The state of writing: Queensland

By Meg Vann

The future happened six years ago. Kindle and iPhone transformed the way we access content.

Four years ago, Queensland Writers Centre’s then CEO Kate Eltham founded the Institute for the Future of the Book, known as if:book. if:book Australia explores the intersection of literature and digital so that authors and small, indie publishers can (a) understand what the hell is going on, and (b) make the most of it.

It is rare to have an R’n’D department in an arts organisation, and its value is profound. if:book has been steadily building knowledge-based assets through thought leadership and experimental projects.  if:book Manager Simon Groth has led two years of amazing programming, and built partnerships with other industry leaders like QUT, EWF, and QPF, as well as embedding if:book Australia in a vibrant international network of digital evolutionaries.

If:book’s most recent project is now live. The City We Build, an iBook produced in partnership with Queensland Poetry Festival, demonstrates the technical, artistic and commercial potential of new platforms. The City We Build takes QPF’s geo-location project, a Choose Your Own poetry adventure around the Valley where you could unlock poems by reading QR code stickers, and translates it beautifully into a digital format that mirrors the explorative beauty of the physical experience. (You can download The City We Build for free from the iBook store here

QWC is now consolidating the next stage of digital leadership – translating if:book knowledge into widely available, easily accessible public programming to suit writers at all stages of development.  QWC has delivered many thousands of programs and events for writers over the past 23 years, and we are combining our wealth of programming engagement experience with innovative if:book content in our 2013 program.

New program elements include:

  • the Year of the Author Platform, a year-long masterclass series forwritersto effectively access readers, build an engaged online community, promote their work, and explore ways to leverage their blog to generate income.
  • Industry IQ seminars covering self and hybrid publishing pathways.
  • Workshops embracing artforms that support writers to creatively explore emerging or overlooked markets such as graphic novels, genre fiction, novellas, and long-form non-fiction.

(QWC’s full program is available online at

If:book is also developing a suite of online resources to enhance our Online Learning Centre courses. It is tricky for small arts orgs to find the resources to develop digital infrastructure—it raises the question of releasing some investment in physical programming to free up the budgetfor online engagement. But there are so many great, affordable ways to connect with and support writers online, so we finding our way forward through platforms like Moodle, Udemy and podcasting.

Many commercial and arts organisations are now developing training services for writers, both face-to-face and online. Private enterprises, publishers, and libraries are all hungry for the valuable engagement (and potential income) that comes from the uniquely vibrant and vulnerable community of aspiring writers.

It’s more important than ever for State Writers Centres to articulate the value of our ethical alignment with writers: we have a long history of exploring creative enterprise so that our writer members and customers thrive. At QWC, innovation and engagement go hand in hand with writers’ needs at all stages of their careers.