Helen’s Highights @ KSP

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Here are pictures of my time at the Katharine Susannah Pritchard Writers Retreat. Some of the highlights are, in all probability, that work has progressed to Chapter 38 (2nd novel). I have also written a new scene. This is thanks to Neil Gaiman (re masterclass advice) who reminded me that if I write about corrupt/criminal characters I should fully write them in and keep that thread consistent/going. I also think that while this novel is historical fiction, it is also a crime novel, white or blue collar crime? I’m not sure what these terms mean exactly, but I aim to find out. I will be attending a session by David Whish-Wilson at the Margaret River Writers Festival in May, so I may just ask this at question time. Other highlights were swimming at the local pool while on retreat and given some avocadoes by the Pool Manager. I also sat in on the poetry group run by Mardi May. A very enlightened group as they critique their work each session with the aim of a later publication or an anthology. I met the Administrator, Shannon, the gardener, Fern, and Sheree and her husband – maintenance/cleaners. The best thing was that the KSP was a quick & straight run along Reid/Roe Highways which only took me roughly 30 minutes from home. I have booked another week at the end of April for a re-edit of all my 44 Chapters +Afterword, gadoink!

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Helen Hagemann @ KSP Writers Centre

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Currently, I’m spending time at the Katharine Susannah Pritchard Writers Centre. I’m in retreat for seven days (actually 6.5) working on my second novel The Ozone Café. Why working away from home and getting on with the work seems successful beats me? Perhaps it’s the different environment, the time and space to spend solely on a current project or possibly the amount of time is not interrupted. After all, there is no television, no rushing around shopping or cleaning, watering the garden, looking after grandkids or fussing over the cat which is not yours. I seem to have a system and here it is as follows;-

  • I have completed the novel and it is going to be published in October, however it needs editing. The way I edit is having my word document open and at the same time have the novel saved in .pdf. I expand the .pdf pages to two and as large as possible to view. This appears easier for me to spot a missed comma, fullstop, space, two words joined together or a question mark, etc. I systematically travel through the .pdf and at the moment, I am up to page 150.
  • I attend a critique group and have 4-5 copies of my fellow writers critiques depending on which chapter I am up to. Currently, it’s Chapter 38. I place these pages together. 5 lots of page 1, 5 lots of page 2, 5 lots of page 3, you get the idea. Then I go through with different coloured highlighters, cross out the crit I do not agree with in green highlighter and with pink edit their suggestion giving it a big tick. I have a whole lever arch file filled with these pages. I find that I will work hard and possibly re-write paragraphs that all my fellow writers have pointed out problems. Working with other writers is essential. They see what you do not see.
  • I also save the .pdf file to my mobile phone. Using Adobe Reader I go through some of the re-edited work and this is an excellent way of spotting any mistakes made during the editing (this certainly happens!). Adobe Reader has this excellent little “comment” tool where you can place a litte comment balloon/icon (not sure what it’s called), type in the edit you want to make and you can (even late at night), go through your mobile phone, read the work over again and don’t forget to save. Later, you can go through any future saved .pdfs and add spunkier verbs and nouns and if you’re into them figurative language.
  • Difficult chapters! Yes there are many and I have found that if I record (again on my mobile phone), I can ‘HEAR’ the mistakes, I can hear when a sentence is clunky, out of rhythm, or in other words over-written. It is time consuming, but the evidence is there to listen to at any time, esp. while you’re driving, in bed late at night, even while you are multi-tasking at home like cooking, watering, eating lunch, walking or sweeping the backyard. No leafblower for you!
  • Filler words! Oh my, I am guilty of using these. When I see one, I delete it. Some filler words that are unnecessary in the narrative are:- just, always, then, now, quite, rather, however, maybe, perhaps, etc. There are online articles about these.
  • You need to break from work when you’re on retreat. I like swimming, so I research the Shire’s local pool and attend. This helps with the writer’s slouch and if you’re like me, sometimes I get a backache from too much sitting. Also treat yourself to a latte in the area, chat with the ladies in dress shops and basically enjoy being in a different place – for a change!


Happy writing!

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Helen Hagemann reviews “Where the Crawdads Sing”

Where the Crawdads SingWhere the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
After struggling with the last 2 or 3 books of fiction, except “American Dirt”, Where the Crawdads Sing was a welcome change. I have discussed this book with a group of women who belong to book clubs, and most found it a good read, liking the crime element (a who-dunnit). I was puzzled by the ending (had a different take on the killer), until they told me that I had missed the part about the boy in a hoodie.
I liked how the author described the marshland, the palmettoes, esp. all the waterbirds, the blue heron, crows, frogs, the gulls and the collection of different feathers. The story relaxed me going through, as if I was meant to slow down, take some time with how this Marsh Girl (protagonist, Kya) experienced her lonely environment and isolation from a dysfuntional family. This was quite an intriguing world that Delia Owens described, and one that I knew very little about. I had to research what the “crawdads” were. You experienced a sense of being there amongst the channels, brambles, a dense thicket, a coastal marsh and even the mud exposed the dampness.
“A dark clearing – one of her favourite places – spread cavernlike under five oaks so dense only hazy streams of sunlght filtered the canopy, striking lush patches of trillium and white violets.” p87.
I couldn’t fault the writing and here are a couple of her poetic phrases, to name a few. Ten out ten.
“Nothing seemed too indecorous as long as the tick and the tock of life carried on.’ AND ‘Clouds lazed in the folded arms of the hills.’

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A Retreat Tragic

MARCH RETREAT AT THE KSP WRITERS CENTRE, GREENMOUNT, WA

One of my favourite past-times as a writer is attending writers’ retreats. Over the years I have travelled to many commencing with the Varuna Writers House in Katoomba, NSW and the last attended was in middle-country, Portugal. I still have a Terrey Hills NSW residency at Eramboo waiting for me to occupy sometime when the Covid pandemic is a distant memory or a viable 2021 option. But meanwhile, another opportunity has arisen at the KSP Writers Centre in Greenmount, WA.
I have fond memories as an ECU student (& writing hopeful) attending various functions/ nights at KSP to listen to published authors back in the nineties. We went in a group with our English Professor along with his encouragement. I think I was following my dream and continued to apply to as many writing opportunities as possible. Yes, I’m a writing retreat tragic!
So, at the end of the month, I will be spending 6 nights in 1 x ALDRIDGE WRITERS RETREAT ( en suite facilities ) MY CABIN.
I thank the folks at the KSP Writers Centre for this wonderful and affordable offer to stay in the hills in a quiet location and in a fully-equipped cabin (& not far from the John Forrest National Park). For me, it’s a great opportunity to deeply emerse myself in my second novel and believe me it has come at a great time. I am nearly at the end of the novel with my critiquing group, editing and taking onboard some of their suggestions, so this week will be valuable time to fully scan the novel, perhaps rewrite some bland phrases, replace hackneyed verbs, nouns, adjectives, etc and generally improve the writing the best way I can, if not poetically.
I also believe I have the opportunity to join in with some folk in one or two of their weekly writing classes and look forward to meeting new writers (& some I already know!). I also expect that I will not be the only one bunkered down in a leafy, tree-lined and shaded bungalow. Stay tuned for how the week goes!

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