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I had a great time giving a surf writing workshop during the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. We had a fantastic venue, the co-working space Hubud, just across the road from the Monkey Forest, with its intriguing bamboo construction, gracious staff and warm and friendly vibe. And I was met with a really diverse, interesting and engaged group of participants, diverse in age and ethnicity – Indonesian, German, Swiss, Australian, American – and more women than men. I was impressed how many were media professionals themselves and felt I had as much to learn from them as they did from me, but was heartened that they all seemed to get something out of it. Laura,  a keen and talented freelancer who writes for the LA Times amongst other varied outlets, was especially effusive about the experience and sent me this lovely email after we returned to Australia. They say when you teach something you learn it anew and that was definitely the case this day. Thanks to everyone who took part. There’s already talk of surf writing retreat in Bali next year so stay tuned:


Hey Tim, great to meet you and your wife here in Ubud at the festival. Even better to have been able to participate in your fun and fabulous workshop! Thanks for putting on a thoughtful, insightful program that fostered sharing and learning. I learned heaps (I think only Australians use this word but I fell in love with it when I visited OZ and I look for ways to use it as often as I can, LOL!) about how to get into a story. I enjoyed your examples of getting to know our subject in a variety of ways in order to find a window into an experience or a metaphor that might reveal the heart of the story. This gives me a great way to approach my interviews and articles in order to find their hooks, which means readers are inspired and more sales are made. Patience is key, of course. (I’ve been asking for that for Christmas for the past two years!) The most important thing I want to contribute as a writer is adding something new and unique to the conversation and you have given tools to do just that! Thank you 🙂 I practiced the technique just this week during an interview I did with Emmanuela Shinta with the hopes of exposing her story to a larger audience. At her peril, she’s trying to save her homeland from exploitation and human rights violations by the relatively unregulated Palm Oil industry. The nineteen year wildfire that continues to destroy her island of Kalimantan breaks my heart.

On a lighter note, I think I wrote funny the other day! YAYYYY! (Have I overused the exclamation point? Because I can’t use them at work and tend to go overboard in emails and messages and stuff, forgive me!) Anyhoo, maybe I’ve broken the trend. The article is about one moment that changed my life for a Glamour magazine competition and I really appreciate the advise you gave about self-depreciating humor. I love the question someone asked about how to not sound like a narcissist. I mean the article wanted a first-person piece, obviously, but sometimes when I write travel or personal essays (which the client definitely wants) there is this precarious line I walk were I can sound like I am “oh, so important” or “have all the answers,” etc. Things that put me off as a reader. Great writing is about exploring a subject with the reader. Going forward, I will imagine them laughing, hopefully for all the right reasons, as they read my work.

Hee-hee. So thanks for up-ing my funny. Somehow after I walked out of your workshop I thought I might be able to pull it off.

Photo by Alison Brown/Ubud Writers and Readers Festival

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