Monday musings on Australian literature: Writers Victoria

When I wrote my last post in this Monday Musings series on Australia’s writers centres, author Angela Savage, who is also the current Director of Writers Victoria, commented that the centre was celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. She was hinting, in the nicest way of course, that I should “do” Writers Victoria this year – so, here I am.

Like Writing NSW and Writers SA, Writers Victoria changed its name (in 2011) from its original name, the Victorian Writers’ Centre. A not-for-profit membership organisation, it was created in 1989 by a group of writers who believed Victoria’s writing community needed a professional organisation. I love the clarity and comprehensiveness of their overall goal:

Writers Victoria supports and connects all types of writers at all stages of their writing careers.

This is supported by more specific purposes as listed on their About Us page. It’s not surprising that what they do is similar to other centres, but, like the others, they have their own flavour. They also operate within a very specific environment, given Melbourne’s status as a UNESCO City of Literature and the presence of The Wheeler Centre (for Books, Writing, Ideas). The then Victorian Writers Centre played an instrumental role in achieving both of these. Writers Victoria is, apparently, “the largest writers’ organisation in the country” and “the country’s leading employer of writers” through their programs.

You will have read enough of these writers centre posts now to know what they offer – courses and workshops, mentorships, manuscript assessments, fellowships, writing spaces or studios, to name the main activities. Writers Victoria also specifically supports regional writers, young writers, diverse writers, and writers with a disability. They also advocate for writers and the literary culture.

Book coverTheir diverse writers program, for example, supports “writers who face barriers in the development of their writing careers”. The programs are, well, diverse, catering for women of colour, Asian Australian writers, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, refugee writers, and so on. The program recognises that money can be an issue for these writers, so among the support it offers are bursaries, and paid commissions. The indigenous writing program has used writers you’ve met here – Tony Birch, Anita Heiss and Bruce Pascoe.

For writers with a disability they have a program called Write-ability. Its aim is “to remove some of the barriers that have traditionally prevented people with disability from connecting with writing and publishing”. This support includes regional and online programs, and fellowships.

30 Years

However, because this year is their 30th anniversary, I thought I’d focus mainly on how they are celebrating this milestone – particularly since October was their establishment month.

Here are some of the ways they are celebrating their anniversary:

Flash fiction challenge

In April – the first month of the year with 30 days – they held a Flash Fiction Challenge, which they promoted as “30 days. 30 prompts. 30 Words.” For each day they offered a word prompt, and writers had to submit their 30-word works of flash fiction inspired by that word by midnight of that day. The 30 winners are shared at the link I’ve given, with the first winner, for the word Grit, being blogger Tony Messenger. As a wordlover, I enjoyed the variety of the prompt words, which included Baroque, Gloss, Remember, Nacreous, and Perfectionism.

For a clever, pointed piece, check out Sumitra Shankar’s Beginning, on April 21. It’s a perfect example of the power of flash fiction.

Writers on Writers Vic

Book cover for Toni Jordan's AdditionFor each month – they are up to September – a Victorian writer comments on what Writers Victoria means to them. The writers to date are:

  • Lee Kofman (who co-edited Rebellious daughters which I’ve reviewed)
  • Mark Brandi
  • Toni Jordan (whose Addition, Fall girl and Nine days, I’ve reviewed)
  • Melanie Cheng (whose Australia Day I really must read)
  • Shivaun Plozza
  • Fiona Wood
  • Andy Griffiths (with whom I’m sure to soon have a close acquaintance through my grandson!)
  • Anna Spargo-Ryan (whose The paper house I’ve reviewed)
  • Else Fitzgerald

You can check them all out by going to the site’s page, but to whet your appetite, here are some of the things they say:

… the main antidote to that famous writer’s malady – loneliness, isolation – is in hanging around with peers. Today writers’ centres seem to serve a similar function to that of literary salons from the previous centuries. (Lee Kofman)

I always tell aspiring and emerging writers about Writers Victoria. Many, like me, are just bumbling along, feeling lost and isolated. Writers’ centres like Writers Victoria are invaluable in making writers feel less alone. (Melanie Cheng)

First, I would wholeheartedly recommend it [joining Writrs Victoria]. But second, know what you want to get out of it. A centre like Writers Victoria has something to offer writers at all stages. (Anna Spargo-Ryan)

And so, a very big Happy Birthday to another active writers centre. Australians should be proud of the energy and commitment centres like this one are putting into both supporting all writers and keeping our literary culture alive. Oh, and thanks to Angela Savage for the birthday heads up!

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

6 thoughts on “Monday musings on Australian literature: Writers Victoria

  1. “know what you want to get out of it” is, for me, a key phrase, ST: I have no idea. :\
    I’m torn between feeling emptied of what I had to say and wanting to be inspired to say at least something more.
    Can they convince me that I haven’t done me dash, d’you reckon ?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s