In June 2005, I began teaching writing classes at the Romsey Neighbourhood House, and a few months later, started the Romsey Writer’s Group with a small but enthusiastic band of members.
We met on a regular basis to learn about writing, share our writing adventures and critic each other’s work. Over the years we talked about what fun it would be to produce an anthology of our own.
About 18 months ago we applied for a Community Arts Grant through the Macedon Ranges Shire to try and get our project off the ground. By then we had decided to expand the works beyond our own writing and invite other members of the local community to share their stories.
We had chosen the theme, Moving On for our project – feeling that it would be universal – knowing that there are so many people who have moved on from adversity in their lives. Our purpose for the anthology became not just about writing, but about the therapeutic benefits of self-expression and also we hoped that others would find our stories and poems uplifting, and perhaps their lives would be changed for the better.
Once our grant application had been accepted, the next step was to seek submissions. We promoted what we were doing through libraries, neighbourhood houses and our local media – and were overwhelmed with the response. It wasn’t long before we had a massive pile of submissions from writers aged 15 to 90 on a range of themes including loss of a loved one, aging, marriage breakdown, serious illness, relocation and displacement, accident recovery, bushfire survival and physically moving on.
Most of the stories and poems required little editing and we were able to include a great majority of them in our publication, Moving On. Once we had the basic content worked out, we then had to decide what we wanted our book to look like. Being a community project, we wanted to involve as many local people as possible.
We held an art competition in Secondary Colleges within the Macedon Ranges and once again, were overwhelmed with the volume and quality of the submissions. Aside from those on the front and back cover, we used as many illustrations as we could throughout the book.
Moving On has ended up being a truly inspiring collection of stories and poems written by remarkable people and supported with wonderful illustrations by talented young artists. This project took over 12 months and many, many hours of editing and formatting, but it has been an astounding success not just in terms of the end result (over 330 pages of great reading).
One of the most rewarding things has been the enjoyment and pleasure it has brought all contributors; many of who had never before seen their works in print.
When Moving On was launched last Saturday 24th October by State Labour MP and former librarian Joanne Duncan, it was truly a moving occasion. People came on walking frames, by car, on scooters, with dogs, with children, grandchildren, parents and siblings to celebrate seeing their works in print and meeting their co-contributors.
Personally, it was a wonderful and rewarding day. As a writer, it was an inspiration to see the excitement and joy on the faces of others; many of whom had never realised until now that they are writers, or had waited decades to see their first piece of work published.