Written by Raewyn Blair


Raewyn Blair – Author


We were planning a year on the road, in the South Island with our re-vamped caravan, but I was spending a fortnight in Wellington with my friend, Jenn. Dave was with friends who had space for our car and caravan.

Jenn had attended a Mike Patterson “With Love” workshop for family story writing at Victoria University. Nine students from that course formed a writing group – two from the South Island posted their stories for the six weekly meetings. The group were to meet while I was there, so I asked,
“Could I join them if I wrote a story?”
Jenn needed to check as they were a tight-knit group, stories being so personal.
As I wrote, Jenn read my draft.
“This is another story, and this.  Stay with the chosen story. Keep it tight but give all the interesting details you can.”
How foolhardy was I to think I could join in?
We sat around Jenn’s large Kauri table. When I was to read, I was pleased my story held a trace of fear, which I hoped might appear the cause of the shaking page in my hands. What a relief when I could hide them under the table, and heard favourable responses. I was invited to join the two South Islanders as a distance member.

The last Saturday in Wellington, my brother took me to a huge second-hand book sale. Being limited for space I chose just a dozen, all South Island authors.

What a treasure!



The South Island was all we’d hoped for.
Dave found places to position the caravan so beauty was captured through one of our widest windows. In the 1990s, there were many choices to camp by rivers, lakes and a variety of DoC camps. Dave painted and left works in local galleries.  We walked the land, I paddled long sandy shores and walked stony harbour or lake edges, sometimes we went swimming.

As Dave painted I began my stories, in no particular order.


Whenever a story idea grabbed me I wrote.

Starting another story distanced me from the one just completed, making editing much easier.
I bought a little electronic typewriter to speed the process.

Ah the excitement of Jenn’s package collected from a Post Office, the reading, some sadness, commenting, learning and laughing.

What a delight.

Also helpful was a change many years earlier, from novels to short fiction, when three little daughters in the space of two years meant I could no longer follow my ill-disciplined ways of reading late into the night.

The simplicity of life on the road, the variety of new places and people and the time to do and see what we wished made them some of the most memorable days and years of my life.

I’d say this with a grin, when the duvet’s shaken, the housework is done and the day is ours to explore. The need for creativity in cooking within the limitations of caravan life was a pleasing challenge, but not as great as that of the writing.

Mike Patterson, a Journalist, ran many writing courses like the one Jenn attended because, when teaching journalism in New Zealand, he noticed his students’ lack of family and cultural knowledge. Our lifestyle deprives extended families from gathering often, and children missed hearing all the talk and stories of extended family – of hearing their own family history. He produced a book  “WITH LOVE  Gifting your stories to Grandchildren” ending with a dozen examples of stories written in those workshops. And setting forth a clear and useful guide in 150 pages.


A few years later, still on the road we settled in the Bay of Plenty rather than returning to Auckland.



People asked if I could teach them story writing.


So with Patterson’s book, I taught a six-week class (15 people, everyone had to have read With Love.)
After the course they split into daytime and evening groups both of which I worked with for 4 or 5 years, stories being circulated within groups for critiquing, and my more in-depth help.


It was such enjoyable work and firm friendships formed.


Many people produced books, some kept their stories on discs. Eventually I felt those who had not completed their collection were fine without me.

People in town were keen to have a course, so again I advertised as for the beach course (I didn’t charge for courses, my payment was enjoyment!) A similar number attended.

After the course they chose to meet fortnightly. Reading a story was followed by discussion and reminders to seek the writing methods in stories which worked well. Then at home I edited, critiqued and emailed these to all the group. Meeting so often they learnt quickly and wrote well.

We all loved the stories and times together. Sad, scary and funny stories strengthened understanding of childhoods here, and in Europe during WWll.  Almost all members produced books for their families and one for me.


While teaching I studied creative writing papers at Massey university, great fun.

I also printed, guillotined, stitched and bound my own hard cover, cloth bound books (of 12 segments, 260 A5 pages,  with photos, 9 chapters 80 stories and half a dozen poems.)

I made enough books for siblings, daughters and any family members who asked for one. The printing was a real trial on Jenn’s laser printer, but the writing and producing of those books was sheer pleasure.


Thank you SO much, Raewyn for sharing your story. What a lot of joy you have shared with your family and so many others, also.

Has Raewyn’s story inspired you to start writing? We hope so!

Raewyn has made a very generous offer to guide interested people in this art – online, via Zoom. Please register your interest using this link.

If there are at least 10 people interested (and we can find a New Zealand day and time that suits everyone!),  this will be an inspiring event!