Award-winning author Simmone Howell has written books, plays, advertorials, manifestos, glossaries, blurbs, non-fiction articles, screenplays and this delightful letter to Writers Victoria, among other things. Simmone, who also teaches creative writing, co-founded the small press publishing collective Vandal Press.
Notes from the Teenage Underground, her first novel, won in 2007 the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Young Adult Fiction and a Gold Inky, Inside a Dog’s teenage choice awards. Her second book, Beautiful Everything was a finalist for the Melbourne Prize for Best Writing.
Set in Melbourne’s St Kilda, Girl Detective, her third novel was a finalist for the 2013 Primer Minister’s Literary Awards.
Her fiction, which is heavily influenced by pop culture, has been published around the word, including the US, Brazil, Germany and Denmark.
Simmone’s latest book, Take Three Girls, was co-written with Writers Vic tutors Fiona Wood and Cath Crowley. Take Three Girls won the 2019 Children’s Book Council Book of the Year for Older Readers and was shortlisted for the Inky Awards—Gold Inky.
I joined Writers Victoria as a teenager with no writing circle and out-of-nowhere ambition—I sent my first a poetry collection then a novel off for a manuscript assessment and although the feedback was not an explosion of love it was educational. Certain sentences have stayed with me: ‘something has to happen!’ and ‘you can write but your material does you a disservice’—even after four books these words keep me engaged. I can’t underestimate how amazing it was to have ANYONE read and give feedback on what I was writing back then. It made the dream more real.
Over the years Writers Victoria has reassured me that I’m not completely weird, given me deadlines to work towards and opportunities to try for. In the mid-1990s, while studying at RMIT I co-founded Vandal Press. We self-published chapbooks of short stories and sold them at launches and the more open-minded independent bookstores. We had support in kind from RMIT (they let us pick their brains and use their desktop publishing computers), and we had support from Writers Victoria. We advertised through the magazine, and our little books were reviewed there. Again, it was the idea of being taken seriously, and of having a community that was so empowering. In the pre-Internet age, there were fewer initiatives available to emerging writers; self-publishing was still regarded as somewhat shameful. But Writers Vic offered encouragement and assurance that there might be readers out there.
After my first novel came out I applied for a room at Glenfern Writers Studio though Writers Victoria. This became my off and on room-of-my-own for several years—I wrote two novels there, and met many other writers, further books were born over cups of tea and complaints about the existence of leaf-blowers.
So. To aspiring writers I say check out Writers Victoria for the community, for skills sharing and access to brilliant brains.
And to Writers Victoria I say Thank you! And Happy Anniversary!