Perth is a hotbed of creative activity in all forms. The members of Inklings Writers’ Workshop, based in Armadale, have found inspiration in their bushland home to compile ‘Elements of Change’, an anthology of works that will be launched this weekend as part of the Armadale Arts Festival.
The name of the group is a nod to ‘The Inklings’, an informal group of writers meeting at the University of Oxford back in the 1930s and 40s. They’d discuss literature with a focus on fantasy writing, and boasted members like C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.
Inklings Writers’ Workshop is open to writers in all genres and formats and has had a successful year delving into many elements of writing such as devices to enhance drama, building scenes, writing dialogue, aspects of body language, using comedy, and even looking at establishing an online presence via a webpage or blog. Inklings members participate in tutorials, critiques of both personal or published works, entering competitions and impromptu writing.
Kira caught up with Inklings Writers’ Workshop co-founder Gemma Sidney to chat about the local writing landscape, the Festival, and the anthology ahead of the upcoming launch at Armadale Park Cafe on Sunday afternoon.
What made you decide to start a writers’ group?
A couple of years ago I met and befriended another local writer, Carolyn Richer, at a writers’ group that meets on weekday mornings. As Carolyn works full-time as a teacher, she could only attend during school holidays, and my fluctuating work schedule would often get in the way of me attending, too. We decided to start up our own group that would meet in the evenings, for people like us. So here we are, celebrating 14 months as Inklings Writers’ Workshop! Along the way we’ve met some fantastic people who we’d now count as friends, and we have 10-15 people attend our workshops on a regular basis.
How would you describe your own writing style?
I tend to write short stories and poetry about people based in the real, contemporary world. I like putting myself in the heads of different characters, playing with how their relationships can evolve and bring about change in their lives. I’m particularly interested in memory, ageing, and women’s perspectives. Ants feature in three short stories I’ve written, but I’m not sure what that’s about!
What makes Inkling Writers’ Workshop special? Is membership open to anyone?
Our take is definitely different from that of other groups I’ve been involved with. A major asset for our group is the willingness of our members to take on a shared leadership in hosting our workshops, which we run every two weeks. In these workshops we delve into different elements of the craft of writing (e.g. dialogue, devices to enhance the drama, building scenes), plus bring along our own pieces for constructive critique. Every other week, we hold a ‘WIP’ session, where we can advance our own works in progress. It’s great to have that time set aside every week for our writing endeavours, for try as we might, life can get in the way of writing at other times!
Membership is open to anyone at all. Our current members are from different backgrounds, range from fledgling to published writers, and are a friendly, welcoming bunch! We’ve also had distinguished guests run several workshops, like award-winning children’s book author Norman Jorgensen and bush poet Dave Gallagher. Next month artist Julie Fearns-Pheasant is leading a session on how keeping a visual journal could assist with creativity and inspiration for our writing.
Can you tell us a bit more about the Armadale Arts Festival?
There is so much going on as part of the festival! And not just our Anthology launch 🙂 The City of Armadale is very supportive of arts and culture, and there are many artistic types living in the Armadale area. There has been a real arts movement picking up momentum in the Armadale region the past couple of years in particular. There’s the Armadale Hills Open Studio Arts Trail each year, the prestigious Minnawarra Art Awards (which are the cornerstone of the festival), and ARC – Artist Retail Collective Inc just opened a beautiful gallery and shop in the Jull Street mall. At the festival, a lot of the events are free and span visual arts, music, literature, arts & crafts, and dance. I’m really looking forward to all the writing workshops and talks, as well as Fridays@Hidden – live music at one of my favourite cafes. Be sure to check out the full program. It’s a great time to visit Armadale!
Where did the inspiration for the theme of the first Inklings Writers’ Workshop anthology ‘Elements of Change’ come from?
Living in an area surrounded by bushland, we are all too aware of the importance of being bushfire aware, and we respect and appreciate the hard work and dedication of our local firies. So in our Anthology, ‘Elements of Change’, we explore life’s many facets of change, growth and fluid transition, both settling and unsettling, including a theme on the revered or reviled nature of fire. We didn’t just want to explore the negative aspects of fire, either, so expect a range of different takes on the theme!
Who are your favourite Perth authors and/or poets right now?
There are so many great authors based in or from Perth! A stand-out book for me last year was ‘Rubik’ by Elizabeth Tan. Such a quirky, smart, interesting read, and I found it really cool to have a spec-fic book set in Perth. Laurie Steed is a guy with such a big heart, and it shines through in his writing. His debut novel, ‘You Belong Here’, is a beautiful book. Alan Carter’s ‘Marlborough Man’ hooked me from page one. He’s one of my favourite local writers in the crime genre, along with David Whish-Wilson. A really talented and hard-working author is Natasha Lester, who is having a lot of well-deserved success of late, with her books getting published in the UK and the US. Check her out if you fancy some historical romance. Maddie Godfrey is a super talented performance poet, and I’m looking forward to reading her first book, due out later this year.
Where can readers pick up a copy of the new anthology?
The Armadale Arts Festival runs from 11-27 May 2018 with a creative program of live music, urban art, dance, literature and arts and crafts, all showcasing the incredible talent coming from the region. Events include the Minnawarra Art Awards, mural art trail, Positive Ageing High Teas, Harmony Festival, The Great Ride, Baroque by Candlelight, and activities for all ages.