Writing Group Wrap-up

The end of the year is an accounting time for my writing groups (I belong to two). It is when we recollect individual and group activities and achievements. As I look back, I reflect on the last eleven years (for that is how long the Lazy River Writers group has been going; the SODs group formed in 2007.) and I appreciate the value of the wonderful support these friends have given to one another and to me.

The LRW formed after a Victorian Writers’ Centre workshop at the Belgrave Library. We met at the Lazy River Cafe one month later to report on and to set new SAMs – goals that are Specific, Achievable and Measurable.

We still report on our achievements at our monthly meetings, but now they are known as our BRAGs – not an acronym and I think the meaning is fairly obvious. Fairly, not completely obvious- we include all undertaken writing-business related activities in our BRAGs; for to be successful, one spends time researching, writing, editing, rewriting, sending out work with cover letter and synopsis, networking, attending and sometimes running literary events and workshops, receiving acceptances and rejections, reworking and more workshopping etc..

No matter in which branch of the Arts one is actively working, all the less glorious, and sometimes mundane, steps one takes should be recognised as goals achieved, along with the obvious positive recognition of our Arts status, such as publications and prizes – and also income. Without proper groundwork and administrivia (to borrow a word from Hazel Edwards) the rewards will not follow regularly, if at all.

The greatest benefit of belonging to my writing groups would have to be the friendship shared with kindred spirits who truly understand why we do what we do, how we see the world, that we are not mad for staring off into space as ideas form and develop, that we are always living with our characters, places and themes and that our arts paraphernalia and jotted notes and drawings are tools of trade and work in progress – not mess.

I have also enjoyed participating in literary events, some run by all or some of the group, such as the anthologies we have produced and successfully entered in competitions, and the Queen of Tarts performance of one of those anthologies, Scotts Harbour, in the Overload poetry festival one year. Another year a couple of us had short poetry in a ticker-tek scrolling message around a building in Federation Square.

Speaking of Melbourne’s Federation Square, the poets in our group have performed poetry there on many occasions, with one member, Marian Spires, competing in and winning the Poetry Idol. She took the prize and went to Holland and France following the footsteps of Vincent van Gogh. This research led to the Melbourne Writers’ Festival, Federation Square launch of Knowing Vincent, her verse novel about Vincent, told from the perspective of the women in his life.

Marian’s well-written project was not only celebrated by the LRW, it was a collaboration. During the writing stage, we workshopped individual poems at our monthly meetings at the Belgrave library; on one of our writing retreats at Phillip Island, we gave feedback as Marian rehearsed her winning Poetry Idol piece; twelve months later, at our next retreat, I worked into the night to finish a collage on the computer, for Marian’s final approval before printing, cutting up and pasting the pieces of her chosen design onto the 600 x 900mm canvas of which I took a photograph to be sent to the publisher for the cover art of her book.

The marketing of the book, including its launch and subsequent events, was taken on by LRW member, Jenan Taylor, through her company Tribal Media and the whole group celebrated the launch at Federation Square, where excerpts were read by Marian’s support network, including LRW member, Vicki Thornton.

There are many other examples of group support and celebration of achievements.

Here are photos of an event from this year – celebration of the release of The House of Twelve Bunnies, by Caroline Stills and her daughter, Sarcia Stills-Blott. LRWs performed roles in promoting the event, icing bunny cupcakes, setting up, manning the door, distributing lucky door tickets, serving the drinks, selling the books, making a speech, photographing the event. etc.

Illustrator, Judith Rossell and authors, Sarcia Stills-Blott and Caroline Stills, sign books at the celebration.

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