Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Olvar Wood - time to write

What is Olvar Wood?
It’s a writers retreat.

A place where you can go to refresh your mind, renew your passion for writing, meet other like-minded writers and learn more about the craft of writing.

Well, can’t I do that already? I mean, I go to workshops and conferences all the time.
Olvar Wood can offer you more than any workshop or conference. The programme is designed to suit your specific needs within a small group environment in a tranquil bushland setting.

What did you think of the price?
It’s actually good value for money. The cost includes a one-on-one oral manuscript appraisal, daily writing workshops, all meals (including a restaurant outing) and luxury accommodation.

So how was it? Did it live up to your expectations?
I’ve never been to a writer’s retreat before, but I had definite ideas of what I’d like to experience and yes, Olvar Wood lived up to all of them.

On my drive up from the Gold Coast I felt like a little kid on the way to meet Santa at the North Pole; part of me expected a magical place and another part was worried perhaps it didn’t exist. But, from the moment I turned into the driveway, I knew I was in for a treat.

Tucked away in the bush near the township of Palmwoods in the Sunshine Coast hinterland, Olvar Wood is an intimate boutique retreat. The warmth of wood, the sound of water and the aesthetics of great design were my first impressions as I pushed open the door into the foyer. The environment created by Dr Nike Bourke and Dr Inga Simpson is perfection and I would happily have stayed there even if I weren’t a writer.

After settling in to my sumptuously appointed room (luxury is the key word here), I joined my weekend co-writers in the lounge for pre-dinner drinks and nibblies. What a delight to meet two creative, inspiring and intelligent women, (Judy and Donna) both with a keen desire to learn as much about children’s writing as I was. Not surprisingly, we had loads to talk about.

Over a gourmet dinner of salmon (with the most delicious crust) with our hosts Nike and Inga, we began our journey of learning. Nike and Inga are warm and caring individuals with an honest desire to provide the most rewarding experience for their visitors. After that first dinner I also knew I was in the presence of great talent and creative writing wisdom. This was going to be a weekend to remember.

Everything was provided for us: a library of books, a complete office (printer, fax machine, copier), wireless internet connection, all our breakfast and snack needs, catered lunches and dinners, platters of fruit, wood for the fireplace, toiletries in the bathrooms, a laundry, our own desks with a dictionary, a personal Olvar Wood pen and pencil and a chocolate bar to feed that writing brain.

Saturday and Sunday were spent with Nike in workshop sessions, which included Working with Story and Character and Imagery and Imagination. Nike has a natural ability to nurture the writer in you. She addressed our needs and encouraged us to ask questions and meet challenges. I was inspired. Both Nike and Inga have backgrounds as professional writers, university lecturers and supervisors of creative writing. The knowledge that Nike was able to impart certainly raised the bar for me.

An hour was set aside for each of us for a private one-on-one appraisal of our manuscript. Not only did I receive an honest and supportive appraisal, I also enjoyed genuine interest and encouraging suggestions from Nike for furthering my writing career. This personal time also allowed Nike to get to know our needs and she incorporated this in the workshops which followed.

Between workshops we were able to enjoy the expansive grounds and native forest, take in the view to the Blackall Ranges, meet the locals (like the small goanna on the roof, who poked his head over to say hello to me) and dine on the veranda.

I left on Sunday with new friends, great memories and a wealth of ideas for my current children’s novel. Most importantly for me, the weekend confirmed I was going in the right direction. And if ever I feel doubt again, I will be beating a path back to Olvar Wood’s door.

Yeah, I’ll definitely give them a look. What’s the website?


Anonymous said...

Wow, what a write-up! It sounds incredible. Something I'd definitely love to do some time. It's so important to keep fresh - writing new material, challenging yourself and always learning, even trying writing in different environments and with new influences.

Sounds like you got plenty done on your novel, too!


Anonymous said...

Hi Angela,

It sounds fantastic. I am very keen to give a weekend/week a go up there sometime. Sounds so inspirational and they have done such a fantastic job creating the place. It is easy to see how passionate these women are about the craft of writing. Great review. Thanks for sharing with us.


Joanne Sandhu said...

Sounds like a great experience, Angela. Thanks for sharing that with us.


Sherryl said...

I've met Nike and Inga and your write-up of Olvar Wood had me wanting to jump on a plane and go there immediately!
Thanks for the great description. I'm trying to get my writers' group to agree to a weekend...