Category: Uncategorized (Page 1 of 3)

Committee for 2021 announced

Following on from the AGM this month, the committee welcomes Nicole Kelly to the role of Competitions Co-ordinator!

Last year’s co-ordinator, Megan J. Riedl, has moved to a general committee position.

The committee thanks departing general committee members Zoe Werner, David Mellows and Brooke Vogt for their contributions last year.

Otherwise, familiar faces abound!

The 2021 committee is:

Chair:                                                  Rebecca Fletcher      

Treasurer & Membership Officer:     Kirstyn McDermott  

Secretary/Public Officer:                    Laura Wilson             

Publicity & Media Coordinator:          Jason Nahrung

Competitions Coordinator:                 Nicole Kelly

Unassigned Committee Member:      Megan Riedl  

Unassigned Committee Member:      Phil Green

The committee welcomes contributions and suggestions from members. If there is a project you think would be well suited to Ballarat Writers that you’d like to be involved in, please feel free to get in touch at a Members’ Night or through this website.

If you’d like to contribute to the blog, please email the Publicity and Media Coordinator (publicity AT ballaratwriters.com).

BW competitions in 2021

After feedback from our members survey and the engagement with Ballarat Flash in the past few years, the Ballarat Writers committee has decided to stop running the monthly Ballarat Flash competition.

It will be replaced with regular writing prompts on our Facebook page and in our Ballarat Writers newsletter.

The Pamela Miller Prize will continue as an annual prize for members, and we are currently working on how we can make it a bigger and better opportunity for the first half of the year, with the winner announced at our June members night.

The biennial prize will continue to alternate between the Southern Cross Short Story Prize (2021) and the Martha Richardson Memorial Poetry Prize (2022).

If you have any comments, questions or ideas, please feel free to contact Megan on ballaratwriterscompetitions@gmail.com or, better still, join our committee at the AGM on 10 February and make a contribution to Ballarat Writers! Contact our Chair, Rebecca, on chairperson@ballaratwriters.com to find out more

Book review: When the Apricots Bloom, by Gina Wilkinson

Title: When the Apricots Bloom

Author: Gina Wilkinson

Publisher: Hachette Australia, 2020

Gina Wilkinson is a journalist, foreign correspondent and documentary-maker.  In this debut novel we follow three young women living in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. The story is based on the writer’s personal experience of life in Baghdad under Saddam.

Two teenagers pledge love and loyalty with a blood oath. Huda is a village girl. Rania is a sheikh’s granddaughter, Iraqi nobility. After sharing a delightful adolescence on the banks of the Tigris, Huda and Rania lose contact.

When Saddam seizes power in Iraq, war, sanctions and tyranny bring the golden years of the Fertile Crescent to a bloody end. Tensions with Washington increase and a nervous Iraq increases security. Embassies withdraw non-essential staff.  Iraqis live in fear of Saddam’s secret police. They can invade your home, threaten your children or even snatch you off the streets.

Twenty-four years after their oath, Huda and Rania are struggling to raise their own teenagers in dangerous circumstances. Rania has contacts in the resistance. When Huda’s brothers are killed in a brutally crushed uprising, Rania disappears, hiding a shameful secret. Huda holds Rania responsible for the boys’ deaths.

When Huda lands a secretarial job at the Australian Embassy it seems too good to be true. Then the secret police order her to spy on Ally Wilson, the young wife of the Australian Deputy Ambassador to Iraq. The brutal intrusion of uniformed men into her home shatters Huda’s world. Her teenaged son, they warn, can be ordered into the regime’s murderous militia which trains boys to be killers.

Ally must hide her American citizenship, a deception that is dangerous. Western women are not safe on the streets. Ally, naïve and reckless, goes out alone. Huda tries to protect her even while she is forced to spy on her.

Read a Q&A with Gina Wilkinson about When the Apricots Bloom

at better reading

The secret police order Rania’s teenaged daughter to the presidential palace where sadistic sexual practices are known to take place. Rania and Huda are now reunited in an uneasy alliance to save their endangered children. They plan to smuggle them out of the country by forcing Ally to use her diplomatic position to help them.

In a world that nurtures suspicion rather than trust the women push the boundaries of safety. Friendships form despite the dangers and torture them in an emotional tug-of-war as the regime forces them to keep secrets from each other. The closer they become, the more they fear each other. Emotions are on-edge as they fight off the urge to trust. Blood oaths are stronger than anything … aren’t they?

Wilkinson weaves a gripping, page-turning plot of intrigue, fear and courage. When the Apricots Bloom takes us into a world that is foreign, exotic and terrifying as its strong characters struggle under the rise of tyranny. It challenges our comfortable existence and our privilege and reminds us that nations we have demonised and gone to war with are populated with people just like us. Knowing that I had more in common with the naïve Ally Wilson than with the brave Iraqi women, I read When the Apricots Bloom with sadness, huge respect and admiration for the courage of those who survive and resist. I cannot recommend it highly enough. It will not disappoint.

Reviewed by: Maureen Riches, January 2021

Ballarat Writers Inc. Book Review Group

Season’s greetings to our members and supporters


By BWI chairperson Rebecca

There’s nothing that I can say about 2020 that hasn’t already been said.
As a hobby group in a year that has focused on ‘essential services’, it
was hard to know what shape we would be in when all of this passed.

I am pleased to say, however, that the Ballarat Writers community is a
tremendously robust group who clearly care deeply about writing, and
each other, even when there’s not a bar involved. It has been lovely to
see so many of you coming along to the monthly Zoom meetings, and many
of you braving Discord for the weekly Write Club meetings (which have
now resumed at Racers). I know that both  critique groups were keen to
meet up again in person as soon as they could as well. With such strong
participation in both the Pamela Miller Prize and Martha Richardson Memorial
Poetry Prize
this year, it’s clear that there’s still a lot of passion
and creativity in the Ballarat Writers crew.

I want to say thank you to every single person who has continued to open
their emails, check Facebook or find some other way of keeping in touch
with us and continuing to be a part of this amazing community. I also
want to thank the committee for their outstanding work in keeping the
wheels turning and being so adaptable in a year that has demanded it.
Your work has not gone unnoticed and is deeply appreciated.

I hope you all have a wonderful end of year break, and we look forward
to seeing you all (hopefully in person!) in 2021.

Merry Christmas!

This is a copy of Rebecca’s address at the end-of-year meeting in November.

MRMPP & Pamela Miller Award winners

Ballarat Writers Inc. is pleased to announce the winners of the 2020 Martha Richardson Memorial Poetry Prize and the Pamela Miller Award.

The MRMPP, run every two years, was judged by Terry Jaensch. To read Terry’s comments, click here, and click on the entries to read the poems.

BWI thanks Terry for his insightful comments and all those who entered for their support, and offers congratulations to the winners and those highly commended.

First Prize ($1,000)

Bee Hives at Night‘ by Nathan Curnow, Ballarat East, VIC

Second Prize ($400)

Banksia‘ by Claire Miranda Roberts, Edinburgh

Third Prize ($100)

What Time It Is In Auckland‘ by Colin Montfort, Padbury, WA

Highly Commended

‘Piano Concerto’ by Helen Bradwell, Williamstown, VIC

‘Burden’ by David Terelinck, Biggera Waters, QLD

‘Ibis Roost’ by Pippa Kay, Hunters Hill, NSW

‘The Georges Sand, Eliot and Lewes’ by Anne M Carson, Bonbeach, VIC

‘The Way’ by Damen O’Brien, Wynnum, QLD

‘Your Coma Is A Half Death’ by Scott-Patrick Mitchell, Padbury, WA

The Pamela Miller Prize is for members of BWI, with the winner chosen by the committee and the people’s choice by an online vote. The entries can be read at the Ballarat Flash website.

Judge’s Choice ($100): ‘Double Act’ by Polly Musgrove

People’s Choice (BW pen): ‘Spontaneity’ by Kirily McKellor

Book review — Max by Alex Miller

Title: Max

Author: Alex Miller

Publisher: Allen & Unwin, 2020

Castlemaine-based Alex Miller is the winner of multiple national and international awards and a recipient of the Manning Clark Medal for outstanding contribution to Australian cultural life. His latest work, Max, his first non-fiction book, is a tribute to a man he loved and who loved him, a man who was his mentor and inspiration.

Imagine you are a writer. A friend shares with you mysterious fragments of his past. This friend shuns the limelight yet you have always suspected that “beneath his modesty, lurked a secret wish to have the story told”. Then your friend dies.

Max is a Jewish/German socialist intellectual who opposes the rise of the Third Reich. He is deported to Poland in 1933 and emigrates to Australia in 1945. His torture at the hands of the Gestapo, the demise of the German Labour Movement and the destruction of ideals to which he has devoted his life, have broken Max and brought him to the end of hope.

When Max dies, Miller feels he has betrayed his friend by not writing his story. He goes to Berlin in search of Max’s mysterious past as a resistance fighter. Miller believes that the torture Max suffered is the reason his memories are so fragmented. His quest leads him to a darker suspicion. He begins to fear that his friend was not a hero, after all. He gets to know Max better by meeting people who suffered similar experiences. The fragile Jewish community of Breslau, for instance where latent anti-Semitism still hovers.

An interview with Alex Miller about his book, Max

with david speers at abc radio’s the drawing room

Miller compares the rise of the Third Reich with the extreme right in the Western world today. A constant theme is that many Jews couldn’t believe what was happening until it was too late – they didn’t believe it was possible, they just didn’t see it coming. Miller suggests history seems fated to repeat itself and offers the chilling warning: “By the time we are aware of it, it will be too late to bring it down.”

After the war, Max was denied compensation because he was unable to provide documentary evidence. Miller points to this inhumane situation repeating worldwide today: failure to produce paperwork is often an excuse for governments to avoid helping refugees.

Honouring Max’s telling, the writing is divided not into chapters, but “fragments”. It is rich with sensitively portrayed images of place and human interaction …Miller’s reluctant visit to Auschwitz … his walk through the Thuringia forest … the post-war decay still evident in parts of Europe and the loving restoration of buildings that were burned to the ground because they were Jewish.

For me this book was a gift, emphasising as it does the importance of listening to traumatised people, and the value of every life. The story of futile resistance against an evil power will resonate with today’s refugee advocates.

Reviewed by: Maureen Riches, October 2020

Ballarat Writers Inc. Book review group

Martha Richardson Memorial Poetry Prize deadline extended!

The closing date for the Martha Richardson Memorial Poetry Prize, to be judged this year by Terry Jaensch, has been extended by one week.

The competition has an open theme and accepts poetry to 40 lines.

It now closes on 18 October 2020

Entry Fee: $25 first poem

$20 first poem for members of Ballarat Writers

$15 for second or subsequent poems

Prizes: First $1,000; Second $400; Third $100

Finalists and winner will be announced in November 2020.

Please see the competition website for details on how to enter.

Ballarat Writers email hack

We’re sorry to advise that our email has been caught up in a virus attack and has been sending out weird emails, many dredged from archives, with potentially nasty attachments.

If you have received or do receive one (or more), we advise sending it straight to spam and running a virus/malware check on your device. Do not open the attachment.

If you have concerns about your anti-virus software, Malwarebytes is a free program that may help.

We’re trying to get to the bottom of it and stop the spamming.

We’re so sorry for the annoyance and confusion this has no doubt caused.

Ballarat Writers online meetings

Unfortunately, the uncertainty of Victoria’s COVID-19 situation has forced Ballarat Writers to cancel its scheduled monthly members meetings until further notice.

Consequently, a Members Night (substitute) Group Chat via Zoom is being held instead, from 7pm on the last Wednesday of each month.

Please see your newsletter or drop us a line here or on Facebook for details if you don’t have them already.

Note: our regular venue, the Bunch of Grapes hotel, is doing takeaway during lockdown.

Write Club

Members are invited to visit the Facebook page on Sundays 2-5pm to share writing time and discussion. Note: our regular venue, Racers, is doing takeaway, including dinners some nights a week.

Ballarat Flash

Our monthly members-only flash writing contest is proceeding as usual. Please see the website for details.

Tuning in from home

We also have a list of online events and opportunities to engage with the writing community. Please let us know if you’ve come across other great resources.

Tuning in from home

As we maintain our physical social distancing, here are some options for keeping a finger on the pulse of the writing community online.

Most writers centres are offering webinars on craft and industry topics in lieu of face-to-face workshops. Check out Writers Victoria’s offerings at the website.

Online critique or writing races: tap a friend or three and share some words for feedback, or set a date and time to “meet” online to knock out some wordage and share some messages of encouragement. Or pick a contest from our competitions page, get a posse together and brainstorm and workshop each other’s entries.

EVENTS

The Wheeler Centre runs a fortnightly offshoot of last year’s Broadside Festival, Broadly Speaking, on issues of feminism and gender.

Dymocks is running online author interviews in its Chapter One program.

Clunes Booktown is running Sunday author sessions online and has put together a bookclub hub.

The Guardian has a rolling list of streaming events in the arts and literature and welcomes additions.

The Wheeler Centre has new and archived livestreams available at its website.

The Garrett presents regular interviews with “writers on writing”.

The First Time Podcast talks to writers and industry insiders about first-time publications.

Bendigo Writers Festival is running a Backstory program of writer interviews.

Adelaide Writers Week has made many of its events from this year available online.

The Queenscliffe Literary Festival has had to cancel, but is running an online book club.

The Facebook group Writers Go Forth. Launch. Promote. Party. is promoting writers, especially those whose new books and launch events have been disrupted by COVID-19.

The Social Distancing Festival lists online activities by artists from around the world.

More festival news at this calendar

WORDS

Writing prompts and other cool material with which to while away lockdown couresty of Suleika Jaouad

Melbourne Spoken Word is running a channel on Twitch for live poetry readings with plenty of open mic opportunities. It also has an audio journal, Audacious, of spoken word and poetry from various gigs.

Hundreds of free audio books on Audible

The State Library of Victoria has tooled up its online offerings.

The National Gallery of Victoria has a rolling banquet of art and music drawing on its collections and exhibitions.

The Victoria Together website has plenty going on, collecting online offerings from readings and stand-up comedy to movies and livestreamed animal action.

Favourite kids books read by famous actors at Storyline Online

Poetry readings at Poetry Unbound

Ballarat’s Megan J. Riedl is sharing daily ‘Pandemic Poetry’ on her Facebook page

Come across great online content to help inspire your writing? Please share it with us so we can spread the good word! Leave a comment on this post or email publicty AT ballaratwriters.com

BONUS CRITTERS: At the risk of distracting from writing time, Melbourne Zoo is livestreaming footage from some of its animal enclosures – including penguins and OMG snow leopard kittens!

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