I remember the moment I decided to join Writers Victoria. I don’t remember where I was, or what I was doing but I do remember noting the significance of the decision. It was the first in a very long series of steps to get me to where I am now. It was the moment I formally identified with being part of a writing community. I filled out a form. I handed over some money. I became (quite literally) a card-carrying writer. Of course the journey into writing was (and continues to be) far more complex than that – but I remain grateful for my membership. In those early years I simply read the member magazine (which always seemed to arrive just when I needed reminding of my writing aspirations). As my focus on writing has increased, so too has my appreciation of institutions like this. The membership fee has transformed from a seemingly indulgent line in my budget to a necessary (and cost-efficient) investment in my writing career. I’m always surprised when I meet a writer who’s not a member.
As Kate Larsen (aka Katie Keys) Director at Writers Victoria says, at the very least, membership of an organisation like this gives you access to the magazine (10 times a year), which includes articles about writing, and lists opportunities and competitions. Membership can also offer substantial discounts on courses and in some cases, books. If you equate being a member as a financial transaction there’s your rational for joining. For me however, writers’ organisations offer more than that.
‘The majority of what we do is information, advice and guidance,’ says Larsen. ‘We signpost to other people and we help broker relationships.’ Writers Victoria offers courses, workshops, mentoring and manuscript assessments. They hold networking events such as Salons and generally encourage their members in their writing pursuits. And theirs is a diverse group – as Larsen notes, ‘We’re the only organisation in Victoria that works with writers at all stages of their career from early beginners to professional, published and performing writers in all genres and in all parts of the state.’
Most every community has a writers centre. In Australia there’s one in each state including the NSW Writer’s Centre, Queensland Writer’s Centre (which also publishes the uber-useful Australian Writer’s Marketplace), SA Writer’s Centre, NT Writer’s Centre, ACT Writers Centre, Gold Coast Writers Centre and Writing WA.
Larsen is new to the director’s role at Writers Victoria and has set representation and support to all writers as part of her priorities. ‘That means acknowledging that CBD Melbourne is really well serviced so we need to be concentrating outside that. Right now we’re pushing regional, digital and our work with diverse writers,’ she says.
I remember a particular time soon after I left my fulltime job to pursue writing. The Writers Victoria Christmas party was the only one I went to. (And yes, it was the only one I was invited to!) At every event I’ve been to since my community of writers has grown one by one. Those early events were a little daunting but they’re less so now. It’s because I know, no matter where I sit, there will always be a card-carrying writer sitting next to me.