Each month we shine our spotlight on a member of the NSW Writers’ Centre community to learn more about their writing journey, achievements and inspirations. This February, our Spotlight On features Sharon Willdin, writer and co-convener of the Allsorts Writing Group. Sharon writes across genres and refuses to give into the notion that writers have to limit themselves to a certain style and market. Her stories are engaging, satirical, philosophical and subversive.
She has been published nationally and internationally in journals such as Brooklyn Review, Antithesis Journal, Spineless Wonders: Time Anthology, Anamesa Journal, Weekend Australian, Open Thought Vortex and 101 Words. She is a finalist for the 2017 Joanne Burns Microlit Award, was nominated for the 2017 Woollahra Digital Literary Award, and won the 2015 Olga Masters Short Story Award. Clowns Anonymous, a film she wrote and produced, premiered at the Noosa International Film Festival in October 2017. It was also chosen as a finalist in the Wollongong Film Festival 2017. Her feature film, Flaming Devils, is due to commence production 2018.
Our Membership and Development Officer, Sherry Landow, spoke to Sharon about her inspirations, challenges and upcoming projects.
Congratulations on a successful 2017 writing year! What do you have planned for 2018?
Thank you. A big year ahead and, as usual, I set myself more challenges than I can achieve. But it’s not necessarily blind foolishness – more of a strategy to make me work hard.
My plans are to continue writing short stories, but to also focus on longer forms of narrative. The list includes completing a pilot episode for Clowns Anonymous. The pilot will be a satirical comedy based on the film.
I’m also planning to finish a radio play and a novel. And, with time and circumstances permitting, I’d like to turn Treatise on Morality into a three-act play.
I recently received a grant to produce a feature length screenplay that I wrote under the mentorship of Ian David. The screenplay, Flaming Devils, is set in Sydney’s Inner West and based on a true story. I’m passionate about this project because it deals with the social alienation of children with special needs and finding a cure for motor neurone disease.
I’m in the process of raising funds and will be spending most of the year lobbying anyone who can breathe for their assistance. For details and ways to help get the Flaming Devils off the ground, please visit www.sharonwilldin.com.
Clowns Anonymous Shaun Philip Cantwell Photo: Wagner Photography
Your writing isn’t just restrained to one form, but spans everything from microfiction to short films. What do you enjoy the most about writing across forms?
I’m a rebel at heart – it’s ingrained into my soul. I just love writing. I don’t need to be told by a capital driven marketplace that I should stick to one form or another. Stuff that. To me, that feels like suffocation. Why write at all if you’re going to be choked before you start?
I love exploring different forms of narrative and analysing their structure and tropes. There are different techniques for the forms, but I love a challenge. It’s the challenge and the desire for creative freedom that attracts me.
Where do you draw your inspiration?
From everywhere and anywhere. Many of the stories I write come from personal experience and/or from observing social and political systems and structures that alienate people and control their lives.
Sometimes stories just start spontaneously, and when that happens I go with the flow. Treatise on Morality started this way. I was dealing with dark personal content in another piece of work and to counter balance this I found myself writing Treatise on Morality. It provided me with the opportunity to play, be mischievous and laugh while I continued to write the other story. When I reflect on it now, I think Treatise on Morality saved me from becoming depressed.
In the case of ‘Reverie’, I had been researching a story that I was writing about violence against women and, when I went to sleep, ‘Reverie’ manifested as a dream. My aim was to give it a structure and not to disturb the authenticity of the dream too much.
I’m attracted to philosophical theories and beliefs. At the moment, I seem to be faced with the reality of mortality, and I’m also becoming increasingly aware that each one of us is fighting our own unique battle.
Many of your works utilise humour as a literary device. What attracts you towards using this technique?
Humour is a brilliant tool for a writer. It has the power to draw the reader in and soften the blow. It’s subversive. Once a reader is drawn in with humour they are trapped inside the story. This allows a writer to share with the reader a deeper experience than what the reader might have expected when they first began.
Humour also serves to balance a story. It opens minds and hearts. Intertwining humour and drama creates the capacity to make the saddest moments more profound and the humorous moments more poignant.
You cofounded the Allsorts Writing Group here at the NSW Writers’ Centre with fellow writer, Georgia Monaghan. How did the idea for the group originate?
Georgia and I studied creative writing together at university. Georgia and I were used to giving and receiving feedback and we found writing groups valuable. Among other things, writing groups prompt you to produce work by deadlines. We enjoy variety, so we started a cross-genre writing group.
Writing is often an introverted and isolated experience. Writing groups create a sense of community and provide solidarity. In writing groups, you share your work and get a range of opinions. A writer can learn not only from receiving feedback, but also from critiquing another writer’s work.
What writing philosophies guide the group?
When a writer joins the group, we provide guidelines about providing feedback. These guidelines emphasise that members are to give two positive and one constructive piece of feedback. If a member can’t find something positive to say about another writer’s work, they aren’t looking hard enough!
We believe that both the creative work and the writer require nurturing, not criticism. Members are asked to connect to the intention of the writing. Criticism delivered too early in development can take a piece of writing off in the wrong direction. The goal isn’t to take a writer’s story and make it into another writer’s vision: all perception is subjective, and the primary consideration is to ensure that the writer’s voice is respected.
Do you have a regular writing routine? If so, what does it involve?
I’m a night owl. I find late at night is best and often work between 9pm and 1am. I’d work all night if I didn’t have a child to care for the next day.
What is the best writing advice you’ve been given?
‘Writing requires tenacity and determination’ – Robyn Butler
‘Think of creative ways to handle exposition’ – Stephen Davis
‘Never underestimate mood’ – Wayne Hope
‘Good stories have an emotional rhythm’ – Ian David
‘The first goal of a writer is to engage your audience and to entertain them’ – Jan Sardi
What are you reading at the moment?
John Yorke’s Into the Woods: a five-act journey into story and, of course, the Allsorts Writing Group’s rich variety of submissions.
What inspires you the most: weather, time of day, music or location?
Music. This morning I woke up with Ziggy Stardust playing in my head and it’s kept me company all day. Music is an emotion driven medium – there’s a lot a writer can learn from its structure and composition. I often find myself thanking Amy Shark, Lorde, Dean Lewis, Hole, Paul Kelly, David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Diamond… and that’s just to name a few of the voices who take up space in my head!
To find out more about Sharon and her work, visit www.sharonwilldin.com
Read excerpts of Sharon’s work at: