The Society of Women Writers NSW Inc - Interview (December 2020)
How did The Society of Women Writers NSW begin?
In 1925, four distinguished women journalists signed a letter convening the first meeting of what was to become the Society of Women Writers NSW. Florence Baverstock, of the Bulletin, became the first president with (Dame) Mary Gilmore one of four vice – presidents. The Society’s original aims were to promote the knowledge of literature, to encourage Australian women writers and to foster their social contact. It is now the oldest continuing literary association of women writers in Australia.
What are the goals of The Society of Women Writers NSW?
Our goals remain the same today as they were in 1925, although the means by which we achieve them have changed. During 2020, like the rest of the world, we have had to embrace new technologies and meet ‘virtually’ rather than in person.
Please tell us about the resources, including courses, offered by The Society of Women Writers NSW.
The Society hosts live workshops and literary events every month (except January). Before the current pandemic, these were held on the second Wednesday of the month, at the State Library of NSW. There would be a ‘hands-on’ morning writing workshop, given by an experienced writer, and a light lunch to follow, at which there would be a member speaker, a keynote speaker and the opportunity for members and guests to network. People could choose to attend the workshop or the lunch, or both. However, during the pandemic our workshops and speaker events have been offered over Zoom. That has had the unexpected benefit of making them accessible to writers in any region, state, territory or country. We are hoping to be able to return to offering ‘in person’ events at the State Library of NSW in 2021 (subject to public health guidelines), while retaining an online offering too.
The Society also usually offers evening and weekend workshops a few times a year, with an occasional weekend retreat (every few years).
At the moment, we are looking at ways to provide accessible events for regional members. A lunch is being held in the Southern Highlands soon, at which Kate Forsyth and Belinda Murrell will be the special guest speakers. We are hoping to be able to facilitate similar events in other regions too.
The Society distributes a quarterly magazine to members, runs writing competitions, offers book awards and also offers an annual three month writing residency in the UK (generously provided by our Patron, Professor Emerita Di Yerbury AO). There are opportunities for members to contribute to publications such as our quarterly magazine and occasional anthologies. We have just published an anthology of nature writing for children (Splash, Slither, Squawk!), in celebration of the Society’s 95th anniversary and to raise funds for bushfire relief and wildlife charities.
Further information about our activities and resources can be found on the Society’s website (www.womenwritersnsw.org), which will be upgraded shortly to offer more online resources for members.
Is The Society of Women Writers NSW suitable for writers from all genres?
Yes, definitely. Our members write in all genres and our programme of workshops and events is designed to cover all genres. This year, our events have covered writing for children, short story, poetry, crime fiction, memoir and nature writing, for example.
I’m just beginning my creative journey. Is your organisation suitable for beginners?
Yes! We have a mix of published and unpublished, new and more experienced authors in our membership and at our events. It is a wonderful place for a beginner to find friendly encouragement and advice. Alongside beginners, our members include eminent authors of children’s literature, such as Libby Hathorn and Susanne Gervay. As longstanding and loyal members of the Society, they frequently give workshops and talks, and attend our lunches. Readers of your website will find our Society to be a welcoming and supportive place for women writers of all levels of experience, particularly in the area of children’s literature.
Where are your branches located?
We do not have ‘branches’ as such, although we have sister organisations in other states and countries. Mostly, our ‘in-person’ events are held at the State Library of NSW, or the Women’s Club, in Sydney. But as noted above, we are keen to facilitate more ‘in-person’ events for regional members too.
How is The Society of Women Writers NSW funded?
We do not receive government funding. Our funding mostly comes from membership fees, attendance fees for our events and fees for participation in competitions.
How can we find out more about The Society of Women Writers NSW?
The best place to begin would be our website (www.womenwritersnsw.org).