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Opening Doors to Storm the City

They say, when one door closes, another one opens. It’s true! My application to be selected as a mentor for a regional writing group with Writeability earlier this year was not successful but instead, I was invited to apply to the Storming the City program.

To say I was excited to read the words ‘successful application’ in the email sent by Lyndel Caffrey, Writeability Program Manager, is an understatement. After doing a merry jig around our lounge room with my guide dog, I swung into action – and did a reconnoitre on the internet to check out the cohort list in the email.

I was in good company. Some names were familiar, some were new. I have been a member of Writeability since 2013, and received a high commendation in the Writeability Fellowships in 2017. This is a community of writers with disability, a supportive group of people who find commonality in the words we write and speak, honouring a diverse range of perspectives as we share our experiences and explore different abilities.

Day one of the Storming the City program arrived, and so did my taxi. My guide dog took her place on the floor by my feet while I settled in, wearing a face mask and armed with hand sanitiser. Braving the world as Melbourne came out of lockdown, I felt like a bear coming out of her cave. Tall silhouettes of city buildings met my vision-impaired eyes as my guide dog led me straight to the front door of the Wheeler Centre. There, in the foyer, Lyndel’s voice greeted me, and I met a couple of writers in the group. Masks on, we fell into line and made our way to the training room.

Writers and poets, a historian, a performing artist, an audio describer and a comedian were present as we learned about each other’s creative projects and passions. It was refreshing to make new connections. We grew in confidence to express our opinions about disability and share our creative aspirations.

Even though this was the first and last time we met in person, as new COVID restrictions soon meant we had to attend the next seven sessions on zoom, Storming the City organisers managed a creative and safe space for us to continue sharing and learning. The program stormed ahead with special thanks to Jessica Obersby and Lucy Hamilton.

Each week, a guest tutor attended and shared their expertise in a range of writing disciplines. They passed on their knowledge to further our careers in the writing and publishing world. I would like to roll out a virtual red carpet to acknowledge the 2021 Storming the City tutors:

  • Jax Jacki Brown – What does disability mean, and writing fictional characters with disability.
  • Andy Jackson – Finding the brave way to jump right into performance.
  • Anna Spargo-Ryan – Freelancing as a writer, where and how to pitch your ideas.
  • Angela Savage – Running your writing workshop, with a focus on session planning.
  • Caro Llewellyn – Writers festivals and how to present well as a panellist.

At the beginning of the program, we were asked individually what we wanted to gain from participating in the Storming the City training. Each of us was encouraged to draw on Writeability resources, and the network of writers and tutors we had met along the way.

Personally, the highlight for me was the advice and guidance we were given by Angela Savage on presenting a workshop for writers. She provided the group with generous notes and handout sheets. We discussed: how we like to learn as adults, different methods to use when delivering training, and the elements required when designing a session plan.

This struck a harmonious chord for me because the desire to offer a workshop to Writers Victoria was high on my list. The idea grew from the seed-thought to a real possibility from training in the Storming the City program where I was able to share my ideas and brainstorm them with the group in the final sessions.

Imagine the little dance I did with my guide dog again at the completion of Storming the City training when Kate Cuthbert, Program and Partnerships Manager, wrote to confirm my workshop pitch had been successful! It is currently being scheduled to be part of Writers Victoria season one programming in 2022 – and I hope to meet YOU there.

My heart-felt thanks to the Writeability team and Writers Victoria for all the support I have received. It has been invaluable. I also wish my fellow Storming the City cohort much success, and look forward to hearing more voices from Writeability members in the future.

In the words of Vincent van Gogh, ‘Normality is a paved road: it’s comfortable to walk but no flowers grow.’

Keep writing about diversity, it is the only way we can all grow.



Read more from Maribel over on her website at maribelsteel.com.

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