Community of writers to host retreat

 Oturehua residents (from left) poet Brian Turner, writer Jillian Sullivan, film director...
Oturehua residents (from left) poet Brian Turner, writer Jillian Sullivan, film director Rosemary Riddell and screenwriter Mike Riddell stand in front of the Riddells' tiny Oturehua chapel, as they prepare for this year's inaugural Under Rough Ridge writers' retreat. The four will be joined by two other Oturehua writers to deliver the September hinterland retreat. PHOTO: PAM JONES
They all live on the same street, drawing inspiration daily from the Hawkdun Range standing guard at the end of the road.

Now six writers and speakers who live in Oturehua are preparing to share their sense of place with a new writing community, as they prepare for an inaugural writers' retreat that encourages people to consider what they want to save, and how to write to save it.

Former New Zealand Poet Laureate Brian Turner, writer Jillian Sullivan, editor Paula Wagemaker, screenwriter Mike Riddell, film director Rosemary Riddell and writer Bridget Auchmuty will jointly tutor the Under Rough Ridge writers' retreat, in Oturehua in September.

The hinterland retreat would provide a new setting for novice to experienced writers and also remind of the "something different'' that was brewing in Oturehua, Mike Riddell said.

"The dryland farmers who built the settlement have welcomed the writers and artists who have gravitated to the historic settlement,'' he said.

"The hamlet contains not only poets and authors, but book editors, historians, university lecturers and at least one district court judge.

"There's a strawbale house, a renovated church, a long-established general store, railway hotel and a yurt, along with other historical sites.''

Rosemary Riddell said she and her husband had been welcomed in the community since they moved to Oturehua from Cambridge last year.

"There's none of this `you haven't lived here for 50 years so you don't belong'.

"I feel like I belong,'' she said.

Sullivan said the sense of community in Oturehua - population 34 - enveloped all, and she hoped those attending the retreat would be inspired by that, and by settings that would be unusual to some.

The theme for the retreat - which has received some funding from Creative New Zealand and the Maniototo Community Trust - was "history and heritage - what is it that we want to save? Writing to save place'', Sullivan said.

Participants' writing can be entered in the upcoming New Zealand Society of Authors Canterbury Heritage Book and Writing Awards.

Turner would introduce the retreat and provide follow-up, informal, one-on-one advice to participants, Sullivan said.

It was hoped the retreat would be held again, and possibly become an annual event, Sullivan said.

pam.jones@odt.co.nz

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