Each month we shine our spotlight on a member of the Writing NSW community to learn more about their writing journey, achievements and inspirations. In following on from the success of our Writers’ Group Open Night last March, this month’s feature sees us interview not one, not two, but all four members of Scripto Libris writing group who meet at Writing NSW on the second Saturday of each month.
Established in 2012, the members of Scripto Libris write across a range of genres, including Chick Lit, Short Stories, novel-length Speculative Fiction and Australian Historical Fiction.
Lou Garcia-Dolnik, our Membership and Administration Officer, sat down with Frances Huber, convenor of the tight-knit group, alongside Michael, Tony and Dana, to talk about the advantages and strengths of community, their long history as a Writing NSW group, and recent publishing successes.
Having convened at Writing NSW since 2012, Scripto Libris recently celebrated its 8th birthday—congratulations to you all! Frances, how did you first come together as a group?
In 2011, Writing NSW held a year-long novel writing course led by author Alan Mills. At the conclusion of the course I asked my fellow students to list their names and contact details if they wanted to continue meeting as a group.
It became a process of natural selection and we got lucky. The four of us, Dana, Michael, Tony and myself, became the founding members of Scripto Libris in 2012. Eight years later we continue to meet with enthusiasm for a couple of hours on the second Saturday of each month at Writing NSW. Just before Christmas, we have a special gathering celebrating our writing achievements and outline our plans for the following year.
We began as an Open Group on the proviso that new members had also attended Alan Mills’ course. As a skilled teacher, Alan had given us writing terminology and tools, in addition to a shared sense of humour. That united us. We continue to value his expertise—his handouts were as critical to us then as they are now in our respective writing journeys. We still enjoy a hearty chuckle together when one of us mentions Matthew Reilly’s scene of the protagonist reaching through lava with his bare arm to rescue a baby!
A few years in we decided to become a closed group because our collegiate dynamics worked so well. We wanted to retain that.
Why is it, do you think, that Scripto Libris continues to meet so many years after Alan’s course?
We attribute our strength as a group to multiple factors, including our shared experience, having together attended Alan Mills’ course, our equal commitment to writing, and our support and encouragement of each other during tough times. Most importantly, our dedication to celebrating the wins and successes of each member propels us forward through thick and thin.
We also support each other through personal crises and life situations—we recognise we don’t write in a vacuum and that our lives impact and indeed inform our writing. We arrive at each meeting with a sense of excitement and leave with a purpose and motivation.
Each of us are in different stages of our writing journeys. We are respectful of and also inspired by that. We share resources such as useful reference guides or websites, Writing NSW courses, and articles on maximising use of social media platforms, mentorships and assessments. We also provide each other with more practical, literary assistance, such as helping to choose between possible book covers and giving feedback on radio interviews.
What suggestions might you have for other writers wanting to start or join a writing group?
The four of us recently attended Writing NSW’s Writers’ Group Open Night and we listened with keen interest to other people talk about their groups. What struck us is just how different each group is. For the group to be sustainable and resilient over time, the challenge is to find people similar in their commitment to the writing process, figuring out how often to meet that will suit everyone in the group and agreeing on the content of each meeting.
Meeting once a month for a few hours on a weekend has worked well for us. Being flexible in what we bring along to share is subtly motivating without exerting overwhelming pressure. We value that we dabble in different genres and writing styles, our varied processes often giving us cause to laugh. Michael, for example, delights us with his detailed coloured spreadsheets and monthly goals, while Tony prefers a more haphazard, spontaneous approach. Dana and myself fall somewhere in between.
As one of many writing groups to speak at last month’s Writers’ Group Open Night, Scripto Libris impressed with its camaraderie and enthusiasm. What motivates each of you to write?
That is different for each of us.
Michael: It’s the storyteller in me. I have a passion for Sydney and its early days, with quite a few inspirations informing my work: my family forebears who came here during that time and settled in Millers Point, my love of Sydney’s architecture during that epoch, amongst others. The first book of my Sandstone Trilogy, Unbound Justice, which reached fourth place in Australian Historical Fiction in Amazon’s ranking for Australia Day, explores those themes. Radio Adelaide were keen to talk to me about the book when it was published. You can find the full interview here and more information on my website here.
Tony: it’s my imagination and the satisfaction I get from stories. I have a cluttered mind and am easily distracted, so I write ideas down then work out what to do with them. I focus on humorous or quirky things.
Dana: I am a passionate problem solver and love crime, drama and thriller genres. I’m also inspired by the way a movie can tell a story, such as Shrek, which crosses all ages; just like Tony’s writing.
Frances: I love the magic of written words which reach through time and space to connect us with each other. Stories enable us to jump into a new reality, which in turn may shape our values, hopes, dreams and ideologies. I’m a psychologist with a particular interest in mindfulness and Vipassana meditation. I try to let that guide my writing journey.
Frances, can you tell us about some of successes Scripto Libris has enjoyed since its inception?
Michael inspires us with his writing, radio appearances and publishing successes. We love hearing how he strikes forth and blazes his own trail—the rest of us learn from and follow his intrepid attitude to writing. After years of refusing to engage in social media of any sort, he has now become the social media executive of his own author profile, makes his own marketing videos, hosts his own competitions and lets us in on all the grisly details, such as the analytics on his Facebook Author Page and the configuration of his website!
Tony juggles multiple writing projects, ranging from The Fairy Tale Murders, to Death’s Apprentice to working on the last book of the Snot Monster trilogy with accidental environmental themes aimed at young boys aged 8-12. He was inspired to write the Snot Monster trilogy by his young grandson who stayed at Westmead Children’s Hospital— all profits will go the hospital. Tony is currently searching for an artist to draw the aliens who want to make Earth their rubbish dump and the young boys determined to stop them.
Dana has just written a second draft of her novel about office politics with dark hints of BDSM set against a background of not-so-mundane family life. She is also writing sharp and witty short stories based around the character of Dulcie in her eighties.
I’ve recently had a novel manuscript assessed by Irina Dunn and this prompted some delving into memoir writing. I’ve received payments for submissions to a national culinary magazine and national women’s magazine. An editor of the women’s magazine, touched by my submission, contacted me to relay her personal story. I’m now working on a first draft of a Women’s Contemporary Fiction novel, a sequel to a novel I entered into the Australian Vogel Competition when I still met the age eligibility!
What is one piece of advice you would impart to budding writers?
Writing is a tough and lonely journey, but also immensely satisfying and fun. Seek out those who can travel alongside you and continue to make use of all the workshops and opportunities available. Together, we form our own communities.
What are some of your favourite stories and why?
Michael: Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. Love, intrigue, drama and setting all combine to excite me!
Tony: The Tin Moon by Stephen Lacey. I have never laughed out loud so much.
Dana: My favourite crime author is Lynda La Plante.
Frances: Freedom for Priscilla by Joyce Nicholson was particularly transformative—it made me cry and realise the power of words. I read Marian Keyes for light entertainment. My favourite short story is The Door in the Wall by H.G. Wells.
Scripto Libris was one of many writing groups who took to the floor to share advice for prospective writing group members and convenors alike at our Writers’ Group Open Night last March. With a keynote by Stella Prize award-winning author Vicki Laveau-Harvie, Membership Intern, Alina Haque, captured the key points from the night for those who weren’t able to attend. Read the article here.
Our Writers’ Groups:
Members of Writing NSW have the advantage of joining the diverse range of groups that span many interests and levels of experience. If you would like to know more about joining our writers’ groups, visit our Writing Group information page.
Haven’t found your dream group yet? Try starting one. We’ve developed a handy resource with a list of tips that you can find here.
Though our writing group program has been temporarily placed on hold, we’re still keen to support you in finding your community in isolation. If you have any questions about our writers’ group program, get in touch via our contact page.