received more prizes than any of us thought was possible. We solved the big questions of our writing before we headed too far down the wrong path.

I simply could not have imagined a better time. (Okay if everyone had had their own bed/bedroom it would have been better… but I still wonder if that was part of the magic of this ‘writer survivor’ experience.)

Today I am struggling to keep hold of the magic of the weekend and carry it with me like a candle throughout my day lighting up my characters and plot with every breath I take. But as the wonderland fades a little with every chore found here in the ‘real’ world I know that I only have to open my book and write a sentence in order to find it again.

*** Does a retreat sound appealing to you? ***

If you want to join me on retreat, I’ll be running a retreat on the Sunshine Coast hinterland in October 2015. Click here for details.

I’m also open to visiting you on your own self-organised retreat. You can email me to chat about that too 🙂

Rumi-nating Thoughts

I’m a terrible poet. Absolute rubbish. But I love to listen to it. I can sit and listen to the spoken words of poetry for hours (though I haven’t been able to for years because I’ve been living in the bush… but all of that’s about to change as of next week!).


While I love listening to poetry, I rarely ever read it, let alone buy it. But today, while working on my structural edit for my forthcoming novel, The Tea Chest, sitting in the lovely Rosetta Books at Maleny, a book off the shelf caught my eye. (I believe books often choose us, not the other way around, and this one certainly did.) It was Rumi, the book of love, a collection of writings and poetry from the 13th century Sufi poet, Jalaluddin Rumi. (I think he may have been ‘trendy’ for a while but I’m generally a few years behind trends. Don’t come to me if you’re looking for the latest cool thing.)

And what a charming little book it is.

Something I love so much about poetry is the way it frees the mind from structural concerns, bends our thoughts and clashes words together in a way that is so fresh and fascinating. I think it bypasses are critical minds and heads straight to the emotions.

I’ve been hopping my way through the book, opening pages randomly. Here are just a few gems that have made me laugh, long and melt.

The ground’s generosity takes in our compost

and grows beauty. Try to be

more like the ground.

You’re song;

a wished-for song.

Put seeds and cover them.

Blades will sprout

where you do your work.

Drive slowly. Some of us

walking alongside are lame.

Keep walking, though there is no place to get to.