By Sharon Flindell
WRITINGWA, REGIONAL WRITERS, AND THE WRITINGWA AWARDS
As the key service delivery agency for the writing sector in WA, writingWA has a diverse membership base of approximately 90 organisations, including writers centres and groups, publishers, libraries, bookshops, writers festivals, and a range of other industry and sector bodies. writingWA also has an extremely large territorial responsibility, delivering programmes and services on a state-wide basis.
In 2010 we undertook an extensive review of our regional development programmes. A critical question for us to consider in this review process was how we might tackle our future service delivery in regional WA, given that we were simultaneously facing increasing demand for these services and declining government revenue to support them.
While we have always understood the absolute necessity of diversifying our income streams, and are continuing to pursue new sources of investment from within the corporate and private sectors, we also recognized that we needed to innovate the way in which we had traditionally delivered some of our services in order to find more efficacious ways of meeting demand.
Two exciting new planks in our regional service delivery have subsequently emerged. In the past month writingWA has announced the development of ProximityWA, an interactive website intended to cater specifically to regional writers and readers throughout the state, and the launch of the writingWA Awards for emerging writers.
ProximityWA will be a first-of-its-kind website in the Australian literary landscape. The site will provide a one-stop location for the promotion a range of regional activities and services, with a particular focus on the growing number of regional writers’ festivals that Western Australia is now hosting. Information will be searchable in several ways, allowing users to identify the activities in closest proximity to them geographically and/or in time.
The additional interactive features of the site will enable increased access and connectivity throughout regional WA, with live streaming components bringing aspects of writers’ festivals, workshops, and other similar events to online audiences in real time and regardless of their physical location. Additional prerecorded material will also be available on a linked ProximityWA YouTube channel, allowing us over time to build up an archive of digital resources.
The funding required to create ProximityWA has been provided to us by LotteryWest. The site is currently under construction and we are working towards a mid-year launch.
THE WRITINGWA AWARDS
During the period 2002-2005, writingWA managed an annual mentoring programme that provided targeted and extremely valuable skills development opportunities to emerging Western Australian authors. The programme, funded by the Australia Council, produced consistently successful results. Western Australian writers who participated in the programme during these years included Craig Silvey, Meg McKinlay, Kate McCaffrey, Marlish Glorie, Nandi Chinna, Alice Nelson and Lara Morgan – all of whom subsequently achieved publication and have since continued to pursue highly successful writing careers. Unfortunately, due to changes in Australia Council funding priorities, writingWA was not able to continue with the programme beyond 2005.
Recently however, in response to the clearly articulated needs of emerging writers in regional WA – who often struggle to access the same professional development opportunities as their metropolitan peers – writingWA has instigated the writingWA Awards.
These Awards will provide a mechanism by which to deliver essential mentoring and professional editing support to emerging, unpublished writers based in regional Western Australia.
The annual writingWA Awards will encompass a suite of individual prizes, established across genre categories.
The Awards will take the form of investment in professional development services – mentoring and/or editing – for the emerging writer. These professional services will be provided by recognized Western Australian practitioners (published authors, accredited editors, etc) to assist the emerging writer to develop his/her manuscript to a standard suitable for submission to publishers.
writingWA launched the first two Award opportunities on 6 February this year.
- The Curtin University Prize for Fiction
- The State Library of WA Prize for WA History
Both prizes are valued at $6000.00 annually for a period of 3 years and each prize will deliver up to 100 hours of professional editing and mentoring services to the individual prize recipient.
writingWA will continue to work to develop new partnerships that will enable the introduction of further genre category prizes under the banner of the writingWA Awards. Towards this we welcome interest from the corporate and private sectors, and from government.
The writingWA Awards are an investment in the emergence of new writing talents in regional WA. We expect the outcome of this investment to be the continuing growth of Western Australia’s unique literary canon.