05. 08. 2020
The Importance of Community for Young Regional Writers
Written by Isidora Pandilovska
Edited by Libby Parker
Community and mentorship shapes writers, and Writing Place provided the community I desperately needed. I started my writing career in early 2019 by co-writing a play with my friend Charlotte Smith for the Year 10 cohort at my high school. This would not have been possible without the help of my high school drama teacher Eliza Suggate. Even though Mount Gambier’s artistic community cannot compare to the likes of Adelaide or Melbourne I had something to work with. I had guidance, but that was it. In terms of support from writers our age, Charlotte and I only had each other. No one else could relate to our experience and love of writing the way we did. As our play wrapped up in June of that year, we were given the opportunity to apply to Country Arts SA and Carclew’s Writing Place program and everything changed.
Professional writing is both exciting and rewarding. However, when starting, it is often hard to find opportunities to display one’s work. This is especially challenging for young, regional writers. It is notoriously hard to find work as a regional writer without having to relocate to a metropolitan area. Often small towns or remote country areas do not have a diverse artistic community or if they do, it is centred around traditional art mediums or theatre groups. This leaves a very narrow space for writers to mould into. It is especially difficult as sometimes it can feel as though the content we aspire to make pushes the boundaries of what’s acceptable for remote Australian towns, or we feel as though we cannot conform to what those small artistic communities want from us. However, these are minor issues compared to the bigger issue of who is going to want to finance and support regional artists’ work, especially if it’s more out of the box. This all stems from the absence of a community. Due to this, many of us seek encouragement as well as job opportunities via social media.
I was eighteen during the Writing Place residency and I felt so inspired. Hearing people’s stories that were so different from my own, yet related to me on a deeper level liberated me. Being in the presence of 13 other young incredible writers, and being able to discuss ideas, concepts and processes impacted the way I view writing, tremendously.
As many writers do, I struggle with perfectionism and insecurities regarding my writing. Throughout Writing Place, I was able to grow confidence in myself as a writer. Whether it was in our small groups, during lunch breaks, or late at night before going to bed, we frequently showed and talked about our work from the very first brainstorm session to our bus ride back to Adelaide.
There is freedom in handing over your work to be critiqued by your peers; it is the most effective way to better yourself. Each person I came in contact with at the residency provided a unique perspective, and it was very insightful to learn about the different ways writers brainstorm and create.
I would not be the writer I am today without the mentors and friends I made at Writing Place. Writing can be a lonely job and having a family like the one I made at Writing Place makes all the difference. Today I know that my fellow writers are only one text away and always there to help. Not every journey has to be traveled alone. Being a part of an artistic community big or small ensures that writers never feel alone. There is freedom in knowing that many people before you have walked the path you are following as well as those who are currently walking by your side; and there are many who will come after you. Just because we’re all not walking at the same pace doesn’t mean we are not on the same road.
I would encourage any regional writer to keep their eyes peeled for opportunities to be a part of programs such as Writing Place. We are stronger when we are supporting each other and we create even bigger and better things.
This blog is one in a series of reflections from participants of 2019 project Writing Place.
Writing Place was a nine-day residency held in the Flinders Ranges and Eyre Peninsula of South Australia in September 2019. Fourteen participating writers spent the residency with mentors Emily Steel, Caleb Lewis and Mary Anne Butler undertaking master classes, small group tutorials, one-on-one sessions and dedicated writing time in a formative creative experience. The scripts created were shared in a reading for invited guests on the second to last night of the residency and subsequently published in a collection by Currency Press called This Was Urgent Yesterday in April 2020.