A Q&A with Mary Napier

VWC Program Manager Mary Napier

VWC Program Manager Mary Napier

With Victorian Writers' Centre launching their 2011 programme next week, we thought it would be the perfect time to talk to program manager Mary Napier.

Wheeler Centre: What events are you most excited about in 2011?

Mary Napier: It’s horses for courses really and all exciting because there’s something for everyone. This year, there is a greater selection to choose - from year-long courses, half year intensives, weekday activities to short and sharp courses. My personal favourites are Year of Memoir with Anne Manne and Year of the Play with Raimondo Cortese (I may even enrol myself) but then you can’t go past our Summer School workshops featuring Steven Amsterdam (2009 Age Book of the Year Winner), Ben Pobjie (TV writer, radio personality, comedian and poet), Rowan McKinnon (15 year veteran of Lonely Planet), Marion Lennox (author of over 85 published romances), Alice Pung (author Unpolished Gem Black Inc 2006) and more.

WC: Tell us a little about your programming philosophy - how do you go about creating events?

MN: The first priority is to tailor a programme that will accommodate our audience needs. Our members stem from early to established writers with a range of genre interests and so diversity is the key to the planning. I value feedback received about all of our activities. Just because an event worked in the past, doesn’t mean it will be sustainable in the future. To keep an annual program vibrant, it is essential to keep up a momentum of fresh change and new faces, yet still recognising what essentials to keep. Our focus at the VWC is to assist the writer in creative and professional development, career planning and marketing know-how. That in mind, I have a lot to play with. At the end of the day, I really enjoy devising the VWC annual program. Its like working on a jigsaw and the crosswords, whilst making sure dinner is on time and the kids are fed properly.

WC: What are the new things in this program that VWC has never done before?

MN: I am really happy to introduce our half-year intensives. Like our year-long courses, the aim is for participants to develop a manuscript or series of work over the period. The half-year courses are for those genre areas that suit a more condensed approach. This year we will be running Short Story, Popular Fiction, Poetry and Screenplay (another course I will be reserving a seat for).

Another new kid on the block is our monthly Friday ‘Write Club’. Somewhere free of seminars, workshops and panels, Write Club will be a chance to catch up with old faces, meet new minds, wind down (or wind up) and have some fun.

WC: If I’ve never been to a VWC event before, what would you suggest I go to?

MN: As a taster, I would recommend any of our session series. They’re compact, concise, highly informative for the budding writer and affordable (for the struggling writer). Across the year a range of panels and seminars will include: Stage and Screen - covering aspects of the pitch, the process, and adaption from book to screen; Massaging the Manuscript - outlining the role of the assessor and mentor, how to target a publisher and all about the Contract; and Publishing Perspectives - exploring author / publisher relationships. From there, you should be inspired enough to do something about that writer’s block. Then it’s simply the case of being a kid in a candy store and picking the right workshop or course to motivate you.