Shauna Bickley

Writing Weekend Report

Posted on Tuesday 25th November 2014 by Shauna Bickley

Often the best part of a long-awaited event is the anticipation and excitement before the actual occasion. I’m so thrilled this wasn’t the case for our writing group weekend. We had an amazing time.

Our group has been together for almost five years. In that time one has moved to Australia because of work, and another down to Christchurch. They skype into our critique meetings, and if either are in town for any reason we rearrange or add meeting dates.

cathedralLike some others of the group, I hadn’t been to Christchurch since the big earthquakes, and I was interested to see what has happened since then. There were two things that struck me. One was the feeling of space. In the city centre a huge number of buildings were completely destroyed, or so badly damaged they were dangerous. Over time the rubble and buildings have been removed and while there is now building going on there are still many empty lots, hence the feeling of space.

Container MallChristchurch is flat, so it’s always been a little difficult to get your bearings, and when we first arrived in the city I wasn’t sure where I was until we came to Cathedral Square. Suddenly everything slotted into place, and I was utterly shocked at the change. Yes, I was expecting it as I’ve read a lot about the work and changes going on and friends had told me their reactions, but nothing quite prepares you for seeing something yourself.

Scorpio BooksThe other aspect you notice is the ingenuity shown by people. We often glibly say that life has to go on, and it does. You need somewhere to live and if your business premises are destroyed you still need to earn money. Much of the city centre and shops were destroyed and in their place is the Container Mall. Amazing!

Really glad to see a bookshop.


After the city centre we visited Sumner and Lyttleton, both badly damaged in the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 on our way to Diamond Harbour.

The sightseeing was both sobering as well as fascinating, and we also had an opportunity to talk with each other and catch up on news. In addition the weather was wonderful, a beautifully clear and hot Canterbury day.

This was the amazingly creative view from the house at Diamond Harbour.

Diamond HarbourOver the weekend we spent time on writing exercises and critiquing our current works in progress. As this was a weekend jaunt, we decided that everyone would have a critique rather than taking it in turn with two or three per meeting.

Our format is to email our extract (usually around 20 pages) to the group one or two weeks prior to the meeting. This means we are able to have a longer piece of work critiqued, and everyone has time to read and note comments before the meeting. However, as we were all having a critique this time, we agreed to a maximum of 5,000 words, which is still about a chapter of a WIP.

The weekend was such a success; we’ve decided to make it an annual event!

If you are part of a good writing group, I’d certainly recommend this kind of weekend. Here are some of the reasons why:

  • We were fresher for giving and receiving feedback as we hadn’t just finished work and struggled through commuter traffic.
  • We did some writing exercises rather than working on current stuff which gave us a different creative outlet.
  • It was great to be able to talk about books, writing, publishing, marketing etc. without the other person’s eyes glazing over within 30 seconds!

Next time we may decide to have it as more of a retreat with time for working on our own manuscripts, but whatever format it takes, I’m already looking forward to it.

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