The New Year: Writers Victoria

As 2011 ends and 2012 begins, we’ve invited our resident organisations to consider the year gone by and to share their plans for the year to come.

We’ve just launched our 2012 Course Program with the theme of The Writer’s Journey and we’ve also changed our name. Seems like an appropriate enough time to look back at our journey over the past 12 months to see how we got here.

2010 was our first year in the Wheeler Centre and we probably got a bit lost in the crowd. So many great orgs and brilliant people doing things for readers, for books, for literature; a wonderful crowd, but a crowd all the same. It was a wake-up call for us to look more closely at what we do in this new environment. It seems obvious in retrospect, but we needed to focus more clearly on writers.

This is exactly what we did with the 2011 course program; we were here to support writers, to provide them with professional development and give them more confidence and awareness. It worked. We had better attendances this year than we’ve ever had in our history.

Alongside the courses and events, we’ve also been developing the quieter things that also support writers. Our Manuscript Development Program has expanded a hugely and we’ve extended it to allow writers to spend one-on-one time with their assessors and, if this proves productive, begin a mentorship. We’ve also been providing spaces for writers to work. We have the Rosebank residential writers’ retreat nestled in the Macedon Ranges, as well as our nine writers’ studios at Glenfern. We’ve also been having some very fruitful discussions with the National Trust. They are very keen to have writers working in some of their historic properties around Victoria. I’m really excited by some of the possibilities this may offer. As a taster, in the new year we’ll be offering our members two cells in the Old Melbourne Goal. Nothing like a bit of solitary confinement to focus a writer! (Don’t worry, we’ll let them out, from time to time.)

Our 2012 theme of The Writer’s Journey is a recognition that writing isn’t something that happens quickly or simply; it can be a lonely process and take a long time. The journey is different for every writer and is rarely a straightforward stroll along a clear route. Like all great journeys, writing needs a bit of improvisation, a dash of unpredictability, to be able to incorporate elements of chance and spontaneity. In most cases a dull journey leads to dull writing, so we hope we can find new ways to be a supportive guide. There’s nothing like a wise word in your ear or a comforting arm on your shoulder when things look dire.

And what of our name change? It seemed like a good time to recognise our new tighter focus on writers. I hope it will also allay a little of the confusion that existed between perceptions of the Wheeler Centre and the Writers’ Centre. The old name is dead, long live Writers Victoria!

Roderick Poole

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