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Monday musings on Australian literature: Writers SA

August 5, 2019

Time, I decided, for the next Monday Musings in my little series on Australia’s writers centres, this time South Australia’s. And it, like Writing NSW did, has recently changed its name, in this case from SA Writers Centre to Writers SA It is, says its About page, Australia’s first writers’ centre, and is located at the State Library of South Australia..

The Chair at the time of the change, Amy Matthews, said that it will ‘turn its attention in an even more dedicated way to helping South Australian writers achieve their creative dreams’, and that they are ‘going to do even more all over the city and the state, with more free events, more writing workshops and three targeted year-long programs for writers at all stages of their careers’. One can be cynical about name changes, but if they result in real improvements, then who cares. Let’s hope that’s happening here.

Like other writers centres, Writers SA is a membership organisation, but also obtains funding and support from others, particularly from federal and state governments.

Here are some of the things the centre does:

Courses/Workshops

Courses and workshops are, as I’ve said in previous posts, a major component of what writers centres do, and so it is with Writers SA, and it’s clear that this centre makes a particular effort to support and encourage young writers. Here is a small selection of Writing SA’s current offerings:

  • Teen Writers Club (with Jason Fischer, a science fiction writer who has won and been shortlisted for Ditmar and Aurealis Awards): geared to teens 15–17 years old, but this is a guide only, they say. That said, they also have a group for younger people aged 12–14 years old. It’s a weekly group that meets on Saturday mornings during school term time.
  • Manuscript Incubator (with Bronwyn Tilley): a 5-month program for “writers looking towards publication”. It’s far easier to quit than to finish! This program says it’s for a whole range of needs from turning a draft into a “final polished product”, to finding/approaching an agent or publisher.
  • Story to Screen (with Holly Lyons, who is been script-writer or script editor on many Australian television series, including, most recently, Home and away): a one-off workshop on how to transform “an original idea for a story that you’re happy to share with the group … into a story with impact suitable for film or TV.”
  • Book coverWriting for Change (with Tory Shepherd, journalist who has written On freedom, published by MUP): a one-off workshop on the challenge of crafting “a piece that will (hopefully!) withstand the scrutiny of subeditors, editors, and of course readers”. The promotion for this workshop says that “there’s more demand than ever before for opinion pieces, which means more opportunities for freelancers. It’s also a powerful way that advocates and lobbyists can make their case.”

These are just four of many courses and workshops they offer on topics that include, in addition to the above, creating comics and writing YA fiction, the future of fantasy, finding an agent, and even on how to keep your motivation up!

Events/Networking

  • Monthly meet-up: A monthly informal get-together led by staff from Writers SA and Adelaide City Library that is “usually genre specific or practice specific”. The promotion says “ask for advice, ask questions, tell stories or make up stories. You’ll come away motivated and ready to go home and put pen to paper.” The August meet-up is on Journalism.
  • Literary drinks: These are regular (or semi-regular, it’s not clear) evening which they describe as “relaxed networking opportunities for writers, readers and everyone in or interested in the writing industry. Meet your writing peers, connect with your community, and find out what’s happening in the world of words in SA.” The next one occurs in September and is called “Spring Mixer”.
  • Salisbury Writers Festival: This annual festival, now 15 years old, is organised by Writers SA and the City of Salisbury. The program for the 2019 festival to be held at the end of August is on their website.

In addition to the above, Writers SA also offers a wide range of professional resources and services, including manuscript assessment, something they call “first feedback”, and individual consultations. It has a blog, which seems to be published regularly, and which covers a wide range of topics, from professional to fun things like giveaways.

Book coverIn 2018, the centre created a Writers and Readers in Residence Project specifically designed to support regional communities. It involves South Australian and international writers undertaking “an artistic residency in regional communities to activate reading as well as writing in the town”. It seems to have funding (from the Australia Council of the Arts) to run from 2018 to 2020. You can read about it on their website.

Writers who have been involved to date include Jennifer Mills (author of the Miles Franklin shortlisted Dyschronia) who was based in the Eyre Peninsula; New Zealand novelist and playwright Whiti Hereaka who is currently based at Roxby Downs Community Library; and writer Karen Wyld who took part in the ACT Writers Centre’s Hardcopy program and was based at Ceduna. The project involves writers working on their own projects and offering workshops or other activities in the communities in which they are based. Karen Wyld was hosted by the local public library while another participant, novelist and poet Bernice Chauly, worked with Ali Cobby Eckermann (who has appeared several times on my blog.) It sounds like an active, exciting program, one that recognises the needs of South Australia’s many remote communities, while offering development opportunities for the writers too. It also clearly puts diversity into practice in its selection of writers for the project. (Oh, and this sounds like just the sort of thing the newly-renamed organisation was aiming for!)

.. and here ends my post on another busy, active Writers Centre.

Writers Centres covered to date: the ACT, New South Wales, the Northern Territory, Queensland, and Tasmania.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. August 5, 2019 11:10 pm

    Sue, I’ve enjoyed these posts. Let me know when your tour of writers’ centres is likely to bring you to Victoria as we are celebrating our 30th anniversary this year and keen to share the love!

    • August 5, 2019 11:26 pm

      Oh, I didn’t know that Angela. I will do it this year then, maybe in September or October. If there’s a message or something you’d like me to include – or a nice pic – let me know.

  2. August 6, 2019 6:27 am

    You have prompted me to see what the Victorian setup is, ST !

    • August 6, 2019 8:08 am

      Good, M-R … and it sounds like I should make it the next cab off the writers centres rank!

  3. August 6, 2019 7:29 am

    These writers centers sound like great innovations. I can imagine just how difficult it is for new writers to hone their skills and connect with more experienced writers.

    • August 6, 2019 8:12 am

      Thanks Brian. What I find surprising is that they are all relatively new – although there was, established much earlier on in the 1920s, something called the Fellowship of Australian Writers, but I think it has always had a somewhat more political purpose, though I think there’s some crossover into professional development areas, awards and festivals. It still exists.

  4. August 6, 2019 6:50 pm

    Hi, Sue, yes the FAW does still exist, I was a member when I first started writing but now I just belong to the ASA which is the national writers union and advocate. I think it was more political in the days of Vance Palmer & Co, than it is now.
    I have occasional flirtations with the being a member of the Vic Writers Centre which is very good, but mostly involved more in supporting emerging writers of course so not much is relevant to me. Mainly I belong just to support them, but OTOH sometimes I go to things which guide my way of thinking about things, like the seminar with Bruce Pascoe about protocols in writing Aboriginal characters — which was brilliant and taught me what to look for when reviewing especially during ILW, and another one about plotting (which taught me about plot types I like to avoid so it was useful to be able to describe why!)
    The irony is, with all these state centres, is that the writers who need them most are in the smaller states which are generally poorer than the big ones, and so there is less funding and a smaller membership base. And yet I know from keeping a close watch on Tas and NT, how much they manage to achieve. I’ll add the SA one to my watchlist now too:)

    • August 6, 2019 7:05 pm

      Thanks Lisa … and I remember those posts of yours about attending those seminars. At least, I clearly remember the Pascoe one, and I’m pretty sure you wrote up the plotting one too?

      I know what you mean about the smaller states – I remember that the Tasmanian one nearly closed recently didn’t it? It’s inspiring to see what all these centres come up with, really, given the challenges they face. The time they must spend in writing grant applications!

      • August 6, 2019 7:56 pm

        No, I didn’t write up the plotting one. It was basically about how to follow a formula to write commercial genre plots, which are often the most financially rewarding but (unsurprisingly) formulaic to read.
        Yes, it was the TWC that had a funding cut when Tassie was cutting budget expenditure. I didn’t do much: I sent them some money, (it was when I was still working!) but I also wrote to the government, and urged others to do the same, to make them aware that the rest of Australia was watching.

        • August 7, 2019 9:18 am

          Oh, I must have imagined you did. Maybe you mentioned it in a comment on something else. And yes, I did something similar with TWC – sent money, and signed petition, at least – particularly given my Tasmanian connections!

        • August 7, 2019 9:36 am

          Well, Tasmania has brought us so many great authors!

        • August 7, 2019 5:52 pm

          It sure has …

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