WRITTEN IN PARADISE

“But the Kelvar can flee or defend themselves, whereas the Olvar that grow cannot.

And among these I hold trees dear” (from Tolkein’s Silmarillion)

Spending a week in an elegant place within beautiful surroundings is the perfect medicine for writing. You can’t waste a moment, especially if you are paying for the privilege.

I am at Olvar Wood, a gorgeous writers retreat on the Sunshine Coast hinterland in Queensland, about an hours drive from Brisbane. I live in Melbourne, so I flew into Maroochydore and was picked up at the airport by Kelly Dunham, organiser of the wonderful Voices on the Coast writing festival where I will be speaking next Monday and Tuesday.

And here we are in the newspaper. We are positively shining.

A twenty minute drive took us through small hamlets, between sugarcane fields that have now been turned into grass farms, and up an unsealed road to Olvar Wood.

We were welcomed at the door by Nike Bourke who, together with Inga Simpson, owns the retreat. They are both writers and conduct workshops here throughout the year. Nike’s picture book What the Sky Knows is beautifully illustrated by Danalis Stella and was shortlisted for the 2006 CBC Awards.


Inga and nike’s goals in setting up Olvar Wood are:

  • To establish and maintain an ethical, environmentally sustainable writing business that is efficient, flexible and human
  • To nurture and support Australian, particularly Queensland, writers and writing
  • To provide a peaceful, natural, creative environment for writers
  • To develop a writers’ retreat that is more than just a physical space: a retreat that is also a source of inspiration for the national and statewide community of writers
  • To preserve, maintain, and improve the natural setting of Olvar Wood for future generations.

I am intoxicated with this place. Every detail has been attended to – from a dictionary and pencils in every room, to a stock of organic food in the pantry and refrigerator, to a wonderful library of books, to wi-fi and a printer and even a piano.

The other advantage being here is that I don’t have a car. The closest town is about 5 kilometers away, a long walk there and back which means that I am forced to work.


So far I’ve completed the final edit for the first novel in a new series. I sent the ms off to Penguin on Tuesday and it will come back to me as first pages. This is such an exciting stage in the life of a book. I have reworked three chapters of novel two and am rather pleased with them, at least until I read them through again. Hopefully I can complete another three chapters before I leave on Sunday.

I am completely alone except for the myriad of birds and a huge goanna who clambers across the tin roof and along the spouting making a thunderous racket. Yesterday he almost fell off. I held my breath as I watched him dangle over the edge, scrabbling with his front legs to get a grip on the slippery surface. He made it thank goodness and he has also made it into my WIP. I hope to get a photo of him before I go.

Today I am going to leave my retreat for the afternoon. I have been invited to Palmwoods Primary school to have afternoon tea with the students who are competing in the Readers Cup. A Ghost in My Suitcase is one of the books on their list. It will be a nice little interlude. Kids are always fun to be with. I also need to stock up on food.

As I lie in bed writing this blog, dawn is breaking through the rainforest. I look out my window and into the trees. Stillness reigns and words ride on the wind.


3 thoughts on “WRITTEN IN PARADISE

  1. Gabrielle – it has been an absolute pleasure having you up here. Guess what – it is freezing today, a really cold wind. Hope to see you many more times enjoying the serenity of Olvar Woods.

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