In our regular ALLi Out & About posts, the ALLi team and wider membership share their takeaways from conferences, events, and other travels. This week ALLi’s Campaigns Manager, Melissa Addey, shares her reflections from a trip to Queensland in this Out & About Australia Special.
From the UK to Australia via Singapore
This past August my family and I took a month-long trip to Queensland in Australia, stopping for a rest from the very long flights in Singapore. Once there, we travelled around the state, soaking up all it had to offer.
For me, a highlight was visiting the Queensland Writers’ Centre (QWC) and running a workshop for their writers on how to write books in a series. It was a hybrid session, with writers in the room as well as online and very professionally run; having a friendly member of their team looking after the online attendees and relaying their questions was a great way to proceed and meant there could be a recording of the session for catch-ups and replays as well.
One of the things you notice visiting Australia is the frequent acknowledgement of First Nations, this is an example from the QWC:
Queensland Writers Centre is based at the State Library of Queensland on Kurilpa Point in South Brisbane. Named after the native water rat (kuril), Kurilpa Point has a significant history as an important meeting place, and we acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we reside. As we operate throughout the entire state of Queensland, we respectfully acknowledge the Traditional Owners of all the Nations on which we meet.
Library Inclusion and Writing Support
The QWC is based in the Queensland State Library, which is a great location to be, both for being easy to find and for writers to feel important culturally. I met one of the librarians who explained they’d done a lot of work on making the Library feel inclusive to all: there is excellent Wi-Fi throughout with no need for an account and computers ready to use, which means that anyone can come in and get online, a great community resource.
The QWC have writing sessions both in person and online, where you can just come along and do your writing in a companionable atmosphere, as well as writing workshops, 121 advice sessions and membership including youth membership.
I asked how the writing sessions had first started and it was because a writer had wanted to write more consistently and thought having such sessions would be motivating to himself and others, so he set it up and it had become very popular.
When I put out a call for ALLi Ambassadors, the fastest response came from Australia, where we promptly signed up not one, but five, Ambassadors. I found some of their experiences interestingly similar:
- Rhiannon Elton wanted her local area to have a book festival, so she set one up in Logan City, which already has more than 800 followers on its Facebook page.
- Anna Featherstone wanted a platform that was easy to use for video training for authors, so she set up Bold Authors.
- Ian Hooper felt that indie authors could be setting up more book fairs, so he not only started up his own indie author book fair, but also made it easy for other indie authors to follow in his footsteps, by creating a template for running indie book fairs for authors around the globe.
What Will I Do Differently Going Forward?
There was a strong feeling from the QWC and our Australian Ambassadors of ‘making things happen’ for both themselves and also a sense of community, not just doing something for yourself but reaching out to others to include them.
As an author myself, if I don’t see an opportunity neatly offered to me, I need to go and make that opportunity happen, for myself and for others.
From the perspective of my role as Campaigns Manager for ALLi, and mindful that publishing everywhere is often lacking in diversity, I would like to draw special attention to four Australian resources which seek to support indigenous authors in growing and developing. This is particularly important in a country whose First Nations have an ancient and extraordinary culture of storytelling. As part of our recent efforts to support greater publishing diversity, ALLi have included these organisations in a mailout of our resources for writing organisations, in the hopes of supporting their ongoing work.
Writing New South Wales offers both a mentorship programme and a festival to support indigenous writers:
Penguin offer the Write It Fellowship, which aspires to find, nurture and develop unpublished writers across all genres with a focus on under-represented sections of our community, such as writers from socio-economically marginalised backgrounds, LGBTQIA+, First Nations, CALD (culturally and linguistically diverse) or writers with a disability:
The State Library of Queensland works with Hachette to offer the black&write! Fellowship, which offers mentoring and editing support for two unpublished manuscripts by Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander writers:
The Daisy Utemorrah Award is for an unpublished manuscript of junior or YA fiction by a First Nations author:
A Quick Nod to Singapore
I must mention Singapore as a learning experience as well. I’ve never been to somewhere that is so mobile-phone reliant, with free wi-fi available even in tiny shops. Taxis, restaurants and even museum entry are all designed only with mobiles in mind and not being quite as set up for this as the locals was a real stumbling block on many occasions.
On my return, ten minutes from starting a workshop, someone asked if they could pay then and there, which was tricky as the Eventbrite settings had turned off ticket purchases half an hour previously. Having a way for the attendee to pay via their mobile to mine would have been handy. If you think you use mobiles a lot now, let me tell you there’s more to come.
Out & About Australia: A Visit to Paradise
Queensland in August is a beautiful destination: the weather is a delightful 20-26 degrees if their high summer temperatures would be too much for you, there is really lovely tropical foliage and flowers everywhere as well as abundant bird life.
We saw wild kangaroos hopping through the suburbs early one morning and visited Hervey Bay for the annual migration of humpback whales, who come and investigate boats and respond playfully to all the attention offered them. Of course there was an obligatory koala-meet, the photographer was keen to get a good shot, but I was busy stroking its ridiculously soft fur!
Food-wise, we were impressed by butchers’ shops bigger than our local supermarkets, Tropical Fruit World which offers a wonderful tour and lots of tasting of everything from bananas to macadamia nuts (both, fresh off the tree, are nothing like the versions we receive in the UK!) and a lot of local artisanal food companies, from doughnut bakeries and dairies to ginger factories and ice-cream. I’m pretty sure I ate my weight in beautifully ripe avocados.
Writing, food, and beautiful animals… paradise.
Photos: Ryan Taylor
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