Writing is a lonely business. It’s easy to become submerged within the world inside your own head and forget that you are part of something bigger. That’s why it’s important for me to stay engaged with my community.
My background is in community engagement and professional development, so it’s probably natural to feel drawn to projects that inspire and enrich the lives of people who share the same passion. (Read about my ‘Before I die’ project on Flinders Island here. And Graeme Gibson’s Locative Literature project here). I’ve also been an ambassador for One Girl: an Australian charity that provides education to girls in west Africa, and I do my bit on my local Arts Board.
In August of this year, I was lucky to be involved with an amazing team of volunteers to pull together a fabulous Readers’ and Writers’ Festival in the Shoalhaven. It’s true what they say: ‘It takes a village to raise a writers’ festival,’ but don’t quote me.
With a life-long love of the arts, it was important to me to incorporate the Nowra arts precinct i.e. the heritage School of Arts building, Shoalhaven Regional Gallery and Nowra library on the day, and to include a free children’s program and a community component as well. We redirected some of the ticket revenue from the author talks into the free childrens’ program. This is something we will be building on in future, with the continuing support of the Nowra CBD Revitalisation Strategy committee and the Shoalhaven Arts Board.
We invited Shoalhaven Suicide Prevention Awareness Network (SSPAN) to hold their award ceremony for their annual Shoalhaven Young Writers Award during the extended lunch break and make a bit of a fuss over the shortlisted students. I was a bit cheeky and also asked Melina Marchetta (author of ‘Looking for Alibrandi’) if she would mind coming a few hours early and presenting the medals to the senior high school students and, to my surprise, SHE DID! What a warm, generous and articulate woman she is. Hopefully, she has inspired a new generation of talented writers to stick with the craft beyond their school years.
We heavily subsidised writing workshops for adults and, working with our intrepid local library staff, co-hosted a full day children’s program featuring Jackie French, complete with costume parades and wombats.
The town was alive with all things literature! So I’m told. I was backstage breathing into a paper bag and missed the whole thing, haha.
The festival was the culmination of over a year of hard work for me and completely sidelined my writing but the joy of working with an indefatigable tribe that included Allison Tait , Winifred Sadlier and Rowena Sierant, to bring some of the best writers in Australia to our town, was one of the best experiences of my life.
Bring on the next project!