Letter from the President 11 April 2021

Dear Members,

I hope you found the ‘What’s On’ useful, the Society’s listing of events and opportunities for April, something I have introduced to help members stay up to date with activities. It has been posted on the website.

If you have any news, articles, reviews, items of interest, short stories or poems you would like to contribute to the weekly email, website or newsletter, please keep sending them in. Members love hearing from other members. Mary Jones has written a review of Sexual Conduct of the Middle Classes, a play she recently went to see after a long theatre drought, and Michele Revill has reviewed Becoming a Writer by Laurel Dumbrell, a book that may be of use to writers.

I received an email from the Wheeler Centre this week that included a link to Maggie O’Farrell’s talk about her book Hamnet at the Adelaide Writers’ Week 2021 and I know a few members have read it and discussed it during Book Chat. Maggie O’Farrell’s award-winning novel Hamnet gives us new and illuminating insight into Shakespeare, his masterpiece and the family that nurtured him. It is a very interesting and informative talk. You can view it HERE if you are interested. I highly recommend it.

There are plenty of writing opportunities to keep you busy during the coming weeks and also details of the ‘Sonnets, Songs and Supper’ event featuring members Mary Jones and Carla Russo. 

Until next week, happy writing,


Please send in your reviews of books about the craft of writing that you
have found useful or interesting

BECOMING A WRITER   By Laurel Dumbrell
Reviewed by Michele Revill

I think what struck me first when reading this craft book was it’s welcoming ease to the adventure of writing and it’s construction in so far as the process of drafting and redrafting. 

I might add it does not gloss over the fact that there will be inevitable challenges, but it seems that all is worth the blood, sweat and if not tears. 

Her book examines the importance of participating in a writing group, rather than shutting yourself in a room and writing, which I might add personally is okay if that works best for you. What impressed me was the reminder, and this is something we may forget, is that according to Laurel Dumbrell, “…you learn respect for the unique potential of each offering… In a group you learn to evaluate each person’s writing and your own, and appreciate the time and discipline that may have been involved producing one page of lively, polished prose.”

A group it seems is worth considering, after all as I have slowly learnt, no-man – or woman – is an island.

Sexual Conduct of the Middle Classes

After a year of closed theatres, it was a joy to be back in the Sumner Theatre for Melbourne Theatre Company’s first post-Covid production, Sexual Conduct of the Middle Classes, by Canadian playwright Hannah Moscovitch. The play explores a relationship between a lecturer and one of his female students, and inevitably invites comparisons to David Mamet’s 1992 play Oleanna, in which a University professor is accused of sexual harassment. The power imbalance in this play, though, is subtler and much less threatening. It has occasional echoes for me of Educating Rita rather than Oleanna. Jon, the lecturer, is older in years but not in emotional maturity, and some of his vulnerabilities are exposed, making him a largely empathetic character. Annie, the student, is both confident and intelligent, showing from the beginning that she’s likely eventually to surpass the academic achievements of her teacher.

The production was originally due to be part of MTC’s 2020 season, and the set design was intended for the Fairfax Theatre. Perhaps partly because of the switch to the Sumner, the set is a little confusing and distracting as it covers different scenes in different venues and time-frames. This does not detract from the excellence of the direction and the two central performances. Dan Spielman as Jon and Izabella Yena as Annie are both totally convincing, as they lead us through the stages of a relationship based on mutual intellectual and physical attraction, going on past its end and into its aftermath.

The revelation at the end of the play, which casts a whole new light on the power imbalance between the two characters, is not entirely unexpected but still makes an effective theatrical denouement. This is one of those plays that sends you home wishing you had a copy of the script to go back and savour again from the beginning.

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What’s On for April 2021

Deadlines and events within the Society this month.

10th April                                 Deadline for submissions to the April newsletter

For further information contact Paula Wilson, Editor Write Away: paulawilson1@optusnet.com.au

11th April                                 Kathryn Purnell Poetry Prize entries open

Click HERE FOR 2021 entry form. For further information contact Suzanne Benson, Receiving Officer: suzannabenson@gmail.com or click HERE to visit the SWW Awards page of this website

15th April                                 Book Chat

Join members online for a fun and friendly discussion about books they have – or have not enjoyed! For further information and the Zoom link contact Caroline Webber, President: caroline.webber@greenolivepress.com

15th – 23rd April                    Spring Writing Group (full) call out for submissions

For further information contact Lindsay Bamfield, Writing Groups Coordinator: lindsaybamfield@gmail.com

26th April                                 Let’s Write! Online Writing Group (full)

For further information contact Paula Wilson, Let’s Write Facilitator: paulawilson1@optusnet.com.au

28th April                                 Book Chat

Join members online for a fun and friendly discussion about books they have – or have not enjoyed! For further information and the Zoom link contact Caroline Webber, President: caroline.webber@greenolivepress.com

30th April                                 Monthly meeting – 11am – 2pm Library at the Dock

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Kathryn Purnell Poetry Prize 2021

The Kathryn Purnell Poetry Prize for 2021 is now open to members of The Society of Women Writers in all states and non-members.

Prizes: 1st $200, 2nd $125, 3rd $75
CLOSING DATE: Friday 4th June 2021

Announcement of winners will be made at the Society’s Monthly Meeting on Poetry Seminar on Friday 30th July 2021.

Winning poems will be published in the 2021 issue of Sparx.

All submissions to be emailed to Receiving Officer, Suzanne Benson with the completed entry form.

Suzanne’s email address is: suzannabenson@gmail.com

Click HERE for the 2021 KPPP entry form.

Click HERE to find out more about the Kathryn Purnell Poetry Prize, a biennial award named in honour of a much-loved member of the Society.

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Sonnets, Songs and Supper 22nd April 2021 6.00pm – 8.00pm

Featuring Carla Russo, Mary and Philip Jones.

Spend an evening with award-winning writer Mary Jones and her husband Philip Jones as they take you on a journey through the sonnets from the old to the new, the traditional to the modern, the serious to the comic, and let the amazing voice of singer-songwriter Carla Russo transport you along the Nepean Highway and beyond with her clever and colourful lyrics.

The event will be held at The Timbuktu Cafe, Wilson Street, Brighton and will also be live-streamed via Zoom.

The ticket price for the in-person event includes a simple European-style supper of soup, bread and salad. The venue is fully licensed and alcoholic and soft drinks will be available to purchase.

Tickets available from EVENTBRITE. Those joining by Zoom will have the link emailed to them.

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Book Chat Every Second Wednesday

SWWV members are invited to join in for a fun and friendly discussion about books we have been reading. This is a great opportunity to test out your Zoom skills. BYO morning tea.

Valerie Pybus, a member of SWWNSW, who has been joining our Book Chats said:  “It certainly draws writers together and dispels the confines of isolation.”

The next Book Chat will be on Wednesday 14 April 2021. Members will be sent the Zoom link prior to all Book Chat meetings. Please note that Book Chat will now commence at 10.30 am.

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Letter from the President 28 March 2021

It was an exciting week this week. The Society held it first face-to-face since meeting in over a year and it was wonderful to see some regular and some new faces.

Maureen Lane, our guest speaker, gave an interesting and insightful presentation on her approach to researching and writing biographies and the importance of retaining the authentic voice of the subjects. Maureen gave an overview of the books she has written, including her latest publication Angels: Life in an Australian Motorcycle Gang in the 60s and 70s, co-written with her husband David King (who also attended the meeting) who was only ten years old when he met the Angels and was taken under their wing. The Angels protected him from violence in the home and taught him the value of ‘safety in numbers’.

The second part of the meeting was a workshop on memoir writing, led by Society member Leigh Hay. Leigh guided us through what to include and what to leave out of a memoir and emphasised the importance of being truthful and writing from the heart without embellishment.

Thank you Maureen and Leigh for your high-calibre and interesting presentations.

This week’s postcard is from Valerie Pybus, reminiscing of the time she spent in Cornwall, UK, as a recipient of the Di Yerbury Residency Award, an award managed by the Society of Women Writers NSW.

Members have also been invited to attend the online launch of Susanne Gervay’s latest book, Heroes of the Secret Underground. 

Book Chat is on this week at 10.30am on Wednesday 31st March. If you haven’t yet joined a Book Chat, you are very welcome to do so. It is an informal group with no set reading, just log on and chat about the books you have recently been reading.

Finally, I would like to welcome new members Joan Lane, Lella Cariddi, Jenny Cook, Attie Lam and Jennifer McInnes, and I look forward to finding out more about you and your areas of interest at a future meeting.

Until next week, happy writing, Caroline

This week’s postcard is from Valerie Pybus, who remembers being blown away by the wind and washed with sea-spray in St. Ives. Thank you Valerie.

One could be forgiven for thinking of St. Ives in Cornwall as a sunny vista of deckchairs, sunburn and fairy floss. It is so much more.

Its incredible natural lighting, long discovered by artists, boasts an impressionable art centre virtually on its foreshores.

Tate St. Ives became famous as a centre of abstract art after the second world war. Exhibiting iconic art works by celebrated figures including Barbara Hepworth, Peter Lanyon, Sandra Blow and Patrick Heron. The displays reveal the relationships between artists associated with St Ives and wider events in art history, also featuring work from the Tate Collection by Henri Matisse, Mark Rothko, Pablo Picasso, Bridget Riley, Pauline Boty and Lahaina Hamid.

One small section of the sea wall protected by a railing to safeguard reckless tourists was especially interesting. During stormy weather the Atlantic Ocean gathers its strength and assaults the huge granite sea-walls. Overflowing vindictive waves and froth cascades over the walkway.

The foolhardy, delightedly dash through the spray, entirely unaware that the ocean often scoops up large head-sized boulders. Decades ago, it was known as Evacuee’s walk, for the countless pasty-faced children who sought sanctuary from the war in St. Ives. There is a lot of history behind the abstract art scene.

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Letter from the President 04 April 2021

It’s a late email this week. I have been out and about enjoying the sunshine – what fabulous weather for the Easter weekend. I hope you have been able to make the most of it.

I spent most of the weekend on beaches in the Peninsular, cooling off in the bracing water. I enjoy swimming although I am wary of what lurks beneath the surface, especially since I patted something distinctively mammalian mid-way through the Half Moon Bay ocean race at the beginning of last year. I am not a fast swimmer either. I recently noticed a friend’s son was wearing a cap from the Australia Day Swim and mentioned I had also competed in the race. She thanked me for telling her about the race because she had entered and had placed third. I, on the other hand, came third from the back, which caused great amusement and then a lengthy conversation about how predators pick off the weak ones trailing behind. I am now feeling considerably motivated to swim a bit faster next time I enter a competition!

Thankfully writing competitions are much less fearsome. Although rejection can be disappointing and judges sometimes fierce, I haven’t heard of any entrants’ having their heels nipped at or having to ‘write for their lives’. Entering writing competitions or submitting manuscripts to journals can be encouraging, inspiring and rewarding. Even though the majority of competitions are not as prestigious as the Miles Franklin or the Stella Award, they can still help you build your portfolio and reputation as a writer. If you haven’t yet sent in your submission for Sparx the Society’s annual publication of members’ writing, then please do. This year the theme is COVID.

There are also a number of other opportunities to keep a look out for. The Society of Women Writers NSW is currently running its biennial national writing competition for women writers aged eighteen years and over (click HERE for information) and SWWVic will shortly be announcing details of the Kathryn Purnell Poetry Prize. Watch this space.

Until next week, happy writing, Caroline.

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This meeting will be at Library at the Dock, Docklands. See MEETINGS and EVENTS page for details.

A presentation by historian and biographer Maureen Lane will be followed by a memoir writing workshop given by Leigh Hay.

Maureen Lane is a local historian, researcher and author and co-author of five books.

Bitten by the Research Bug

Maureen loves to uncover previously undocumented stories. Her latest work, co-authored with her husband David King, is an autobiographical account of a little boy living on the streets of Williamstown who was taken in by a motorcycle gang. Angels is full of childhood tales of mischief and ingenuity, and documents the history and the code of conduct of a motorcycle club and the difficulties faced by women and children in violent households.

Leigh Hay is a freelance editor, published author and poet. She is a member of Wordsmiths of Melbourne and Nandina poetry groups.

Writing your memoir: telling your story

Memoirs are great way to tell your story. What is unique about your memories is that the past is yours and yours alone. The future belongs to the next generation and you can pass on your life story, traditions, culture and family history by telling your story. When you write your memoir or preserve your memories in other ways, you get to choose the legacy you want to leave.  As we age, we are tasked with passing on ‘the knowledge’ and telling your story means the next generation has the chance to know and understand who you were and the era in which you lived. A memoir can be a work in progress. The important thing to remember is that your memories will outlive you.

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Stop struggling to write. Retreat to the mountain for the winter solstice. Gain confidence, meet like-minded people and get writing.

This program is all-inclusive: accommodation, 2 x breakfast, 2 x lunch, 2 x dinner, writing program (prices include GST): $1,195


Click HERE to be taken to the Busybird Publishing website for full details

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