‘MOVING ON’ – A COMMUNITY WRITING PROJECT IS LAUNCHED

Some of the contributors to "Moving On"
Some of the contributors to “Moving On”

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.

Front coverWe 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.

The back cover

The back cover

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.

The editorial commitee

The editorial commitee

A WORD FROM THE EDITOR’S DESK

j0384809Right from the start, every single person at Walker Books Australia (our publishers) has been fantastic – friendly, helpful, enthusiastic – so great to work with.

But there’s one person who we worked really closely with over the last twelve months – Senior Editor – and all round patient, kind and wonderful person, Sue Whiting.

Sue helped Matt to discover his voice – and Dee find out that she used some words far too many times – especially the word, ‘weird’ – weird huh?

We are so delighted to have Sue here today to talk about Letters to Leonardo and the journey we have all taken together.

And on this special occasion, Sue has swapped her editor’s hat for a party hat. Over to you, Sue.

 

I first heard of Letters to Leonardo by chance. I was sitting opposite Dee at the SCBWI conference dinner at the Hughenden Hotel in Sydney. She was excitedly talking to the person beside her about the manuscript. The title was intriguing. Dee’s enthusiasm was palpable. Curious to know more, I asked Dee to tell me about it. I was so fascinated by the concept behind the manuscript, that before we even received our entrées, I had invited her to submit it to Walker Books. And when a number of weeks later, I finally sat down to read it, I was not disappointed. Far from it.

Congratulations, Dee. Letters to Leonardo is a wonderful debut YA novel and you should be enormously proud of yourself. You have worked so hard, not only in the last twelve months or so as you slogged through the various rounds of edits, but over the many long years prior that you toiled over and persisted with the manuscript. Your efforts have certainly paid off.

Letters to Leonardo is a unique tale, beautifully written. It’s poignant. It’s compelling. It packs a powerful punch. It will take readers on an emotive journey and it is impossible not to be moved by the experience.

I wish you and Letters to Leonardo every success, Dee.

Sue Whiting

Senior Editor

Walker Books Australia

 

COMPILING A BOOK OF COMMUNITY WRITINGS

Our writer’s group has embarked on an exciting new project. We’ve received funding from our local shire to put together a book of community writings on the theme of ‘Moving On’.

So far, we’ve had heaps of fabulous short stories and poems submitted on a fantastic range of topics including growing old, surviving a bush fire, marriage breakdowns, cancer, travelling on trains, surviving accidents, living with autism, mental illness, physical illness, loss of a family member, abuse and even the supernatural.

It’s so exciting to be working with talented writers who have never published before, and members of our local community who simply have a great story to tell.

Next job – to select what goes in our book. We’re trying to include as many works as possible. That’s going to be a tough one.

Will keep you posted on where to from here.

Dee:-)