Donna’s retreat experience

6 05 2013

Sigh. The retreat is over as Nicole says. It was an excellent way to unwind after running Conflux 9. It may seem like a weekend for the attendees but it was nearly two years in the making and a lot of planning. I’d been in the Conflux zone for a couple of week leading up to the con.

I didn’t think I’d get much done during a week long retreat. We normally have two weeks and before Conflux began my RSI had kicked in. So I wound back my expectations a lot. Also, I had two weeks in which to prepare my final assignments for the Masters in Creative Writing.

So I revised 10,000 words and I think I aced it. I’ll know when the grades are done, but I think I’ll know more if if sells. I think it’s an exciting YA/steampunk piece. The other chore was writing up my research report on whether being published by a digital first/digital only imprint changes reading preferences. I had already sent out my questionnaire, it was a matter of analysing and pulling all the bits together and doing some reading. I made a pretty good start on it at the retreat.

I also revised a couple of short stories and wrote a new ending to another one. I was planning on writing a new steampunk romance short story for an upcoming anthology but all of a sudden I started continuing on with my uni novel. I wrote 15,000 more words and scoped out the rest of the plot. Now I have something to put in the synopsis I also have to submit. I had to stop myself writing because of the RSI. I really can’t afford to have a full blown RSI episode. I have a report to write for the next few months and I go back to work tomorrow.

The house we used for the retreat was nice and interesting. It was a rambling thing with rooms off rooms. For example, we snaffled the end bedroom, mostly because Matt sleeps late and we didn’t want people feeling bothered by walking through. To get to our room we had to pass through Cat’s. The girls (Kim and Shauna) shared adjoining rooms, but to access their bathroom, Shauna had to enter Kim’s room. Nicole snaffled the loft bedroom but had to share a bathroom with the boys. The boys’ room was in a room that connected to the girls.

All passed of well. As usual food, but nearly as much as normal. There was more bitching than usually, lots of writerly talk and heaps of silly talk. Chatham House rules and all that.

Rob Porteous cooked (as Nicole said) an amazing chicken cacciatore, which we devoured in one go. Ian cooked us vegetarian pasta and a salad and left overs. I made two lots of crumble. One apricot and one apple and berry with both gluten and gluten free versions. I have no idea why I put on weight. It must have been the chips, chocolate, biscuits, nuts etc. We did get the munchies a number of times a day.

As there was no internet inside the house (or mobile coverage) we did take a few trips into town as well as out into the paddock. A power outage for over three hours on the Thursday was a bit hard to take, particularly after we went into Boorowa and our fav cafe didn’t let us plug in to charge phones and ipads. Matt managed to get my phone charge before they unplugged him. Curiously, Matt was also productive. I’m not sure if that was because I didn’t nag him. He was very good to me (besides shooting me with a nerf gun) and massaged my very sore feet every day.

I caught one walk with Nicole and Cat and we went for a group walk one evening around Rye Park.

Now to share with you the obligatory photos. The house, showing the loft area.


A more framed shot of the house.


The first thing I did was… you guessed it. Pose on the chaise lounge.

ImageThe driveway (deceptive as you go straight ahead).


The Telstra exchange that provided no mobile or internet coverage, even if you stood outside it.I guess it’s just for normal phone lines.

We were going to post in front of it with our phones in various postures of seeking the bars of access. We left too quickly.


We talked alot. These are shots of the girls who were talking. No men in the room at the time.

There’s Nicole.




Shauna (looking very thoughtful. I think she may have had an idea).


Cat looking like she was going to pounce on me for taking a shot. We’re all in daggy trackie dacks.


Okay. She was talking and not taking notice of me sneaking photos. I can feel the smack on my bottom already.

Then there’s me. A selfie.


(Gawd. I’m such a poser! but I was trying to capture the leisurely moment as we chatted about important things…just can’t remember what they were.

On our walk, we took some photos. First a church that someone had converted to a house. Cat said the town would be a great setting for a post-apocalyptic movie. Except for this house, I think.


Another shot of the church, being all inspiration like.


Further down the road was an old butcher, called Palmer’s butcher. I had family of that name here in the 1800’s.


Further on is an example of why this is a sad place.


A collapsing water tank and many dilapidated houses. The land lady said that Sydney people are buying into the area and that the town is reviving. You have to drive 30 kms to get a pint of milk as there is no shop any more. Why it’s the place the Internet forgot! (Actually teasing aside it was a lovely shallow valley).

Here is a shot of sunrise. Don’t get too excited because the hills delayed the sunrise so it was like 6.30am or something when I took the shot. I was waiting for Cat and Nicole to go for a walk and they went without me. I saw them down the road and ran (I said ran) to catch them. Knackered me for the next two days. I haven’t run for nearly 5 years due to knee surgery.


As I said we had no internet, so we had to go outside. After a while we put out chairs. This is the famous internet chair.


One evening we went for a walk. The light was fantastic, all golden. Here is a tree shot.


This might be Nicole’s tree and her shot is better. Same walk.


Next to our house on the way back, we realised we had a cemetery next door. Colonial or pioneer graves. Not easy to read the inscription.


And today Nicole and I walked around the lake. As much as we loved the retreat and the surrounds at Rye Park, we love being home.


And I want to say how much we missed Russell Kirkpatrick and Kylie Seluka and how much we enjoyed having Kimberley Gaal, Shauna O’Meara and Rob Porteous join us on this retreat.

The retreat is over

6 05 2013

I’ve been home for a full 24 hours. It’s just not right.

I’m pleased to say that I completed my aim and wrote 30,002 words of the new novel in the six days. I also wrote a blog post and a 950 word short story (that I’ve now decided I want to expand) so actually it was more but still – 30,002 words.

Let me tell you the last 1000 was torturous! I’ve been having issues with insomnia, and I was so friggin’ tired and I kept closing my eyes and starting to feel that slip into sleep and then I’d force them open, type another hundred or so, then close them again… I think it took me an hour to write that last lot of words.

But write them I did, and I arrived in an interesting place that I realised was where I need to bring in the issue that I realised I had during the visit from Valerie Parv on Saturday. He’s basically a foundling you see, and I was going to ignore that aspect of him but as Valerie pointed out, no one who is a foundling forgets that… I’m going to have to work out how it relates to the general plot, and how it gets hero and heroine to the happily ever after though.

The final meal of the retreat on Saturday night was triumphant. What is it with  us finding men who can cook? Ian, Matthew, and now Rob Porteous.

Rob cooked us the most amazing chicken cacciatore. I scoffed it, went back for seconds, scoffed some more. Just stupdendous!

If I weren’t already married, I’d be marrying Rob for his chicken cacciatore.

I finally got around to taking some pics, so let me share with you some shots of Rye Park and the 2013 FWOR retreat:

The Old School House Retreat, Rye Park

The Old School House Retreat, Rye Park

Donna hard at work in the communal writing area

Donna hard at work in the communal writing area

Rob earned his keep by more than just cooking a fab meal :)

Rob earned his keep by more than just cooking a fab meal 🙂

Rye Park - looks pretty here, but damn it's a great location for a post-apocalyptic film. Filmmakers, take note.

Rye Park – looks pretty here, but damn it’s a great location for a post-apocalyptic film. Filmmakers, take note.

Finally, a pretty picture of a leaveless tree. I love those trees and damn the camera was mucking up and I didn't think I'd get the shot...

Finally, a pretty picture of a leaveless tree. I love those trees and damn the camera was mucking up and I didn’t think I’d get the shot…





Words with Friends update

4 05 2013

Cat is still Words with Friendsless. We are devo.

Not going to the picnic races.

4 05 2013

It was an idea Cat and I had. The Boorowa Picnic Races are on this afternoon and we thought it would be cool to go…

However, we are in the pub, sipping on beer and getting out internet fix.

This morning we had a visit from Valerie Parv. She lives just an hour away, and not only wanted to catch up but also wanted to check the house out, as she wants to run workshops and writers retreats. I think she was a little concerned to walk in and see so many of the Romance Gauntlet contests from Conflux there…

Last night we had another of those amazing meals. Matthew did a kangaroo stew in the slowcooker, Donna made a stupendous pumpkin and spinach risotto, followed by berry and apple crumble. Yum a million times!

As the retreat has gone on, there’s been less writing related talk and more philosophical stuff. I’ve had some great insights this trip and I’m looking forward to applying them to my life. Confronting but good.

Rob Porteous arrived last night. I think he’s been a little blindsided – we’re all so settled, and he’s just come in. However, he got right into the writing thing when we all went off to bed and I’m sure the words are pouring.

I’m doing okay – a little behind today, but I’ve gotten to a really interesting part of the story. But talking to Valerie this morning has made me realise there’s a whole part of the story – the hero’s background – which I’ve set up but I’m not dealing with. It has to be dealt with in some way – how to make it work into the story is the question. I’ve decided to finish writing the story I’ve planned, then work out the implications of this, so there’s still a lot of work to be done on this one.

I’m also thinking – I’d like to write a short story on this retreat. Maybe I should stay up late tonight and see what the darkness brings to me.

Or maybe I’ll see the ghost again. Actually, hear the ghost, not see it. Funny, I wasn’t scared but damn if I wasn’t convinced there was someone in the room with me…

Great retreat.

Day – whatever day it is.

3 05 2013

As you can see via the banner at the top, it’s traditional to take a group pic of the FWOR retreat. When we have people coming and going during the retreat, we take a couple of pics.

Today, Ian left us so we took the first of the FWOR pics and here it is (courtesy of Cat Sparks):


Ian McHugh, Kim Gaal, Shauna O’Meara, Matthew Farrer, Donna Maree Hanson, Nicole Murphy. Pic by Cat Sparks.

Tonight, Rob Porteous joins us for the last few days of the retreat. It will be interesting to see how he adjusts to our rock and roll lifestyle.

Memo to self – must buy more wine.

More Dominion was played last night, and this time the winner was Shauna. It was close fought – except for poor Kim, who just never got the right cards. There is talk of introducing Rob to the game tonight – we shall see.

Otherwise our days have been writing, and talking about writing, and the nights about eating, drinking, and talking shit. As you do.

Both Donna and I agree it’s been a great way for us to decompress after Conflux 9. We’re both pretty relaxed now, and getting some good work done. I’m now over 20k words for the week – very happy with that. Means that with minimal work I should get this draft done next week.

Cat has talked Donna and I into attending the Aurealis Awards. We’ve got the tickets, the accommodation and the travel sorted. Now, the big question – what the hell to wear?

The great drama of the moment is that Cat’s version of Words with Friends has stopped working. Can she fix it, or will she be forever trapped in a world without Words with Friends? Stay tuned for the exciting development.


The beauty of Boorowa

2 05 2013

I’ve been seeing Boorowa from the windows of a car since I was a little girl – my father’s family is from Cowra and you have to pass through Boorowa to get from there to Canberra and return.

It’s nice to actually see it. It’s a pretty little town, with a surprising array of stores. They’ve landscaped the shopping area and it’s very pleasant.

It also seems to have great internet coverage – thank goodness. Cat and I have our dongles, Donna turns her iPhone into a hot sport. However, we’ve just heard that the library (which we tried to visit but was closed) has WiFi. Heaven!

Last night, I sat and played Dominion with Matthew, Kim, Ian and after a while Shauna. I had a great time – I got all the nasty cards I could get my hands on and proceeded to smash everyone I could. Love a game that lets me be mean. Won the first, didn’t the second but it was a really fun night.

There’s been lots of fantastic chats. Kim and I are bonding over our own journeys dealing with mental illness. There’s been lots of talk of writing, and books, and movies, and comics. Not so much smut yet, but Donna’s still warming up.

She and I are doing surprisingly well considering we’ve just finished running a con. I’m very pleased that I’m currently on target to hit my word count, although if I stay in Boorowa for too much longer, I won’t get the extra 2k words I need today.


Thursday at the writers’ retreat in Rye Park

2 05 2013

I’d booked a massage for this morning and I intended to spend sometime Boorowa to get internet time. Well the power went out fairly early.  Some of us hadn’t got up. Now power meant no water, no flushing toilets, no cooking, no tea. Lucky the fire was going because it was also bloody freezing. Most of us are holed up in Boorowa in a cafe right now, although they won’t let us charge our computers. Shauna and Kim are braving it out. The power is still out and it’s 12.46 so around 3 hours. Nothing we can do about it. Thank god Boorowa has power!

My massage was a mite strange. Part remedial, part Thai and part Shiatsu. It was good, but rather vigorous. I even had hot rocks on my neck. Sort of let’s throw everything at this woman!

Work wise, I worked on a short story this morning, mostly carving out 1000 words to bring it to 4000 words. Yesterday, I finished the revision of my 10,000 words for the Masters. I’ll do a hard copy proof next week. Aside from a few little things it kicks the arse I wanted to kick.

The cultural research project is a bit slower but I’m not too fazed by it. It’s half way there.

Last night the land lady dropped by to collect cash. She brought heaps of pumpkin so we were going to have pumpkin soup but without power, there went our lunch idea. She took away our rubbish too. I’m glad she did, because by the end of the week they’d be a big collection of wine bottles. We wouldn’t like to give the wrong idea that we drink too much!

Now that I’ve stuffed my face with pie and cake I suppose I should end this post. I have photos but it’s way too  complicated to post them just now.