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It’s an honour

At last night’s Annual General Meeting, author and advocate Arnold Zable was awarded honorary membership to Writers Victoria. He responds…

“I am pleased to receive this honorary membership from an organisation that has done such great work for writers and readers over the years.

Writers Victoria has played a great role in creating a literary culture in this state, and in this city. On a personal note, it has provided me with many opportunities over the years in running workshops, taking part in panels, writing for its publication and various special projects.

A few random memories from the many that come to mind, going back at least to 1991, soon after the publication of my first book, ‘Jewels and Ashes’. The Victorian Writers Centre [as WV was then known] organised an evening on the book, which was held in its grand two story residence in Tasma Terrace. I think about 8 people turned up – at least it was a start of a long and ongoing journey as a published writer.

I have many memories of the writing workshops I have conducted over the years – in the Nicholas Building, The Wheeler Centre, and in regional Victoria.

Program directors such as Steve Grimwade were always on hand to take care of the logistics. I have an image of Steve standing on the deserted main street of some country town on a Sunday morning, making sure all was OK.

Roderick Poole’s interstate workshops back 2011 took me to Canberra, New England, Adelaide, Hobart, Sydney.

A major highlight was the wonderful Black Saturday Storytelling project. In the month after the fires back in 2009, I approached Joel Becker, then Director of the Victorian Writers Centre, with a proposal to run monthly writing workshops and recording sessions for those who wished to tell their stories orally. Joel responded immediately, and within weeks we had the generous support of the Grace Marion Wilson Trust, with the Writers Centre acting as project administrator, and Alexandra Library as on-the-ground organiser.

I was well supported in conducting a series of workshops in each of 6 places over a period of eighteen months: Flowerdale, Narbathong, Alexandra, Kinglake, Kinglake West, and Strath Creek. The stories that emerged were extraordinary, but more important was the sense of camaraderie and mutual support that the workshops provided. Those who told their stories orally received a CD of the recording, and a number of the writers published their stories in various places.

This is expression in its true sense – literally getting it out and, in the process, working it out.

The workshop topics I have covered over the years with the Centre have included: the novel, writing a life, daring writing, research, the art of memoir, painting with words, and most recently, just weeks ago, writing and advocacy. Way back when Chris McKenzie was Centre Director, we worked on storytelling evenings in La Mama.

Then there were the articles I was commissioned to write for the journal and the monthly Melbourne PEN column – with Anna Kelsey-Sugg, previous Editor of The Victorian Writer magazine always there with days to spare to remind me of the deadline…

Writers Victoria has been a home for writers and readers for many years, and I hope it remains so for many years to come. Many thanks for the opportunity to be a part of it.”

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