A Writer’s Sanctuary


Creative Writer’s Sanctuary In Lismore

“All your life, you have been ‘writing on the air’, and that has built craft and confidence and voice. It is all there ready and waiting for you”. (p.15, Pat Schneider, Writing Alone and with others.)


Come join me for 5 Saturdays of creative writing in beautiful and tranquil Lismore.

  1. 8 October, 2016; 5 November 2016, 3 December, 2016
  2. 28 January, 2017; 25 February, 2017
  3. Fees for all 5 Days is 430 Euro  Single Days are possible and will cost 90 Euro.


You will have an opportunity to write in an encouraging, confidential and inspiring setting in response to suggested exercises.

These writing days are specifically for writers who dream of writing but who find it hard to get into a committed relationship with their writerly selves. You will be encouraged to develop your own unique writing voice and you will generate material for further work between meetings. The group will be small and intimate.  If you are working on a project there will be opportunities to present your work and to get feedback in order to bring your writing to the next level.

There is no way to get it wrong!

Come prepared with walking shoes, pen and paper. Weather permitting we will spend some time outside each day. Teas/Coffees and a light lunch will be provided.


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Writing a story

“Writing a story is like crossing a stream, now I’m on this rock, now I’m on this rock.” Ann Beattie (Paris Review, 2011).

I’ve become very interested in ‘hanging out’ with my resistance, an old friend, that comes along whenever I have some writing project in mind. I just have to dream a project and suddenly I’m doing everything else except writing – baking, gardening, even cleaning the house.  One day I actually went as far as making fish stock rather than write! The activities I end up doing are creative and engaging. Before, I used to ‘push’ myself through this resistance and, yes it worked to the degree that I got to write something. But these days I’m more interested in what function my resistance plays in the larger scheme of things. These are the things I’ve noticed so far to work with resistance:

(1) If I set my timer for just 5 minutes of ‘writing’ my resistance doesn’t have time to catch up and suddenly my 5 minutes can stretch out to be 30 minutes, 1 hour.

(2) If I tell myself that I’m just going to ‘play’ with a piece and let the words fall out willy nilly.  Trust that I know how to push the pen across the page.  Leave the words there for a few months and when I come back I’m surprised that this work was written by me – these thoughts were my thoughts and I like them!

(3)  There’s something I do with the word ‘writing’ or thinking of myself as a ‘writer’. It has a weightiness that stops me in my tracks. So what is this about?  And I think that yes writing has been pushed into the elite echelons of the ‘chosen few’ in my schema of things and I haven’t been invited in yet. I don’t come from a ‘writing’ or ‘literary’ family. Indeed, I grew up in a house without many books. My reading material as a child came from the ‘comic books’ I borrowed from a friend. Isn’t this interesting? What is lost by this idea that writing belongs to the chosen few.  Actually, I believe that writing comes first and foremost from that part of us that gives ourselves permission to write.






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Beginner’s Mind

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”
Shunryu Suzuki

Sometimes we have to go back and start again. Starting again after a time of ‘listening to the world’.  This is what Mary Oliver does over and over again. Each morning she heads out to the world and listens with her notebook. For me writing is a practice that I have to learn over and over again. I realize that I’ve always wanted to write, waited for the right time to write but now it’s a practice for integrating and processing my experience. Most of my writing is in notebooks long forgotten in the busyness of life, and I realize that to be a writer means being committed to a stance of looking and listening. In this wonderful interview Mary Oliver inspires me to start again and to see that maybe my scribbling, my scraping sounds on paper have value.

I need to go back and start again.


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Poetry and Healing

“I don’t have huge faith in the possibility of psychotherapy to change people as I used to. In fact, I now think poetry has more capacity to change people than psychotherapy. If you read a poem and it gets to you, it can shift your perspective in quite a big way, and writing a poem, even more so.

Neuropsychology can help to explain poetry, to demystify the impulse. There has been work done on why poetry can send shivers down our spine. The poem activates the same parts of the brain that react when a child is separated from its mother. A deep sense of separation and longing”. Sean Halldene, Psychotherapist and Poet. Candidate for Oxford Professorship, 2015.

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Writer’s Sanctuary Day

Creative Writer’s Sanctuary


“Stories have to be told or they die. And when they die we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here.” ~ Sue Monk Kidd.


Come join us for an inspiring day of creative writing in beautiful and tranquil Lismore.

You will have an opportunity to write in an encouraging, confidential and inspiring setting, in response to suggested exercises. The focus will be on dipping into the well of memory and trusting ourselves to write the stories that want to be told. There is no way to get it wrong!

If you are working on a project please feel free to bring it along whether it is story, a poem, a blog, a memoir, or whatever is whispering in your ear.


If weather permits we will have time to walk the ‘wild garlic trail’ of Lady Louise’s Walk. Come prepared with walking shoes, pen and paper

Places are limited and are filling up fast!

Anne is a certified Amherst Writers & Artists Affiliate

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Writing as spiritual practice.

Both prayer and writing invite us to explore the full range of human awareness, out to the edges of what we have experienced and beyond, out to the the edges of what we can intuit, and beyond. Both invite us to imagine, to be brave in what we imagine, and to keep the doors of all our imaginings open. Allowing writing and prayer to overlap-writing as spiritual practice- invites a dynamic relationship with mystery. A block on writing is like a block on prayer. ” (Pat Schneider: How the Light Gets In).

So I see the writing process as a call and response process. I have to do something – write in this case (not think about it, or talk about it, or indeed procrastinate about it) I have to sit down and write for the appointed time I have set myself and then wait for the universe to respond. Sometimes we surprise ourselves about what wants to be spoken and what we write about. Sometimes there is a big silence but that in itself is a response. If I can be with that big silence within me, my awareness and attention deepens.

Perhaps, when I’m warming up I might only hold myself to 15 minutes of writing and then I am off the hook! But usually before I know it, I have done my 15 minutes and am into something for an hour or so. I get on with my day and wait.

So how does the universe respond?  Mostly I become more attentive to the world and to what calls my attention. Maybe the world offers a soft seagull feather on my path, maybe a crow flies low on my morning walk and I notice the regality of the flight pattern, maybe I hear the rush of the river around a big rock as it snakes through the valley,  or I notice the sky opening to a new moon. All of these experiences open me to something mysterious and I see my part in something bigger than me.  I see my writing as a prayer to the universe- I offer it to to the universe of my imagination, my consciousness and let it sift through the many layers of my life.  Like flour sifting slowly through the sieve of life.  In a way what I write is not mine rather it is something flowing through me, something human coming through me, that hopefully tells a small spark of the human story. Then it becomes a thread that threads through the day and my consciousness. It slips in and out of my awareness and if I’m lucky I will catch a thought, an image that I can work into my poem or piece of writing. Or maybe I’ll pick up a favourite writer and something they say speaks to me. It is always an act of faith and hope.

However, I have to keep my ‘perfectionist’ critic at bay while I write this this call and response routine. My cynical, critical ‘perfectionist’ will question every offering and ‘pooh, pooh’ my vanity for even attempting. Anne Lamott in her wonderful book ‘Bird by Bird’ speaks of this need to banish perfectionism calling it a ‘frozen form of idealism’.  The part of us that we develop by staying with our meagre offerings is a ‘quiet doggedness’ that will help us last the course. So the next day I sit down with my offering again, not really knowing where I am going. I know I am on the right track if I have that sense of ‘not knowing’. Some writers seem to know ahead of time where a piece of writing is leading -I don’t. And that’s the mystery for me because like this piece of writing I’m not sure where it’s going except that I want to communicate something and articulate my meaning. And I get to make messes and big scrawls and play with this mysterious unfolding!

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Writing as courtship with the mysterious!

“The part of the psyche that works consciousness and supplies a necessary part of the poem …exists in a mysterious, unmapped zone: not unconscious, not subconscious, but cautious…Who knows anyway what it is, that wild silky part of ourselves without which no poem can live?” p. 7, A Poetry Handbook, Mary Oliver.

Mary Oliver is one of my favourite poets. She writes deeply about her intimate conversation with the world of nature around her – she celebrates the particular, the small intimate beings around her from grasshoppers to swans to the waves of the sea. They all speak to her directly – the call and response of writing. In a recent interview, she describes how  she gets up early every morning, notebook in hand, pen poised waiting to catch that wild silky part that remains hidden if not invited and courted.

Her poetry invites me to encounter the mystery, to take a sacred pause and wonder too at this ‘beauty’ that will pass.  Poems to me are like gifts or prayers offered to me and I mysteriously find the one that perfectly fits my particular ‘angst’. They lift my attention to the larger presence underpinning life. They become the sustenance my spirit needs when I am navigating grief, loss, anger, resentment – the necessary humiliations of life. They are like Hansel and Gretel’s  ‘breadcrumbs’   leading me home.IMG_1316 IMG_1340

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