It’s always nice when people in arts jobs walk the walk, and the fact that Kate Larsen was the poet in residence at Rue Bebelons for two years – caffeinated up to her eyeballs – and has tweeted a poem a day for four years makes her well qualified to understand the needs of those whose chosen profession can wind up being a labour of love.
“The residency was attached to the Emerging Writers’ Festival,” she tells Time Out, testing the comfy chairs at the Writers Victoria HQ ahead of beginning her new role in May. “For five years I’d been chipping away slowly at the scene in London with my own practices as a writer and poet, as well as working as an arts manager. London is a very tough nut to crack. I got to Melbourne and there were these wide open doors.”
It’s Larsen’s new job to make those doors open for other local writers, and with her last role being the CEO of Arts Access Australia (the national body for arts and disability), she’s fiendishly organised enough to do it.
“The primary work of Writers Victoria is about supporting and advocating writers at all stages of development,” she says, “from hobbyists and people who like writing limericks in birthday cards, all the way up to professional published authors.”
The annual membership ($44-$68) gets you a discount on everything. The not-for-profit organisation runs writers’ salons; hosts talks from writers, arts lawyers and editors (usually downstairs at the Wheeler Centre); and organises courses up to a year long. You can also come in and use their library – stocked largely with Australia fiction, prize fiction and useful directories – and sit down with your laptop, or just network with whoever’s about.
“One of the things I love is the writers in residence programmes,” Larsen says. “We have a number of homes and studios that writers can use, and we just started one at the Old Melbourne Gaol.”
Regional writers also have a lot to look forward to. “We’re looking to make opportunities a lot more accessible for regional audiences. The Melbourne literary scene is booming. And Victoria as a state is really well resourced, but there’s a lot more we can be doing for regional writers, both in terms of physical presence – partnering with local festivals and putting on events – but also by expanding our digital platforms.”
Writers Victoria, 176 LIttle Lonsdale St, Melbourne.