Melbourne calling

June 16, 2011 at 12:57 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

Melbourne is a damn fine city.

Not only do we have exquisite coffee down many a stencil art covered alleyway, an abundance of secondhand bookstores and live music venues on every corner, we also have the Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas.

If you’re a Melbourne writer and you haven’t been there, shame on you.

I regularly borrow books from their extensive library, attend seminars, and even had the pleasure of hearing my work read there as part of last year’s Emerging Writers’ Festival.  It houses the Victorian Writers’ Centre and I can’t recommend becoming a member strongly enough. They send you weekly emails filled with writing opportunities, as well as a wonderful monthly newsletter.  I’d say about 90% of the stories I’ve had published came from information from the VWC. They also have a wealth of books to borrow on the craft of writing, as well as a staggering array of Australian publications such as Meanjin, Overland, Going Down Swinging etc  – absolutely invaluable if you’re thinking of submitting to them.

Recently I sat in the back row of a seminar at the Wheeler Centre, my red notebook open in my lap as I tried to stop my hand shaking from the ambitious double shot coffee I was wading through. The speakers were Zoe Dattner  from Sleepers Publishing and Laurie Steed from SPUNC, and I came out with pages of notes, lashings of inspiration, and a need to run home and spill ink.

Some of the lines in my notebook that ended up circled, underlined, and decorated with ‘come back and think about this!’ stars and asterisks include:

50% of your reading should be outside your comfort zone – write outside that zone too.

I realised I’m guilty of this – I’ll read Gorky and Nabokov til the cows come home, but when my fingers trace over the spine of a Palahniuk or a Bukowski, I’ll make the same face as when I’m offered sardines on toast, and turn away. I do need to read authors whose style I’m not at home with, if only to know why. And I know I need more practice writing male characters too.

A writers’ group that makes you feel uncomfortable is probably a good thing.

Sitting in a workshop, watching people’s eyes scroll down the paper that houses your story and realising you’re holding your breath, is quite an experience. I don’t enjoy it, as such – but god, do I appreciate it.

The goal is to become a better writer, not a published writer.

I recently sat on the floor with a glass of wine and counted the spines on my bookshelf that held my name within; and damn, did it feel good!  There’s nothing in the world like holding a book with your story in it, but those early pieces are not ones I’d write anymore – I can already see the change in my style, and my voice. At the end of the day all I really want is to be able to nod at a story and say, yep, I like this one.

A story has as many words in it as it takes to tell the story.

I love this sentence. The catch with online publishing in particular is that flash fiction has taken hold – internet attention spans are notoriously short, and I’ve realised this can affect the way I write.  I’m not exactly proud of that. So whether you’re crafting a six word story, flash fiction, long short story or a novella, just keep writing, and put your pen down when it’s good and ready.

Steph Tout Photography

I wouldn’t be in the same place without the Victorian Writers’ Centre. I know some people are simply not joiners, and I do understand – but you can read the newsletters, watch online interviews with authors, or sit up the back of a seminar with your collar up and dark sunglasses on.  Although, it has to be said, it’s somewhat difficult to go incognito in a room full of people whose very job it is to notice the details!

Andyway, at the very least you can get to chat about all things inky with likeminded scribes…what’s not to love?


  1. Leith O'Malley said,

    Fantastic to hear you enjoying an outlet for (and of) inspiration Bell. This can only mean more ink spilling from the pages of your red binded notebook to the many wide eyed readers of your words like me and oh yeah..them lot out there.

    Write on.

  2. Hilde said,

    Haha, sardines on toast as a comparison to Bukowski! We talked about him last year. I’m not particularly into him either…and I always make fun of V and his teenage dream of wanting to live a Bukowski-esque life. Oh well…didn’t I want to be Sid and Nancy? I’ve read one of his books though, and must say I didn’t completely dislike it. Sometimes you just have to give in and read something so many other people love. Gives such a new perspective!

  3. Lisa said,

    How many times have I said I’m going to join, right this week 🙂 I so enjyed reading this my darling xx

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