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Rottnest Retreat 2021

Every year, dozens of West Australian writers and illustrators flock to Rottnest Island off Perth’s coast for a weekend of workshops and writing. This amazing opportunity is the Rottnest Retreat, run by the Australia West branch of SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.) It’s a chance for WA writers to meet others in their field, including industry professionals.

With the 2021 retreat now over, we spoke to two YA writers, Meg Caddy and Tamara Moss, about their experience.

An island full of writers… Was it as amazing as it sounds?

Meg: It was, and it usually is! It’s particularly amazing to have a space where you have a chance to move freely in a setting that is both professional and friendly. At this Rottnest, and in past SCBWI retreats, I’ve been surprised and touched by the fact that we can be vulnerable around one another as well as laughing and gently heckling each other.

Tamara: It sure was! It’s such a solitary profession, and to be able to talk about the craft and the business side of things with a bunch of other writers was a joy. It refreshes you, you know? Hearing others are going through the same things, whether it be to do with writing or contracts or rejections - it makes you feel less alone. And it’s so inspiring. You feel ready to jump back into your manuscript after each conversation!

It's just something else to be in a completely creative space, filled with other people from the industry.

How did the retreat help your writing?

Meg: I’ve been working on my PhD this year, so I’ve been stuck in a very theoretical, history-based writing headspace. The retreat was my opportunity to shake that off and get back into writing fiction, which absolutely worked. It was a total reset.

Tamara: I got over 7,000 words done! You can write in your cottage, do writing sprints with friends, write on the beach, write at the cafe - whatever works for you, there’s an option.

Did you attend any of the workshops? How did you find them?

Meg: I attended a panel by Meg McKinlay, Deb Fitzpatrick and Katie Lefroy on writing MG fiction vs YA fiction, and then the character workshop by Meg and Deb. Both events were a wonderful balance of humour and information,and the workshop was exactly what I needed to get a good sense of character going into a new fiction project.

Tamara: I didn’t attend any because I was too busy writing!

What was the highlight of the weekend?

Meg: The highlight of the weekend was truthfully sitting in a cabin with three amazing illustrators, watching them experiment, draw, and paint, while I planned and played with the beginning of my new project. It’s just something else to be in a completely creative space, filled with other people from the industry.

Tamara: It’s a natural instinct to want to put your friends’ names down when you’re choosing cottage buddies, but I find it rewarding to be put with someone you don’t know. You learn more about the people behind the Instagram/Twitter handles, and make new friends!

Check out the Australia West branch of SCBWI for more opportunities! Will we see you at the 2022 retreat?

Photos: Amanda Klamrowski & Julieta Julieta


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