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?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


There is now an online petition available in support of Aussie Books.

To register your vote, go to:

Please forward this link far and wide amongst your contacts...


PS The online petition does NOT replace the paper petition. Paper petitions carry more weight (of influence) and are therefore still preferred.
Align RightThe paper petition can be downloaded from Paper petitions close 1 September 2009.
C'mon, We can do this!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

NZ proves lifting PIRs does not reduce the price of books

Parallel Importation Restrictions on books were lifted in New Zealand ten years ago and yet books there have not dropped in price, especially children’s books.

A hard back copy of one of Lynley Dodd’s famous Hairy Maclarey picture books recently cost me NZ$25 in New Zealand and yesterday I saw the exact same copy in an Australian independent bookshop for A$21.95.

Children's books in NZ by a NZ author are now so rare that they carry a small triangle in the top corner of the front cover stating: ‘NZ author.’

Why do you think this is so?

Well, the NZ Society of Authors and the Book Publishers Assn of NZ sent their own submissions to the Productivity Commission in Australia against the lifting of the PIRs. Here are the points they made:

"Lifting PIRs has had a detrimental effect in NZ."
“The consumer has not benefitted from lower prices in the shops.”
“Retailers actively increase the selling prices of books above the RRPs.”
“The chains are also limiting the range of titles they offer.”
“A number of large multinational publishers withdrew their distribution infrastructure.”
“Resulting in reduced employment within the industry.”
“Local authors receive reduced royalties or no royalties at all on re-imported overseas editions of their works.”
“Overseas publishers supply remainders (especially children’s books) directly to NZ booksellers when local publishers represent those titles.”

In spite of these submissions the Productivity Commission’s report states:
“The effect of the NZ reforms on book prices, if any, is less clear.”

What is clear is that the children’s book industry in NZ has suffered the most.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

I'm taking the petition to the Byron Bay Writers Festival

I'm off to a workshop tomorrow at the Byron Bay Writers Festival. Like a good music folk festival it is one of the richest experiences you can have creatively in Australia. The writings, the readings and the discussions are all music for the soul and the intellect.

What a pity then that such festivals will be reduced in size and will potentially fizzle out as fewer and fewer Australian publishers are able to invest in homegrown talent and nurture their local authors. Should the parallel import restrictions (PIRs) on books be lifted, there is every likelihood that this may happen.

Australian editions of books like 'Harry Potter' (published here) provide Australian publishers with the financial rewards that enable them to continue to invest in Australian-authored books which may have a smaller print run. Without this help many Australian stories may not be told.

If PIRs are lifted the foreign editions of Australian books will be sold here side by side with the Australian edition. However, the Australian author will receive a reduced royalty and if the foreign book is a remaindered copy the author receives no royalty at all.

The Productivity Commission admits that the foreign edition may displace the opportunity for the author to 'sell' his Australian published book, thereby directly affecting his income further. Not only does he receive no royalty on the 'remaindered' copy, but he misses out on selling the local edition - a no win situation.

It hardly seems worth spending years writing a book, then re-writing and editing it for no reward.

So tomorrow I will be going to the Byron Bay Writers Festival armed with a petition.

You can download your copy from

It will be my way of stopping this madness.

Join me.