Writing workshop to focus on role of research

Published 25 February 2009

penNew England writers, at whatever level of experience and accomplishment, will have an opportunity next month to discuss their craft with several distinguished authors as well as with each other.

The University of New England’s Writing Workshop 2009, to be held on Monday 30 March, will be not only an expression of the University’s role in the creative life of the New England community, but also a celebration of the richness of that creative life.

The focus of the full-day workshop – the first of its kind at UNE – will be “research and writing”. “Whether you’re writing a scholarly tome or popular fiction, you still have to do the research,” explained one of the facilitators of the workshop, UNE’s Dr Anne Pender. Participation in the workshop is free, and the day will include hands-on experience as well as informative presentations.

Visiting presenters will include: Professor Jane Goodall from the University of Western Sydney, author of the novels The Walker (2004), The Visitor (2005) and The Calling (2007), and the scholarly study Stage Presence: The Actor as Mesmerist (2008); Professor Jenny Hocking from Monash University, the author of biographies of Lionel Murphy (1997, 2000), Frank Hardy (2005) and Gough Whitlam (2008); Dr Leigh Dale from the University of Queensland, Editor of Australian Literary Studies and author of several scholarly books. They will each speak about the role of research in their own writing.

Among the UNE-based presenters will be Associate Professor Melanie Oppenheimer, the author of several social history books, who will draw on her experience of researching, writing and producing programs for ABC Radio National when she talks on “Writing and researching for radio”. Lorina Barker, an Associate Lecturer in UNE’s School of Humanities, will discuss her experience of making a documentary film – as part of her doctoral research – about her family’s involvement in the shearing industry, and Wendy James, a UNE research student and award-winning author of the novels Out of the Silence (2005) and The Steele Diaries (2008), will speak from her own experience on “the myriad ways in which experience can be transformed by writing”.

Dr Pender said the workshop would realise her long-held ambition to convene an event, involving both UNE and the wider community, reflecting the variety and quality of writing in the New  England region. “We’re hoping it will attract scholars from the University as well as the many people writing in a variety of genres throughout the community,” she said.

She and her fellow workshop facilitator, Dr Fiona Utley, pointed out that all the visiting presenters were experienced writers for a general – as well as for an academic – readership. “The workshop will demonstrate that, while research can be used in many ways and with many different outcomes, it’s the same set of skills that are involved,” Dr Utley said. “It will provide an insight into how scholarly research informs the popular imagination.”

The workshop is an initiative resulting from activity under the former Federal Government’s Research Quality Framework. Sponsored by UNE’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, it is designed for scholars in the arts and humanities, writers for a popular audience who want to enhance their research skills, writers of biography, autobiography and memoir, history, fiction, and narrative non-fiction, writers and producers of documentary films and radio programs, and investigative journalists.