I’m not a writer – as regular readers here would know – so I only have an outsider’s understanding of how writers develop their skills. Here is what I know. First, of course, writers have to write – and write – and write. This is a pretty lonely business – and I suspect, often a frustrating one. They may need help developing their manuscript to completion, or they may not know how to navigate the publishing process,
But, they can receive help. There are creative writing courses in schools and universities. There are writers’ retreats (as I’ve written about before) where writers get to work on a project and sometimes receive advice while doing it. And there are targeted development programs. These are the ones I’m writing about today. They vary in length, format, funding arrangements, and who they target, but they all have one goal – to help writers succeed.
As usual, I’m just going to share a few to demonstrate the variety of offerings out there:
- Gertrude Contemporary and ARTAND Australia Emerging Writers Program is a very specific program targeting “emerging visual arts writers” who want to “contribute to the critical discussion of Australian contemporary art”. It teams four writers with mentors to help them “develop their writing practice, publish their work and gain further insight into the field of contemporary art writing”. It was established in 2005 and they say it’s the longest-running program of its kind. (That’s a great achievement though I’m not sure what they define as their “kind”). (Melbourne, Victoria)
- Hard Copy, run by the ACT Writers Centre, with funding from the Australia Council for the Arts, targets “committed emerging writers”. It has several aims, writerly ones like helping them develop their manuscripts to completion, and practical ones like increasing their knowledge of the industry and their ability, if I read the aims correctly, to network. In 2015, Hard Copy is focusing on writers of non-fiction, and applications close on 13 March. (Canberra, ACT)
- QWC/Hachette Australia Manuscript Development Program is a program jointly run by the Queensland Writers Centre and the publisher Hachette. It has been running now for 7 years, and has resulted in the publication of books like Favel Parrett’s Past the Shallows and Inga Simpson’s Mr Wigg. It’s a four-day program for 10 emerging fiction and non-fiction writers, and provides individual consultation with Hachette editors and the opportunity to meet “publishing industry professionals such as literary agents, booksellers and established authors”. (Brisbane, Qld)
- SA Writers Inc Professional Development Program is, I think, typical of the programs run Australia’s state-based writer’s centres. The describe their professional development program as comprising “a wide variety of events, workshops and masterclasses”. If you click the link I’ve provided, you will see the calendar for the current month, showing that at the end of February there is a Masterclass in Creative Writing and a Spoken Word Workshop for Young People run by Omar Musa. (Adelaide, SA)
- Varuna, The Writers House, like many writers retreat venues, offers a wide range of development opportunities to writers besides its residential program. They divide their non-residential or outreach program into two groups, Workshop and Events, and Writer Development Program. The former can include short-term courses like the Introduction to Life Writing Workshop presented by Patti Miller in 2014, while the latter provides writers with one-on-one consultations on their manuscripts. (Katoomba, NSW)
If you’re a writer, have you attended any professional development programs? Were they useful (and what made them so, if they were!)?