Putting Pen to Paper workshops

Dorothy (Dodie) Henderson

During the 10 week workshop series, we were able to watch participants stories evolve and emerge. Some of those taking part came to the workshops with work underway, ranging from non-fiction writings about the role of feral animals in our landscape, to romance novels set in England, in the 1300s. At least one person came in off the street to take part because he just wanted to know how to get started.

Those who attended the sessions regularly were able to share with us the progress of their work. One is a creative writing student, who was able to share her assigned tasks and was provided with feedback that helped her. This person is not just limited in access to feedback due to the fact that she lives in an isolated place and she is an external student, but also because she is a carer. The workshops benefited her as she was able to talk about her writing with real people.

During the workshops we provided feedback to several participants who are working on family histories that encompass versions of the past that will enrich our knowledge and understanding of the society we live in. Life on outback stations; the early farming years in Esperance; British colonial Singapore; travel through the Suez and convict Australia; all of these are experiences that were retold and discussed during the workshops.

The workshops were invaluable as they included writers who did not think that the label "writer" applied to them, but who wanted to put pen to paper and get their stories down. The stories they have to tell will benefit us all in terms of understanding ourselves and our society, but equally important is the impact that sharing stories has on the storyteller and their audience. It was noticeable that the confidence of participants grew during the workshops, and people really did find their voices.

By establishing a blog as part of this project, we will be providing a place for the stories to be told, and heard. This will enable the project's benefit to be extended beyond those of us who took part to the wider community.

A further outcome of this project is the continuation of writers' gatherings. Participants are keen to continue to meet and encourage one another to write, to read and to listen.

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