Flora captured

And not just flora, it seems. Hearts. Minds. Enthusiasm floweth all round in the poetry project. You may recall me mention a gaggle of poets involved in a collaborative venture between the Art Gallery of Ballarat, the University of Ballarat and Ballarat Writers Inc. Well, we’re now at the celebratory end of the project, having workshopped and written and revised and polished and rehearsed our new works over the past six weeks.

The anthology of our words is now on the designer’s desktop, our shiny new pieces being set next to the art works that inspired them in a 48-page full-colour wonder. The booklet will be available free to recital-goers with their ticket, and also for sale in the gallery shop. A collector’s item for sure.

Book your ticket here. Because it is a roving recital – one that will move around in the exhibition space – numbers are strictly limited in each performance. You won’t see this anywhere else.

'Flora Captured' poetry recital

New works by local writers recited alongside the object of their inspiration.

It’s exciting to think that in two weeks today, the group will have the first recital under its collective belt and will be looking forward to the second.

For me however, the chance to speak my words in the roving recital would be a bonus: the birth of my first child may intervene…

A gaggle of poets

Back on 8 September, an eager group of writers gathered at The Bean Barn to take part in a new project called ‘Artists inspire artistry’. It’s based on an idea that has been buzzing around in the Ballarat Writers Inc. box of ideas for a few years: a roving recital of new works written in response to art. Roving because the works are read in front of the art that inspired them – in this case, selected from the soon-to-open exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ballarat, ‘Capturing Flora: 300 years of Australian botanical art’.

When earlier this year I was approached by the gallery to offer suggestions for events that could run in conjunction with their exhibition, up popped the idea. I figured we could spread the love even further still, so invited staff from the University of Ballarat’s School of Education and Arts to participate. I recruited passionate academics in literature and spoken performance. So now the project involves the Art Gallery, the University and literature/arts students, and members of Ballarat Writers Inc: a fine developmental opportunity  for local aspiring writers and a ripper cross-arts collaborative endeavour. Fabulous.

From mid-September to late October, 11 writers and poets are learning about and practising ekphrastic writing, workshopping ideas, visiting the gallery, and writing writing writing. They will also be treated to workshops in presentation. Their brief: to produce a new piece of writing in response to something from the exhibition.

The project culminates in two public recitals in the exhibition space on Friday 9 November and Tuesday 13 November. You’ll even be able to buy a copy of the totally unique, limited-edition anthology of new writing that will include full colour plates of the artwork associated with each poem, vignette or story. Just a little exciting!

Given the exhibition title, perhaps a more appropriate collective noun might have been a ‘pod of poets’. Maybe?


$1,000AUD for 40 lines

I don’t know about you but the prospect of being given $1,000 for just 40 lines of poetry makes my mind race. It races off to trawl my mental archives of poem titles and line counts, past those already published to those freshly minted (are they ready, are they really ready?). You know the ones – they still zing with newness and flash possibility. Then there’s always one last revision before releasing it on its way.

But back to this $1,000. If I told you there’s a poetry competition open right now that is offering a first prize of $1,000, would you race off and count your lines? You ought to.

The competition is the Martha Richardson Memorial Poetry Prize, administered by my good friends, Ballarat Writers Inc (we are in cahoots, I’ll admit). I happen to know how many entries have come in so far, and let me just say your chance of scoring the prize is high… for now at least. You have until 15 October 2012 to get online and submit, submit, submit!

Nathan Curnow is judging the competition this year, so your poem/s will be in the presence of greatness. But there can be only one winner. May it be you (or me, definitely preferable).

Download the entry guidelines and entry form here.


An Oscar Wilde quote:

‘I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.’

Because it is inspirational

Just last week, in the midst of a deadline-driven, timeline-shortened, mega-squeezed period of work, I was wondering WHY ON EARTH do I do this? That is, why do I volunteer for a community organisation that doesn’t pay me for my time; gives me complex puzzles to solve; and even occasionally difficult people to work with, all on top of my ‘real job’ and in my ‘spare time’?

Have remembered the reason. Today was the first day of the Ballarat Writers & Illustrators Festival, and it was inspirational. Not just for the organisational feat of it, but also for the energy it created. The joy in being involved with the development and production of something that so many others clearly value and appreciate – that is why I do it.

The energy in the room was palpable. Panelists of authors, illustrators, publishers and editors shared their experiences in the CYA industry and I found myself wishing for a time-slip (thanks Kate Constable) so that we could stay in that zone a while longer. I was also struck by the contradiction that writers and illustrators are nowhere near the highest income earners, but just look at what they GIVE to our society.

Fascinating too, to hear what people working in the industry think of the world-wide surge in ‘digital publishing’; who is embracing it and how; and how to come to terms with it as a writer. I can give no simple answers here, except to say that the book is NOT dead. From what I saw and heard today, our options as readers and writers are just broader. Personal preferences will always have a say in what sells, just like learning styles and personality types. Me, give me a hard copy book any day – the tactile element adds to the experience of reading in a way I don’t imagine eBooks will be able to compete. At least for the moment. There’s a definite appeal in being able to load up a digital reader with dozens of documents rather than lugging them around. But the smell and feel of a new book? Can’t beat it.

It wasn’t just the panelists who shone today. Without the small army of Ballarat Writers Inc committee members and volunteers, the festival would not have been possible. My heroes were Danielle, Jill, Melissa, Nadine, Elliot, Frank and panel chairs Julie, Betty, Jackie, Maryanne and Alice for leading and shaping the day.

There’s one more day to go, and another round of fabulous authors, illustrators, publishers, editors, chairs and volunteers on the program tomorrow. I’ll sleep well tonight, but even better tomorrow.


Writing festival this weekend!


Festival on this weekend 1-2 September 2012

Around the edges of my days I volunteer for a community organisation called Ballarat Writers Inc. We’re a collection of writers of different flavours who are keen to support the development of writers and writing in the region – and we all do it for nix. Or at least for the enjoyment of Making Things Happen. And we do. In a big way for a small group.

A committee of eight organises an annual program of events for local writers and members including writing workshops, readings, two competitions each offering a $1,000 first prize, and other sundry Good Times. A major event of our year is the Ballarat Writers & Illustrators Festival, which is coming up THIS weekend, 1-2 September. It’s the only children’s and young adult (CYA) in the state and we are mighty proud of it. This year we’ll bring over two dozen authors, illustrators, publishers and editors to town to share current trends in the CYA industry. It’ll be a blast. If you are wondering about digital developments and their impact on the scene, you won’t want to miss any of this weekend’s panel sessions. You’ll get answers. You’ll also have the chance to hear publishers’  views on your work by submitting the first page of your CYA work at the festival. You’ll have to be there to hear it though… So who will be there? To name just a few: Nicolas Brasch, Anna Ciddor, Leanne Hall, Sue Lawson, Ebony McKenna, Vincenzo Pignatelli, Jeanette Rowe… the list goes on. Do yourself a favour and find out more.