First published on 14 Jan 2013. Updated on 19 Feb 2014.
Every city has its writers’ centre, and Melbourne’s is right up there with the best. With over 3,000 members, Writers Victoria is your one-stop shop for information, support and services. Its staff are dedicated to make your writing life easier, and its public-access library is full of how-to books as well issues of all the best magazines and journals. And don’t ignore its monthly print magazine as well as its weekly e-newsletter: together they are best way to keep up to date with everything writing-related in this UNESCO City of Literature.
Best for… finding answers to your writing questions
A workshop can be a daunting experience: asking others to read and critique your work-in-progress can send you running for the paper shredder, and/or the whiskey bottle. But it’s a necessary part of the process! In any case, workshops are becoming more congenial, and widely available. Two of the best Melbourne-based workshops include those under the banner of the new Penguin School of Popular Writing, as well as upcoming ones run by the literary journal Kill Your Darlings.
Best for… facing your fears
Melbourne is arguably the literary capital of Australia, and nowhere is this more apparent than with its posse of literary publications. From the consistent quality of old stalwarts like Meanjin, Overland and Australian Book Review, through to those newer and more audacious magazines like Going Down Swinging, The Lifted Brow, Higher Arc, The Nose and Voiceworks, Melbourne’s readers and writers are spoilt for choice. If you’re not reading at least a couple of these, there’s really no excuse except laziness!
Best for… discovering the best new writing
The Small Press Network
Having recently changed their name from SPUNC (you decide which acronym is better) the SPN is a representative body for small and indie publishers. With a small staff and volunteers who work all kinds of magic, this not-for-profit organisation fights on behalf of its 100+ members so that humble book publishers and literary journals can have a say in the goings-on in the publishing and book industries. Helping its members connect with reading audiences as well as each other, the SPN provides expertise and strategy advice to those who need it most.
Best for… small timers with big dreams
There are a ridiculous number of writers’ festivals that occur in Melbourne throughout the year. When you walk out your front door each morning, chances are you’ll probably find yourself in the middle of one. Lucky that they are so excellent: both fun, and extremely and beneficial for writers. Whether it’s the Melbourne Writers’ Festival, at which you can listen to and even meet the world’s top wordsmiths, or the Emerging Writers’ Festival, the punters’ favourite, which pushes the definition of what a writers’ festival even is, you’ll never be short of places to celebrate words.
Best for… closing the laptop and opening the champagne
Glenfern Writers’ Studios
Ever wanted to hide away for months inside a Victorian Gothic mansion, tap-tapping away at your keyboard whilst the wind howls through the trees outside your second storey window? You can! Located in St Kilda East, the Glenfern Writers’ Studios offer nine separate spaces for writers. Built in 1857, Glenfern has housed artists and writers for over 150 years. Is it your turn? You can even apply for one of their fellowships to help pay for the cost.
Best for… escaping everything except the work-in-progress
After Melbourne’s designation as a City of Literature — second only to Edinburgh — under UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network, the Wheeler Centre was born. Known also as the Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas, the centre, hidden away in a wing of the State Library, houses the central literary organisations of the city; it’s where the big decisions are made. The centre however is most well known for its program of events: from prestigious lectures to fiery debates, as well as readings, seminars and launches, there’s always something marvellous going on inside.
Best for… big-ticket events every week of the year
From the mammoth State Library to small suburban institutions, libraries are still at the core of people’s reading and writing lives. Pronounced not long ago as on their deathbeds, libraries have seen a resurgence in recent times, and nowhere is this more obvious than in Melbourne. Stroll into any branch, large or small, and you’ll see some of Australia’s top writers working away on their manuscripts, as well as the future of Australian letters: children flicking through p-books, e-books and web browsers, sucking up stories new and old.
Best for… sharing in the love of books, silently, of course
Despite the supposed romance of the lonely author, writing need not always be a solitary pursuit. A writing group is a network of writerly friends, ones that understand both the blessing and the curse of the writing affliction. A tight-knit group offers much-needed support and advice, whether it’s helping you to shape that ambitious plot arc, killing off that bothersome character, or simply being a room of sympathetic ears when you need to whinge about the trials and tribulations of writing. Find them online!
Best for… hugs and lots of wine in mugs
Like libraries, not long ago bookstores were given a death sentence. But people quickly realised that until online shopping and the internet as a whole can match the nourishing experience that goes with hanging out in a top-notch bookseller’s, bookstores are going to stay very much alive. In Melbourne, despite the loss of a few chain megastores, bookshops are more than alive: they’re thriving, especially the independents. From the boutique excellence of Sun Bookshop in Yarraville, to the wonderful jumble of Hill of Content in Bourke Street, to the crème de la crème of bookshops, the flagship Readings store in Lygon Street, buying books in Melbourne has never been as pleasurable.
Best for… those with bookshelves to fill and wallets to empty