Let’s Lavish Love on Library Volunteers

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On Thursday, May 12, I spoke at Kingston’s Cheltenham Library Branch at a function for Volunteer Week. This year is also the year of ‘Digital Inclusion’ and the library is keen to support this theme.

Invited by Monique Gielen, a coordinator of the Home Library Service at Kingston Libraries, I was asked to include my journey to online publishing in its various forms and my experiences with the Mordialloc Writers’ Group, as well as my experiences as Kingston’s 2016 Citizen of the Year.

The Home Library Service is run with the generous help of a group of community-minded volunteers, who visit people in their own homes or aged care facilities, bringing their clients library items, conversation and a link to the community. 

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The function for the volunteers included a welcome and thank you by Kingston’s Mayor Cr Tamsin Bearsley, my speech,  a training session on Kingston’s My Community Life website, and a morning tea.

The afternoon designed to recognise the work of the volunteers and create an opportunity for them to engage with each other. There was the added joy of meeting Kingston’s Junior Mayor, Isaac Madafferi and a pupil from Aspendale Gardens Primary, one of six students chosen to spend the day with the Mayor and learn a little about local government services.

 

Tamsin explained how important volunteering is to many of the services in our community and quoted recent studies that show people who volunteer are healthier and happier than those who don’t. From my experience, the personal benefits of volunteering are indeed substantial and it is fantastic when volunteer contributions to government services and organisations are acknowledged.

And so to my speech an accompanying PowerPoint Presentation – no mean feat to prepare because having a Mac and using keynote I had to make sure it worked as PPP on a PC – always time-consuming and sometimes a hit and miss that there are no glitches. I could do a whole presentation on dramas with technology!

My presentation on the day a little awkward because there was no remote control and the laptop was behind and to the left of me.

However, with a little help from one of the gracious library staff and the fact I had prepared my speech to stand alone, just in case technology failed, I managed to keep everyone engaged  and even received some compliments afterwards.

Big sigh of relief, I’ve survived yet another anxiety producing ‘speaking in public’ event!

What I said and some of the slides I added follow.

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Kingston Library Volunteer Function 2016

Good afternoon and thank you very much for inviting me today and allowing me to share your spotlight – this day is about all of you being thanked for your contribution as library volunteers.

It is safe to say, I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t been selected as Kingston’s Citizen of the Year and I’ve been asked to mention how that is working out, so I’ll tackle that first.

On the day, I received the phone call from Tamsin, the Mayor, I was at Southland with my daughter. I was told I was Kingston’s Citizen of the Year and immediately understood what ‘overwhelmed’ meant. On the drive home with my daughter, I kept shaking my head. Mostly in disbelief, which in many ways still has a hold of me, despite many people saying things like:  ‘When I read your name, I was so glad.’

‘You deserve it,’ or ‘about time you got recognition.’

Those reactions reminded me of a line from a Rabbie Burns poem written in 1786.

(For those who don’t know who he is, he wrote Auld Lang Syne and My Love is Like a Red Red Rose plus volumes of other poems that have not been turned into songs! He’s Scotland’s most famous bard and one my father recited all the time.)

The line that comes to mind regarding the praise and support I’ve received is one my father often quoted. This is the anglicised final verse which explains the theme of the poem -:

to a louse verse

The poem is To A Louse (in Australia they’re called nits) , which goes to show you can write about anything and be remembered for centuries!

The narrator sitting behind an upper class lady in church notices a louse roving around in her bonnet. The poet chastises the louse for not realising how important his host is, and then reflects that, to a louse, we are all equal prey, and that we would be disabused of our pretensions if we were to see ourselves through each other’s eyes.

An alternative interpretation (and with poetry as you probably learned at school, there is always an alternative interpretation) is that the poet is musing to himself how horrified and humbled the pious woman would be if she were aware she was harbouring a common parasite in her hair.

Well, for me, my reaction at receiving the award was more than disbelief; I was humbled and overcome by the knowledge that someone saw me in a different light as to how I see myself. I don’t think I’m, or my achievements, are particularly remarkable, but I am honoured and thrilled that teaching in community houses is valued, that caring and working within the community as a volunteer is valued, and the contribution of the Mordialloc Writers’ Group is valued.

I am well aware that there are many people who are more deserving (I just have to look around this room) and many others whose reaction would be ‘Who’s Mairi Neil? Why did she get the award?’

However, if it lifts the profile of neighbourhood houses, and of writing and local writers, I’m happy to be humbled, praised, or criticised! So far I’ve been keynote speaker at IWD and here.

I was supposed to speak yesterday at Clarinda but apparently the event was cancelled through lack of interest – so not everyone is tripping over themselves to hear me speak!

The plus side of the award is I get to meet lots of interesting people – as I hope to do again today.

Now I’ll move to a subject I am passionate about – writing.  Writer Anne Lamott said,

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Libraries are built on books. Schools rely on them and at any given moment there are millions of books on shelves around the world, in homes, in shops and in libraries like this.

Books that share knowledge and experiences of life, that share poetry and prose from every genre imaginable, that entertain, inform, inspire and ignite imagination.

However, as a writer I’m aware that technology has impacted on writing, publishing and reading and I’ll share a little of my journey later, but suffice to say, I personally love the feel of having a book in my hand, and want to not only see my words, but hold them as I read.

An iPad, Kindle, even mobile phone doesn’t do anything for me except make my handbag lighter when I’m travelling. Electronic books are convenient and if video and slide shows are added, they can be more exciting and entertaining than a good old-fashioned print book, but they won’t completely replace them.

You can’t curl up in bed and feel the same relaxation with a kindle. And there’s something magical about having a child on your knee and reading as he or she turns the pages of a picture storybook.

For me communication, learning, community and living – all begin with story.

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Australia reaps the benefit of the care taken by the original owners of the land, including the Boonerwrung of the KuIin Nation – without a written language their oral histories and knowledge were handed down through yarns, painting, song and dance. Living books.

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Their wisdom helping us preserve this land and thousands of years of knowledge. One of the wonderful developments I’ve seen in my 54 years in Australia is the value added by being able to read the thoughts, ideas, and experience from indigenous writers – their stories no longer filtered through non-indigenous eyes.

Please check out the indigenous literary foundation site and the article by our wonderful local book reviewer Lisa Hill of ANZLit Blog fame, a personal friend, and a Mordialloc writer of course!

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In our culture, to write well you must read. A book is a friend and a teacher.

As a writer I create characters, places and events with words. As a teacher I share my knowledge and love of words to instil the passion I feel for recording stories, putting pen to paper, believing all voices equal. I want to help people tell their stories in the best possible way by learning the craft of writing.

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I was asked to explain what was my motivation for starting the Writers’ Group.
Simply, I need to write – it’s part of my DNA and it is my passion. And I didn’t want to have to travel into the city to meet other writers.

I started the Mordialloc Writers’ Group, wrote and self-published two books of children’s poetry, Small Talk and More Small Talk and volunteered to do many writing ‘jobs’ like performing writing workshops in local schools, libraries and community centres.

I gave workshops during school holidays and started a program combining craft with writing to encourage primary-aged children to write. I ran these programs at the Mordialloc Neighbourhood House – self-serving in the beginning because I had two daughters who were at primary school.

My writing profile filtered through various networks and I was approached by the co-ordinator at Mordialloc and one at Sandybeach Centre to teach creative writing to adults (accredited and non-accredited courses).

In between I had been approached by schools, a couple of councils (Port Phillip and Dandenong), the Bayside Gifted Children’s Network and two home-educating groups.  And so started my journey of paid work in the creative writing and teaching field. On the most part not planned – just evolved.

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It has been proven that writing can be therapeutic and I’m not going to argue with that! I’ve been through a fair share of grief and illness in my life and I’ve found reading and writing has helped me keep a balanced perspective and a positive attitude. I’ve been inspired by stories from others and comforted.

“Studies show that writing about oneself and personal experiences can improve mood disorders, help reduce symptoms among cancer patients, improve a person’s health after a heart attack, reduce doctor visits and even boost memory…. Writing — and then rewriting — your personal story can lead to behavioural changes and improve happiness.”

New York Times, “Writing Your Way To Happiness,” Tara Parker-Pope, January 19, 2015

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Belonging to a group like the Mordialloc Writers’ certainly helped me with many of the writers being close and supportive friends for two decades. We celebrated the 20th Anniversary in 2015.

Reflecting on our beginnings, I remember how 5 writers met at Mordialloc Neighbourhood House in March 1995, put in $1.00 each to cover the rent and decided to meet fortnightly to workshop writing. We wanted to be able to write and meet locally.

Mordy Writers still meet fortnightly. And although numbers fluctuate membership has increased over the years and when we launched our ninth anthology last year, I know we were envied by other local groups that haven’t lasted.

The Bayside Night Writers and Swag of Tales & Swag of Verse – groups that met and/or produced anthologies no longer meet. Even the successful Bayside Poetry Group is struggling with an ageing membership.

It takes a lot of energy to keep a group vibrant and growing and often there are too few people who are prepared to put in the hours and work necessary to keep groups relevant.

 

Hosting regular public monthly readings on the last Sunday each month, means we meet other writers not living in the area and local writers who may not be in our group. However, our foundation rules have never changed:

  • As a community based writing group we welcome writers in all genres, whether beginners or advanced.
  • We are non-profit, our sole purpose being to encourage and support writers in their endeavours to publish, or just remain motivated to write regularly.
  • We produce anthologies with any monies received going towards the next book.
  • We encourage the love of literature and the importance of creative writing in our culture promoting the versatility and richness of the English language.
  • Our inclusive group abhors discrimination. Age, nationality, race, gender, religion, ethnic background or writing ability all secondary to the desire to write.

We have enabled over 60 writers to be published, nurturing several successful prize-winners. Glenice Whitting’s unpublished novel was listed for the Premier’s Award in 2004, and as Pickle to Pie it later won the Ilura Prize for fiction. Sue Parritt workshopped her novel with us, published 2014 as Sannah and the Pilgrim with the second novel in her trilogy, Pia and the Skyman, to be launched in 2 weeks.

Many others have been supported and encouraged to publish collections of poetry and prose including: John West, Stan Fensom, Dorothy Plummer, Bob Croker, Fay Lucas, Jeff Lasbury, Bob Lawson, Gregory Hill ( a successful co-writer of two books), and Dom Heraclides. Coral Waight and Steve Davies  have recently published Ebooks.

Plays have been written and performed, one of mine at Kingston’s Write Up Festival. Glenice and Greg were short listed for Varuna scholarships. Writer, Helen Merrick-Andrews developed a publishing business after her involvement in our second anthology.

Readings By The Bay still attracts writers from as varied locations as Frankston and Mt Eliza, Fern Tree Gully and Northcote, Bacchus Marsh and Oakleigh as well as local bay side participants. Several of us are published in other anthologies, online and other media. Alan Ward pursues his love of performance poetry in Germany where he is living for 2 years. Along with other ex-pats he posts his efforts on Youtube.

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Because I teach writing at three neighbourhood houses there is a lot of networking, connecting and support with the writing by my students and regular members of the writers’ group. Often attendance at Readings By The Bay is the first public airing writers have of their work and the feedback and social contacts makes confidence soar.

Grants from Kingston Council for professional development enabled the group to host workshops by authors Euan Mitchell and Arnold Zable and as Glenice Whitting and myself both gained a Master’s degree in Writing, it is fair to say any workshopping we do with the group is good value.

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Creativity has no boundaries, our members have ranged from 14 to 90 years, for Mordy Writers – it’s not ‘menopausal madness’ – the headline a local paper chose to use from one of my throwaway lines before one book launch!  Rather, it’s unpretentious voices attempting to make sense of and celebrate our social and geographical place in the world through the experience of life ‘bayside’.

Ningla- Ana, This our Land

Indigenous and Immigrant together.

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Now to the digital age – Adaptability and Flexibility – the modern writer’s mantra.

New book titles published this year:

919,851

The following data on books published displayed on the Worldometers’ counter is based on statistics published by UNESCO

United States (2010) 328,259 (new titles and editions)

United Kingdom (2005) 206,000

Australia (2004) 8,602

TOTAL of all countries providing data: approximately 2,200,000

The impact of technology on writing and publishing began 10-15 years ago – when people started reading online and there has been a steady shift of more and more people “googling” ever since.

For most people the first effect was on newspapers and magazines. Advertisers subsidise these – but when people started reading online and didn’t want to pay for it, many journalists lost their jobs.

Classified ads – brought in 1/3 revenue for printed newspapers – that money is gone and will never come back.

Newspapers won’t die they’ll just diminish – even those available online. Social media will see to that. Unfortunately, this has led to a decay in the quality of journalism. There is no money for investigative research or in some cases proofreading – one of my bug bears.

(Read this excellent review of The Media and the Massacre, by Sonya Voumard by Lisa Hill on the same subject.)

If any of you have seen the movie Spotlight about the journalists on the Boston Globe exposing the sex abuse within the Catholic church and subsequent cover up by the church’s hierarchy, you will realise a story like that is more difficult to research today because there is no money to pay investigative journalists. They even hinted at that in the film.

This is why we need independent public broadcasters like the ABC or we’ll be relying on whistleblowers like Edward Snowden for exposés.

However, competing in the digital world and the 24 hour news cycle is more difficult to maintain quality even for a properly funded ABC.

And yet readers are still there for quality journalism and we’ll bemoan and miss good writing.

And the same thing is happening to books.

Unless you are a well-known author or work in the academic world it is very hard to get published and market and sell books in the digital age. We live in a time where there is access to audiences all over the world – anyone can set up a blog or create a pdf and load it up to Amazon or Create Space or WordPress and call themselves a published author.

But how do you find the good stuff from the thousands on Amazon? How do you know the book is a quality read, whether it has been edited, properly researched and even that it’s the author’s own work?

This is where good library staff, like those in Kingston come into their own along with trusted reviewers!

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Hundreds and thousands of books are loaded up online every year, the competition is fierce and authors like myself must learn to be lay-out and design experts, cover designers and marketers – be up-to-date with the various formats and ever-changing software and hardware. That is a very steep learning curve. Especially for my age group – when I left the paid workforce to start a family I thought I was the bees knees because I had a golfball typewriter!

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And like many things you buy online, illustrations can be deceptive and the hype about a book can be just that. Sure we read of successful authors and how much money people make from downloads but reality is if you are a writer in Australia be prepared to have another job as well if you like to eat – especially if you are a  creative writer.

I had to embrace new technology with limited expertise; trust disembodied distant relationships with tutors and students when I did my Master’s degree; adapt lifestyle, extend boundaries, be flexible and most of all, be open to change.

Everywhere I went with workshops and in my teaching I met and still meet writers who don’t understand technology. I’ve learned to never make assumptions about people’s digital knowledge or ability.

Here is a poem I wrote in 2001 after a workshop I did to help the local U3A class put together an anthology – Mavis exists, albeit under a different name.

aMUSEment

Mavis wanted to be a writer,
a desire throughout her life
but circumstances meant priorities
of being a mother and a wife.
And then her dream was realised
in her twilight years
Mavis joined U3A
Writing For Pleasure banished fears.
Encouraged to write short stories
and poems inspired from muse
her tutor suggested a computer
was the recording tool to use.
Mavis approached her grandson
an accountant, he knew computing well
being a prolific writer, Mavis had
thoughts of a book to sell.
She sat at her grandson’s computer
set at the program called Excel
and typed her poetry and prose
a line to every cell!
© mairi neil 2001

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My writing and teaching journey is proving worthwhile, despite constantly feeling ‘screen’ tired with a mind ticking over like a Geiger counter.

The craft of writing is what I enjoy the most; it is my comfort zone and I know this is why I love teaching creative writing because for a few hours a week I share my passion for words, the nuances, the flexibility, the chance to experiment, the fire of imagination.

In my experience, the most difficult aspect of writing is editing and rewriting to ‘get it right’ and it is the aspect too many writers put in the ‘too hard’ basket.

The field of writing is more competitive now than in the past and the proliferation of writing courses, celebrity authors and the need to compete with technological entertainment has had a profound change on the world of wordsmiths.

The U3A writing classes, people living longer and being active, e-publishing, print on demand– a whole range of things will impact on people like me.

But when dealing with publishers, printers, editors and even other writers  I remember the three Ps:–preparedness, politeness and persistence and just like the 70s I know the times are a changing and as a lifelong learner I’m determined to keep up.

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When I finished my talk I played a short digital story I made a couple of years ago through the Center of Digital Storytelling in America. Their workshops were online and my introduction to international conferencing and webinars and the amazing possibilities of online teaching and digital storytelling.

It was a reality check on the skills I thought I had but a wonderful experience workshopping with people from countries as diverse as Jamaica, Scotland, Australia and a variety of American States! Many of them giggled when by the third week of checking in at 4.00am I admitted to appearing in my pyjamas – trendy as they were!

No appearing in pyjamas at Cheltenham though!

After the talk it was lovely to meet up with a past student and fellow writer and take a selfie; visit Ancient Greece and look forward to going home and reading the latest history of Mordialloc by local historians Leo Gamble and Graham Whitehead, a delightful thank you gift.

There are some perks in being Citizen of the Year – and the warm welcome and meeting the dedicated staff and volunteers at Cheltenham Library is definitely at the top of the list.

An Anniversary, a Book and a Celebration

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A wonderful launch! Thank you for a beautiful afternoon filled with love, laughter, tears and great local writing.

Cr Tamsin Bearsley, Mayor of City of Kingston

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Mayor Tamsin Bearsley, Mairi Neil, Bill Nixon AO

The Allan McLean Hall echoed with old friends catching up, and the forging of new friendships as over 100 people gathered to help Mordialloc Writers’ Group celebrate 20 years and the launch of our ninth anthology: Kingston My City. Several past and present councillors attended, including our new mayor who wrote the above message in our Guest Book.

This slide show is a great record of the day:

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A resounding success with healthy book sales and hopefully a rejuvenated interest in local authors, the afternoon may encourage attendance at our workshop nights at the Mordialloc Neighbourhood House, or enrolment in the classes on offer at Mordialloc, Longbeach Place and Godfrey Street.

In a brief history of Mordialloc Writers’ Group, I mentioned the importance of belonging to a group or attending workshops. What I said resonated with several people who approached me afterwards.

In the digital age with blogging and e-books many people ‘just write,’ which is a pity because the quality of their writing, in most cases, would improve if they joined a local writing group or attended a class at a neighbourhood house. The feedback, sharing of ideas and support available invaluable, as is the role storytelling plays in creating a connection within our community, our work, our culture, and ourselves.

Mordialloc Writers’ Group had simple beginnings. In the playground of Mordialloc Primary School, (now Mordialloc Beach Primary), I chatted with some other parents with dreams of writing. I contacted Noelle Franklyn after I saw an advert appealing for stories for the Write Now radio program on local community radio 88.3FM. Our conversation revealed a desire from locals to have a writers’ venue nearby rather than travel to other suburbs and the city.

I approached the manager of Mordialloc Neighbourhood House, and we rented a room for $5. Five participants at the first meeting put in a $1 each. We decided to meet fortnightly, and the rest is history. Even with inflation and fluctuating numbers we’ve survived and thrived at doing what wordsmiths do – we write – and have published eight other anthologies.

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Fifteen of our members, including myself, have branched out to publish their books or be picked up by traditional publishers and sadly some of our members have died. To honour the writing legacy of the writers no longer with us,  Dr Glenice Whitting and Steve Davies read a selection of work from previous anthologies. Glenice read extracts by Mary Walsh, Margaret Vanstone and Tonie Corcoran:

Chill, by Mary Walsh in Writers by The Bay, published 1997

Australia 1995, by Maggie V in Writers by The Bay, published 1997

Boots, by Tonie Corcoran in Up The Creek… with a pen, published 2003

Steve read extracts from John West and Stan Fensom:

Old Diggers Die Modestly, by John West in Casting A Line, published 2000

The Second Engineer’s Fasle Teeth, by Stan Fensom in Casting A Line, published 2000

Anthologies are always a combined effort and Kingston My City couldn’t have happened without the editing skills of Glenice and the proofreading expertise of Belinda Gordon, who both contributed essays. My daughter, Mary Jane designed the cover. My contribution recognised too, and it was flowers all round!

The fact that I can plant a seed and it becomes a flower, share a bit of knowledge and it becomes another’s, smile at someone and receive a smile in return, are to me continual spiritual exercises.

Leo Buscaglia

The writers’ group gift of gorgeous orchids added to flowers from my daughters and sister ensuring the love and warmth felt at the launch will continue for weeks to come.

Before Bill Nixon, AO, launched the book, the other special guests, Making Waves, a spoken word choir performed three poems: Unity by Kevin Gilbert, an extract from Train Set by Dorothy Plummer and Beannacht (The Blessing) by John O’Donohue.

These three pieces were chosen carefully to suit the day. Under the expert direction of Gaytana Adorna, the poems we read delighted the audience, many of whom had never experienced a spoken word choir. Many people said the performance added to their appreciation of poetry – I hope some may be inspired to join us because we could do with more voices.

Unity by Kevin Gilbert

I am the land
I am the trees
I am the rivers
that flow to the seas
joining and moving

encompassing all
blending all parts of me
stars in my thrall
binding and weaving
with you who belong

sometime discordant
but part of my song
birds are a whisper
the four breezes croon

raindrops in melody
all form the tune
of being belonging
aglow with the surge
to life and its passions
to create its urge
in living expression
its total of one
and the I and the tree
and the you and the me
and the rivers and birds
and the rocks that we’ve heard

sing the songs we are one
I’m the tree you are me
with the land and the sea
we are one life not three
in the essence of life
we are one.

Extract from Train Set by Dorothy Plummer

CLICKETY, CLICKETY, CLICKETY CLACK
WE LOVE TO PLAY WITH OUR RAILWAY TRACK

CLICKETY, CLICKETY, CLICKETY CLACK
WATCH ALL THE TRAINS GO OUT AND COME BACK

When it rains and it pours
We play trains –– dry indoors
While the water on windows is streaming

We will circle the track ––
Fast forward, then back
To the tunnels, where signals are gleaming.

CLICKETY, CLICKETY, CLICKETY CLACK
WE LOVE THE SOUNDS OF THE RAILWAY TRACK

CLICKETY, CLICKETY, CLICKETY CRUNCH
DO WE HAVE TO PACK UP IN TIME FOR LUNCH?

Beannacht (The Blessing) by John O’Donohue

On the day when
The weight deadens
On your shoulders
And you stumble,
May the clay dance
To balance you.

And when your eyes
Freeze behind
The grey window
And the ghost of loss
Gets into you,
May a flock of colours,
Indigo, red, green
And azure blue,
Come to awaken in you
A meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
In the currach of thought
And a stain of ocean
Blackens beneath you,
May there come across the waters
A path of yellow moonlight
To bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
May the clarity of light be yours,
May the fluency of the ocean be yours,
May the protection of the ancestors be yours.

And so may a slow
Wind work these words
Of love around you,
An invisible cloak
To mind your life.

I invited Bill to launch Kingston My City with the following words:

 I know it’s a cliche, but really the words ‘our next guest needs no introduction’ is true! Bill Nixon has been a councillor and mayor. He is a creator, giver and most importantly a believer in ‘getting things done’. Helping many groups to start, he’s on several committees and boards. I’m not sure when he gets the time to eat and sleep!

Most locals in this room have met Bill at some time in their lives and several of the apologies reminded me to give Bill their regards. I can think of no one I’d rather launch our book considering the topic. He’s a legend, and may be one of the few people who have bought all our anthologies and read them because at a meeting a few months ago he confided he’d only just finished them all although they’d been on his bookshelf for years!

And so the book was launched with everyone invited to partake of refreshments from tables groaning under the weight of homemade delicacies. You could be forgiven for thinking you’d stumbled into a bakery. The hall buzzed with conversations, the flashing of cameras and the clatter of dishes as a team of writers turned into kitchen hands for the afternoon, ferrying food to tables and washing empty plates. Mordialloc Writers excellent hosts!

Currently, I’m negotiating with the Council regarding their website hosting our E-book too, but one step at a time. Over the next few days, I hope to make the converted book widely available.

Exciting times ahead for our small group because once we are digital we can rightly claim to be ‘international’ writers with our words able to be read by anyone, anywhere in the world. Power indeed as this infographic says and power we will use wisely.

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Sharing Words That Work

“Seeing yourself in print is such an amazing concept: you can get so much attention without having to actually show up somewhere.”

Anne Lamott

The Melbourne Writers Festival

At the moment the Melbourne Writers Festival is in full swing and there are plenty of writers showing up to share their writing journey, words of wisdom, promoting their books and ideas, taking part in debates and engaging with each other and audiences.

My daughters and I attended a session with Rob Thomas the creator and executive producer of the popular Veronica Mars television series, movie, and several young adult books. It was a delightful evening as Rob shared inside stories of trying to get his concept and pilot accepted and also the selection of actors, scenes, and storylines.

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For all the would-be authors in the audience, it’s always good to hear that a successful character/story eventually finds a home after years of hoping – in Rob’s case Veronica Mars sat in a drawer for 7 years, occasionally being tweaked, but waiting for the ‘right moment’ to be accepted.

A Rob Thomas groupie at MWF 2015
Me being a Rob Thomas groupie at MWF 2015

You are lucky to be one of those people who wishes to build sand castles with words, who is willing to create a place where your imagination can wander.”

Anne Lamott

The Mordialloc Writers’ Group

My love of words and writing led me to establish the Mordialloc Writers’ Group in 1995 with the aim of providing a supportive environment, not only for local writers but also for others living beyond the City of Kingston. My dream always to ensure people who joined the group had the opportunity to see their words in print and I know for many members our anthologies are valued for that reason.

Like the moon, Mordialloc Writers’ Group has waxed and waned in membership but still thrives. Members workshop each Tuesday evening fortnight (8-10pm) at the Mordialloc Neighbourhood House in a supportive environment where talent is nurtured and constructive criticism  encouraged. Information about current writing opportunities shared with several members achieving writing awards, success in competitions, publication in other anthologies and even publishing contracts.

“One of the gifts of being a writer is that it gives you an excuse to do things, to go places and explore. Another is that writing motivates you to look closely at life, at life as it lurches by and tramps around.”

Anne Lamott

We welcome poets, playwrights, novelists, family historians, children’s writers – anyone interested in creative or factual writing, whether for publication or personal pleasure. The majority of our members are over 50, but we also have younger writers  ensuring the group is representative of the community.

Anthology Number 1 – Writers By the Bay – 15 writers:

Writers By The Bay
Writers By The Bay

The group hosts the public Readings by the Bay at the Mordialloc Neighbourhood House at 2pm on the last Sunday of the month where the entertainment is followed by refreshments and interaction with wordsmiths from Frankston to Fern Tree Gully.

Anthology Number 2 – Casting A Line – 17 writers:

Casting A Line
Casting A Line

This year Mordialloc Writers celebrate 20 years and we are producing another collection of current and past members work entitled: Kingston My City. Twenty writers sharing their personal recollections and views of interaction with the City of Kingston – including memories before the amalgamation of suburbs created the entity.

Each published anthology shows a progression and improvement in our writing abilities – this was another challenge to the writers to fill the pages of our ninth anthology . The personal essay is not as demanding as the personal memoir because it can be about almost anything, whereas the memoir tends to discuss past events. However, a memoir is similar to the personal essay, except that  memoir tends to focus more on significant or life-changing events. The personal essay can be a relatively light reflection about what’s going on in life right now.

Anthology Number 3 – Up the Creek with a pen! – 17 writers:

Up the Creek with a Pen
Up the Creek with a Pen

Contributors were asked what Kingston means to them. They don’t all live in Kingston but are connected in some way –– either in the past or present, (birth, residence, schooling, work, regular visitor, holidays, tourist, hobbies, attending workshops, readings, festivals…) Their essays explore this connection free from any need to interpret, analyse or seek the deeper meaning beneath the surface experience of particular events. The variety of subject matter and style of writing is amazing as well as entertaining. There is a cross section of past and present writers associated with Mordialloc Writers’ Group and although all pieces are creative non-fiction, there is also haiku and free verse.

Anthology Number 4 – Eleven o Four – 12 writers:

Eleven O Four
Eleven O Four

Our anthologies have always included poetry and prose, but also articles or memoir. They reflect the community’s history as well as being a record of the times in which we live. There are always new writers who have never been published as well as accomplished authors. Our group prides itself in providing a means for every voice to be heard.

Anthology Number 5 – A Rich Inheritance – 20 writers:

A Rich Inheritance
A Rich Inheritance

Our oldest contributor, Frank Jones is almost 90 and he writes about coming to Mordialloc in the 1950s, our youngest contributor is in her 30s and first time published. She writes about coping with motherhood and how the Maternal & Infant Welfare Services helped her. There are essays about the Eisteddfod, the Town Hall, the Farmers’ Market, U3A, football teams and schools. One of our writer’s has a disability, but she explains what it was like when Patterson Lakes was formed and how improvements make it a desirable location to indulge her love of swimming and bush walking.

Anthology Number 6 – Scandalous Bayside – 20 writers:

Scandalous Bayside
Scandalous Bayside

We are the oldest established writers’ group in Kingston and as such represent a cross section of the community as well as keeping a literary tradition alive. To demonstrate the importance of the written word and to celebrate our language it is important there are examples of the work of local writers for future generations to read.

Many of the writers have published individual work, but it is valuable for the community to see a collection of local writing and appreciate the richness of the literary arts in Kingston. We thank the City of Kingston for giving us grants to help towards the printing costs of our anthologies and appreciating Mordialloc Writers’ contribution to the Arts in Kingston.

Anthology Number 7 – Carnival Caper – 23 writers:

Carnival Caper
Carnival Caper

We will produce an E-book (yes, we are embracing the digital age)  as well as  traditional printed books. The launch, on November 14 at the Allan McLean Hall in Mordialloc will celebrate our 20 years and allow the public to meet the writers and perhaps encourage others to join. We always have a spike in membership after a book launch and it is a good way of raising our profile.

We pride ourselves in making sure each anthology improves on the one before and readers can see the progression, hear from new writers, appreciate the improvement of the craft in longtime members and read work that reflects the community, a range of abilities, skills, and topics. We are a community writing group with a high standard, however, the writing varies from popular genres to more academic pieces.

We decided on using the personal essay style this time, but one submission is in haiku.  We are celebrating as well as promoting a literary tradition and although several of our writers have a language other than English, our anthologies focus on the richness, flexibility, and vibrancy of the English language.

Anthology Number 8 – Off the Rails – 21 writers:

Off The Rails
Off The Rails

Many people have touched our lives and we theirs. Writing is a solitary task, but it is important to stay connected with others and a writing group provides that safe nurturing environment. Camaraderie and mentoring, socialising and networking, improving skills, generating ideas, receiving positive feedback and having fun. Lifelong friendships have been formed and through the public readings, we host people from outside Kingston too. Readings By The Bay enables links with other writing groups such as Bayside Poets, Mornington Writers, Henry Lawson Society, Melbourne Poets et al.

Our creative writing group offers a sense of community, and within this community exists an environment that is not only pleasant but conducive to achieving publication – and to be read and appreciated is the aim of most writers. With new writers in our up-and-coming anthology, we will have helped 65 individual authors see their name in print.

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Watch this space for more information closer to our launch date, but please join us on Saturday afternoon on November 14th, 2015 and help make our twentieth anniversary celebrations a day of happy memories!

And remember – please support local writers – wherever they may be!