This week I'm proud to be sharing a wrap up of the Historic Hydro Writers Collective's very first weekend writing retreat.
We had a truly wonderful weekend and it has given everyone a real taste of great things to come.
The "retreat" basically consisted of two nights at The Hydro, everyone with a room of their own, a private creative space in which to rest, dream and write, to sit without distraction and let ideas flow, inspired by the imaginative atmosphere of our very own Hydro.
As everyone checked in on Friday afternoon, it was clear that this iconic landmark building - the "Grand Old Lady", our "Gothic Mansion" - is the perfect place to hold a writing retreat.
With the wrap-around wide verandahs and the views across the paddocks and rooftops to Colinroobie and Bunganbil and beyond, with the magic of the light, the old architectural features, the majestic staircases and hidden nooks, it is a place where the imagination can spread its wings.
The group shared a night of fun, eating pizzas and drinking and talking together at The Freckled Duck on Friday night, as well as a perfect Saturday night sharing a meal and swapping stories at The Wade.
However, there was also some amazing writing going on.
People moved at their own pace to find their rhythm over the weekend.
Some people got up at dawn, and, pen in hand, wrote as they watched the sun rise the horizon.
Some sat til well past midnight writing into the wee small hours.
Everyone learning more about themselves as writers, but also as people - confronting, joyous, liberating, relaxing.
Ideas flowed. Friendships were cemented. Stories and secrets were shared. Tears were shed. Drinks flowed. We had it all.
A big thank you and congratulations to all those who attended this very first writing retreat - Leonie, Aly, Ben, Christie and Emily, and Mel, Deb and Lyndal. Special thank you to Christie's children - Rosie and William - who joined us for dinner on Saturday night and had an exciting sleepover in the big house on the hill.
Thank you to the staff at The Hydro for their ongoing unwavering support, both in regards to the retreat, but also to the group and the whole writers residency program that is now just over six months old.
To Camille from Western Riverina Arts, who took time out of moving house to come and take some photographs of us all.
It's a real commitment to make time from life's busy flow to attend a weekend retreat like this and I'm very grateful to everyone who made that commitment.
Part of this is the courage to make a commitment to yourself, to make the time to explore your creativity, or even just to think in peace.
For parents it is sometimes especially hard to ask for that space, but it's also so exciting for our children to understand this part of us and being brave enough to make it real sets a profound example for them.
My own daughter used to complain when she was a tiny girl in primary school that it was "so embarrassing and not fair that she was the only one in her class whose mother was a poet".
But now she doesn't think that. Now it makes her feel proud, but more importantly it gives her the courage to take her own chances.
This crazy upside-down year of wonders that is 2020 has been so challenging, but has also opened unexpected windows.
Like a portal, like walking through the wardrobe to Narnia, we have all stepped through to this magic thing, a collective of writers on a journey together and, for each of us, each new adventure shows us the sky's the limit.
The work of the writers group in the last six months builds on the legacy of those who came before us, like Denise McKenzie and Marjorie McCormack who drove an earlier writers group, and even like Henry Lawson and Jim Grahame, Dame Mary Gilmore and Agatha Christie, notable writers who have all had associations with our town.
These are the foundations of a future where writing and literature will be a central element of Leeton's identity as an arts and cultural hub - not just for our region, but for the whole country.
The Hydro, the Roxy, the Museum and Gallery, the Leeton Art Society, the Town Band and Pipe Band, the dance schools, Western Riverina Arts' mandate, our Eisteddfod and our Library and our schools, our Australian Art Deco Festival, our SunRice Festival, our Historic Hydro Writers Collective and Writers Residency - there is just so much to build on and celebrate.
The second weekend writing retreat will be held at The Hydro in November.
Everyone is welcome to attend. Details will be available soon.
The Historic Hydro Writers Collective meets every Wednesday night from 6:30pm at The Freckled Duck. All welcome. Take chance on something new and find your voice.
Contact email@example.com or 0404 348 277 for more information.