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Writeability springboards Own Voices on the Mornington Peninsula

None of us have met before, or know each other’s writing styles.

But each saw something in the Writeability call out that enticed us to sign up.

And now we’re finding something in our own voices, and exploring how we can each use the energy of our experiences with disability to inform our writing.

The Mornington Peninsula Writeability program launched in June 2021 in partnership with Writers Victoria, Mornington Peninsula Shire and Peninsula Writers’ Club.

Recognising we didn’t have any representative forums on the Mornington Peninsula for writers identifying with disabilities, Peninsula Writers’ Club advocated for a supported writing skills collaboration in our region. Plans for face-to-face monthly workshops were soon shelved as lockdowns loomed, and Zoom became our new collective writing room.

For many of us, this was a blessing.

Online workshops meant navigating the usual barriers of accessibility, and sensory and social discrimination was significantly reduced. 100kms from Melbourne, we could now equitably access guidance from an experienced writing mentor and make connections with others experiencing similar obstacles.

While many have been locked out of writing opportunities in 2021, Writability has opened the door for 14 participants eager to refine writing craft and gain confidence in our Own Voices experiences.

As the group’s mentor, author Anna Spargo-Ryan helps participants to develop skills and explore tactics for writing the reality of our lives. Anna’s compassionate presentation style, her lived experiences and rich insights into writing diversity is well regarded. She coordinates an intimate, respectful and knowledgeable setting that puts everyone at ease.

We meet monthly on a Saturday afternoon, Zooming in from our individual lockdown corners of the Mornington Peninsula. There’s time for a catch-up chat before we launch into writing inspiration and activities.

Our writing genres are as diverse as our disabilities. We gather as writers of scripts, YA and children’s books, memoirs, essays, short stories and poems. Participants value the monthly authentic discussions and there’s ample time to share writing in response to exercises. For some it’s a cathartic opportunity to explore their unique circumstances and grow in writing confidence. For others, to unpack the language of stigma and sensationalism and pick up the threads of owning our stories.

For many, it’s a chance to hold the writing space for a focussed time, with access to a knowledgeable writing mentor without having to navigate all the usual obstacles.

The program itself has ample room to respond to the specific interests of the group – from skills building in writing dialogue to how to give and receive text assessments.

As the craft of writing is analysed, our group is also finding its voice collectively – sharing frustrations and milestones with one another.

We champion each other’s writing goals. Halfway through and members have submitted pieces to local bookstore Farrells Short Story competition, PENinsula Literary Journal and call outs for anthologies, mentorships, literary awards and competitions.

We gather to add our lived experiences to society’s understanding and expectation changes, each of us writing to be heard and seen.

Thanks to the Mornington Peninsula Shire and Writers Victoria for supporting this valuable regional program.

Andrea Rowe,

President (and Writeability participant)

Peninsula Writers’ Club

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