Creative energy and the Writers Retreat

We had our second ever writers retreat on the weekend: two nights in a shared house at Boomerang Beach.

The relaxed environment and like-minded company allowed the creative energy to flow. We all felt inspired, received incidental support with our writing when we needed it, and had uninterrupted hours of writing.

That’s one of the best things about a writers retreat: it gives you physical distance from home. Many of us have busy lives with family, work and caring for others and this writers retreat took us away from those demanding environments and allowed us to free our minds. We noticed the things around us and make connections that would otherwise be missed, such as tuning forks and echidnas.

Let us explain…

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August 2017: Distinguishing voice

Tonight we had a discussion about VOICE, and considering all attendees to our writing group today were female, whether a female can effectively tell a story in a male voice.

Voice 1280px-EH_Voice_Box
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One of us brought in a story she’s working on for the upcoming Catchfire Press Competition due at the end of October. It is written in first person deep point of view, but the challenge is that the main character is male. We discussed whether the story had a effective male voice, and how the author could strengthen the male voice without coming across as stereotypical.

The main character is a father taking his 3 year old daughter to a swimming lesson. Three aspects we discussed about the story, that could be changed to make it sound more masculine were:

  • We changed ‘I avoid looking at the swim coach’ to ‘I’m not going to look at the swim coach’.
  • We removed the words ‘of course’ throughout the story, as we agreed this can sound feminine.
  • We changed the sentence ‘I push her feet into her shoes then take them off again, sigh loudly, and put them on the right feet this time.’ to ‘I shove her shoes on. For f#$%’s sake, they’re on the wrong the feet again, but I’m not changing them now.’

One of the group also mentioned that a great example that shows the difference between male and female voice is a book by Margaret Atwood called ‘The Heart Goes Last‘.

What do our readers think? What ways can you manipulate words to change the voice from male to female or the other way round?

July 2017: Holding on to this drainpipe

Tonight our writers group did a writing exercise by randomly picking a sentence from a random book Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett. We had 5 mins to free-write, starting our story with the sentence ‘Holding on to this drainpipe’. When finished, we each read our stories aloud.

Facade Drainpipe Decay Ram Cornice Structure
Image credit:

We were tapping into the very first idea that comes into our minds, and we discovered some pretty interesting things about how we each develop our stories:

  • The drain was a metaphor for depression (in fact, the drainpipe was an underground drainpipe, where for others it was a pipe on the outside of a building, some many stories up). The drain was a big black hole and the character was already inside, clinging to the grate above.
  • The drainpipe was literal, and introduced a problem that had to be solved (a person hanging from a pipe, 6 stories up, and the person needed to find a foothold, or a way to be rescued). One of the key elements of a story is an obstacle that a character has to overcome, and being stuck on a drainpipe was that obstacle.
  • The story developed around a recent event that we’d been discussing just prior to the exercise (the tragic death of Justine Damond). Justine was the girl in the story, and she was holding on to a drainpipe by a canal in America.
  • The story was driven around characters. The author threw two characters and a drainpipe together, and the story developed around that. The author understood the personalities and drivers behind the characters, so their actions came naturally from there.
  • The drainpipe was on the move. And the character was attached to it. It was a little quirky, a little humorous and got our palms sweating by the end.

This exercise made it clear that we all get our inspiration from very different places. As expected, our stories took very different directions, despite using the same starting sentence. However what was most surprising was the very different approaches we took to get those stories on the page.

What’s usually the approach you take when starting a story? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Carmel Bird Masterclass @ The Newcastle Writers Festival

A Writer's Mental Notes

What a privilege to spend a day with Carmel Bird at the Newcastle Writers Festival 2016!

Joined by a small group of keen writers, we discussed inspiration, the elements of short story writing, created our own short stories and were honoured to explore our creations in a one-on-one tutor session with Carmel, as well as sharing our work with each other.

It was loads of fun with some friendly rivalry as we vied for Carmel’s prestigious shortlist and a crack at winning the first prize: the amazing Yellow Eggcup! Congratulations to the winner by the way!

I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and soaked up the atmosphere of inspiration and creativity, which has strengthened my motivation to keep on writing!

Thanks Carmel for sharing your knowledge, humour and a wonderful day.


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Brush Away the Sand

A Budding Writer

The writing group to which I belong, the Hunter Story Creators presented a session at the 2016 Newcastle Writers Festival.  The session was titled ‘How to Make Your Writing Pop’.  My part of the presentation offered an approach to self-editing your work.  My writing mentor, Karen Whitelaw cites someone who calls self-editing, Brushing Away the Sand. My approach to brushing away the sand includes eight (8) steps that I personally include in the self-editing process. I’m happy to share them in the hope that you may find them helpful.

I go through my story and look for the following:

  1.  Changes in tense.  It is easy to unwittingly change tense in a short story.  For instance, you may be writing in present tense: She lifts the lid off the saucepan and stirs the soup.  Bill comes into the kitchen and asks, ‘What’s for dinner?’  She wiped her sweaty brown and…

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Hunter Story Creators at the Newcastle Writers Festival

A Writer's Mental Notes

Today we presented at the Newcastle Writers Festival. My presentation was titled, Expressions of Emotion. These are just some ideas that helped improve my writing that I will share with you.

In case you missed our session, here is my transcript!

Thank you Jessie, hi everyone.

At the moment I’m addicted to writing short stories so I always find the time to write because I enjoy it so much. I usually enter my stories into local and national competitions. Some of my stories capture the attention of the judges, whilst others don’t. So when I’m reviewing my stories I like to read the reports by judges so that I can get an idea of what they’re looking for and also to help me find ways of improving my writing so that it will stand out from the crowd. A little while ago I read a report by Jennifer Mills. Jennifer…

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Imagination and Structure – by Anna Lundmark

Today at the Newcastle Writers Festival, Anna Lundmark will be presenting her piece on Imagination and Structure. Click the link below for a summary of what she’ll be discussing.

Imagination and Structure

Imagination and Structure by Anna Lundmark

Make Your Writing Pop

A Budding Writer

In 2015 the writing group to which I belong presented a session at the Newcastle Writers Festival: How to take your writing from hobby to publication.

NWF Presenters 2015 NWF

The session was very well-attended and, by all accounts, well-received and we were thrilled.  Since then, and after functioning without a name for several years, we have finally decided to call our group the Hunter Story Creators.

And the Hunter Story Creators (HSC) are presenting at the 2016 Writers Festival, although you won’t find our session under our name.  The title of our session is Make Your Writing Pop.  Hints, techniques, strategies, elements, devices, and other practical advice on how to ensure your writing stands out from the crowd will be shared between 3.00 and 4.00 pm on Sunday 3 April.

NWFLaunch Four Hunter Story Creators at 2016 NWF Launch

As this budding writer has discovered, the process of preparing for…

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Hunter Story Creators on the radio

Jessie’s blog post about our short radio documentary this morning on ABC 1233 Newcastle

Jessie Ansons

Our lovely writers group have been lucky enough to have a short radio documentary made about us by ABC Open Producer Anthony Scully.

Anthony came along to the Hunter Story Creators group last night and asked questions about writing, writing groups and sharing successes (yes, there was champagne). Anthony has been an incredible supporter of our writers group since the beginning, and he plays a key role in getting local stories heard from all across the Hunter.

It aired this morning at 9:50am, and you can listen to the full SoundCloud piece here:

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