To say the retreat was inspirational seems trite in describing so much of the richness that happened there. The deepness of the layering of thought and opportunity to share within the arms of the ‘deep damp quiet of Blackball’ s hard to describe. Blackball, an historic West Coast settlement famous for its coal mining history, birthplace of the NZ Labour Party and upcoming opening of the Paparoa Track bewitched with a palpable sense of excitement and revival in the air.
Jeffrey Paparoa Holman, ex Canterbury university lecturer, poet and author of fiction and non-fiction, was as a child raised here. Paddy Richardson, author of ‘Into the Lonesome Dark’ an historical novel set in Blackball is currently writing under fellowship a sequel to that hauntingly rich story, and was the reason I decided to attend. I had met her when she presented at a previous Māpua Literary event. Then there’s Paul, the well-known filmmaker and ‘cultural activist’, the quiet and humble organiser who managed to pull everyone in on a shoestring budget.
In the evenings we huddled at restaurants, watched a play, shared stories and bonded. Precious daylight hours were spent alone writing, discussing that writing with our mentors and many more ruminating over those discussions. The attendees brought such different stories that the retreat was laced with laughter, tears and friendships forged though sharing of powerful personal journeys. There is talk of a Readers and Writers workshop Queen’s Birthday weekend 2020. Anyone out there keen to be inspired into more reading or writing? I’d advise you to mark your calendars now, as I cannot stop thinking about it all and how very fortunate I was to attend.