Local writers have been given a wonderful Christmas present with the launch of the Australian Writers' Centre in Perth. The institution has been running courses to help writers since 2005, when its first branch opened in Sydney; another opened earlier this year in Melbourne. Courses begin in Perth this February, with both face-to-face tuition and a virtual classroom.
Founder and national director of the Australian Writers' Centre Valerie Khoo is well-qualified to create courses to help writers channel creativity into a viable career. An accountant turned freelance writer and former features editor of Cleo magazine, she firmly believes that "you can be creative and make lots of money" and has written an appealingly sensible article called "You don't have to starve to be an artist".
Khoo decrees that "creativity and wealth are not mutually exclusive" and that "some people romanticise the notion of an artist starving in a garret". The ethos of the writers' centres is to provide writers with the education to achieve success, to be published and also to empower them to have the knowledge to be able to make a living as a writer.
Her commitment to excellence and professionalism is a guiding light for those undertaking the courses offered, her practical advice invaluable to helping other writers better manage their commercial potential. "Understanding the basics can ensure that you never starve, you are financially secure and can live a very comfortable life," she says.
Among the writers' centre's many successful graduates is Perth-based journalist Kelly Exeter, who recommends it highly, attributing her own success to their guidance and facilities. "The writers' centre has made a huge difference to my professional life. Knowing 'how' to write simply isn't enough to get you anywhere these days," she says.
"The writers' centre course I did showed me what kinds of opportunities existed for those wanting to make a living from writing, and taught me how to go about pursuing those opportunities."
She also stresses that the writers' centre gave her more than just teaching her the fundamentals. "Doing the course also gave me access to their online community of writers and this more than anything else has been instrumental in any success I have achieved (extensive publication both online and off, launching my first book on Amazon in January). The online community provides huge support in the way of encouragement and advice."
The courses in Perth are taught by author Natasha Lester, a winner of the TAG Hungerford Award for Fiction, Alecia Hancock, the director of the centre in Perth and an experienced media professional, and Trae Flett, an acclaimed award-winning "mummy blogger". Having started her writing career studying creative writing at university, Lester knows the importance of a good foundation for the craft.
"The first piece of writing I ever sent off to a journal for publication - a poem - was accepted. It was the best $100 I'd ever earned," she says. Her novels, What is Left Over, After and If I Should Lose You have received glowing reviews and she has been described as "a remarkable Australian talent".
The courses are far-reaching and encompass classes in Magazine Writing, stage 1, Creative Writing, stage 1 and Blogging for Beginners. Online courses teach Writing for Children and Young Adults, Travel Writing and Writing Picture Books as well as those available in their classes held at the Wembley Hotel on Cambridge Street in Wembley.
'The Writers' Centre has made a huge difference to my professional life. Knowing "how" to write simply isn't enough to get you anywhere these days.'
For more on the Australian Writers' Centre in Perth, visit writerscente.com.au/perth.