Writing Community & Workshops
By editor Dylan Dartnell
Throughout primary school, every piece I wrote seemed to involve dinosaurs who betrayed each other incessantly with time bombs or incorporated an all-knowing, all-powerful wizard, which rendered the plot and any other character worthless. From memory, some of the feedback I received from my teachers went along the lines of “Ok, Dylan—stop. Creative writing is not your thing.” Yet, after dabbling in an education degree and contemplating a career in sports science, I am now in my final year of university studying a bachelor of arts in creative writing.
I can’t tell you how I got here, but I can tell you that I have never been more passionate about using language to express the stories I hold most dear and empowering others to do the same. But therein lies the question: how do I keep telling these stories in fresh and evocative ways? The answer is pretty simple: we need to keep learning. But I will be the first to acknowledge that not everyone will go on to study creative writing at university, and neither does a bachelor’s degree guarantee best-selling-author status if we do.
Over the past month, I have had the wonderful opportunity to attend Voiceworks’ launch of their #108 issue, Retrograde; two writer’s workshops: one hosted by Express Media; the other, hosted by Subiaco Library, with special guest Natasha Lester; and the Opening Gala of the Perth Poetry Festival. These events have given me a realistic insight into what the literary landscape of Perth looks like and how our city contributes to the overall landscape of Australia.
As an amateur writer, I watched and read Perth’s best and most hard working writers deliver their stories in tragic, light-hearted, hopeful, endearing, and funny ways. The room was filled with people who inspired me to persevere with the pen and offered me comfort as they battled and overcame the anxieties, fears, and obstacles known to us all who write. It made me realise that sometimes we can learn more from a humble, local workshop or poetry reading than a four-year long degree and is why I want to persuade you to get along to the next event.
Learn from leading industry professionals
There is a reason these authors, poets, and directors have been asked to facilitate your local workshops: they know what they’re doing! Unfortunately, I have seen too many of my peers shrug off the idea of a writer’s workshop because they assume they weren’t learn anything new or worthwhile. This is foolishness if I have ever heard it.
My last workshop was facilitated by Annabel Smith, author of Whisky Charlie Foxtrot and The Ark, at Northbridge’s renowned Blue Room Theatre. She provided us all with a spread sheet that broke down the different components needed to make a compelling work of fiction. It didn’t matter what any of us were working on, whether it was a children’s book, a crime-fiction, or an adventure-fantasy, the spread sheet put down on paper what we knew about the plot and our characters; what we didn’t know and needed to think about; and how we were going to organise this information throughout the story. It really is a great tool that many of the writers in the room took advantage of, no matter their level of experience and something all of us as writers can benefit from.
At both the workshops and the launches, we heard readings from many of the celebrated authors whose work translated years of experience, refinery, and hard work. It was such a mark of consolidation to hear that these authors once started off as amateurs (as many of us are) and persevered through their own life hurtles, writing obstacles, and manuscript failings to be able to share so much wisdom and encouragement. Time after time, no matter our short comings, we are told to keep reading and keep writing, even if it means trying out a new strategy or technique. Workshops not only introduce us to the prospect of new skills, but provide safe and encouraging environments which allow writers to experiment with these new strategies and techniques and hone these new skills. Often, there is an opportunity to share afterwards and receive some pointed feedback as you continue to figure out how these new skills suit your writing style best.
Networking and Community
I get it: stepping into a space filled with strangers and engaging in something as vulnerable as writing can feel exposing; like a cat caught in its creep. But I promise you, it is such a worthwhile experience. I have made friends with publishing officers; published authors and poets; I unintentionally struck up a conversation with a head of editing; but most importantly, I formed relationships with other writers.
These are the people that will understand your triumphs and tragedies better than anyone else. These are the people that will understand the immense fear that comes with quitting your safe 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday job to pursue a career in freelance writing. These are the people that will continue to push your potential into the next sphere of ability and possibility. By stepping out and allowing yourself to be vulnerable among strangers, you will undoubtedly build relationships with other writers that will be crucial as you continue your writing development for the years to come, ensuring you put those damn dinosaurs and their time bombs to rest.
So without further ado, here are the next upcoming writer’s workshops here in Perth I hope to see you at in the next month (provided by writingwa.org):
Community Arts Network presents a multilingual multi faith spoken word workshop series facilitated by Sukhjit Khalsa and Abdulrahman Hammoud.
When: Monday 2 October – Friday 6 October
Time: 3pm sessions
Venue: State Library of Western Australia, 25 Francis St, Perth
Random Acts of Poetry
A day of poetry with Kate Wilson, Terri-ann White, Mags Webster, and Matt Norm, closing with an open mic session.
Date: 21st October
Time: 8:30am – 6:30pm
Venue: Rockingham Arts Centre, 11 Kent St, Rockingham
Cost: $40 FoRAC members, $60 non-members (fees include attendance to all workshop session, morning tea, lunch, and open mic session
A Winning Novel: Submitting to the T.A.G. Hungerford
Join the award’s judge Georgia Richter of Fremantle Press and learn what she is looking for in a potentially winning manuscript.
Date: 25th October 2017
Time: 6:30pm to 8:00pm
Venue: Fremantle City Library, 8 William St, Fremantle
NaNoWriMo Kick-Off Party
Novemeber is NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month in which participants pledge to write 50.000 words towards their novel. As part of Write Along the Highway, join Fremantle Library at the Kick-off Party.
Date: 1st November 2017
Time: 6:00pm to 9:00pm
Venue: Fremantle City Library, 8 William St, Fremantle