Writers mentoring writers
Mentors and teachers can have a profound effect on our careers. In this article we hear from three authors who are working with new and emerging writers in Perth. Natasha Lester (If I should lose you), Iris Lavell (Elsewhere in Success) and Deb Fitzpatrick (The Break) are all published authors who’ve been mentoring writing colleagues.
Natasha’s classes attract mostly women of all ages. ‘I get a real mix of ages to all my classes – everyone from eighteen-year-olds to eighty-year-olds. Writing is truly ageless,’ Natasha said. Natasha’s classes have been running for nearly four years and although no students have published books, Natasha says she has had several students apply for and receive mentorships, or residencies to help them work on their first drafts. ‘And one student was shortlisted for The Australian/Vogel Award, an amazing achievement,’ she said.
‘[Writing] takes discipline, commitment and craft, as well as a natural flair for language. I teach the first three, the last one is unteachable. But when someone has all four things working together, wonderful things happen,’ said Natasha.
Natasha’s advice for burgeoning writers is ‘to trust that the story will work itself out in the end. It always does. But you have to have faith, and you have to keep writing.’
Natasha’s next Creative Writing Stage 1 course with the Australian Writers’ Centre is on August 16–17. Bookings here.
Natasha is also running a more advanced course for those who want to get their first draft finished. Get Your Novel Written runs at UWA Extension for six weeks in the evenings from 13 August. Bookings here.
In 2012 Iris Lavell began coordinating The Book Length Project Group with the support of the Fellowship of Australian Writers WA (FAWWA) in Swanbourne. Members meet at Mattie Furphy House at FAWWA on the third Sunday of each month for a nominal fee.
Iris says the group provides a space where anyone working on longer writing projects can meet to discuss their work in progress. ‘Since we started, many professionals within the industry have come along as guest speakers to share their insights,’ said Iris.
‘From my perspective, since we began, the growing sense of community and the ideas shared by the group and guest speakers have been invaluable. It’s been inspiring to see a number of full-length manuscripts completed since we started and perhaps the group support has contributed to that.’
‘Last month, as part of a planned transition to promote continued vitality, Dr Louise Allan, along with Emily Paull from the Swanbourne Bookcaffe and author Kristen Levitzke, agreed to take on the coordination and further development of the group,’ said Iris.
For more information contact Dr Louise Allan:
Deb Fitzpatrick says her participants are mostly previously unpublished writers who have been writing for some time and want to, or already do, take their writing seriously. ‘They are often “stuck” at a particular level and need help to push through that,’ said Deb.
Deb says students learn about persistence and the importance of approaching their writing like it’s a job. ‘Sometimes the technical can get in the way of the creative, and I like to be able to help a bit with that. I also like to discuss editing and how powerful and positive it can be for our writing, how it can take an ordinary piece into the realm of the extraordinary,’ said Deb.
‘I hope I can revive for my workshop participants any lost sense of how much fun it is to write,’ she said.
Stories from her students have been entered into competitions and submitted to journals, as well as novels finished.
Writing Books for Children and Young Adults is run by the Australian Writers’ Centre, and the Perth course is on 30–31 August. Bookings here.