LOUISE CUSACK

Redlitzer Awards 2013: Encouraging grass roots writing

Last Saturday I traveled to Redlands, just south of Brisbane to attend the Redlitzer Awards where local writers were presented with trophies and certificates by the Mayor, and saw their winning short stories published into anthologies. I was involved as a judge, selecting the winning stories, along with authors Rowena Cory Daniells, Marianne de Pierres, Angela Sunde and Peter Matheson. Two anthologies of winning short stories were launched (ten adult and ten teen stories in one anthology, and ten Junior in a larger ‘picture book’ style anthology), and that night thirty first-time published authors did a mass book signing!

Teen signing table at the Redlitzer Awards 2013

I have to say I was really impressed with the way Redland City Council and their libraries handled the evening. Unlike other awards ceremonies where children are involved, there were no lollies on the tables, and no patronising cuteness. The Junior Redlands writers (now published authors) were treated to a very adult function with beautiful floral arrangements, lots of bling in the silver, black and white color scheme, and formal attire for the evening. I could see their parents were impressed, as were the parents of the teen writers, and I couldn’t help thinking that the formal celebration of their success would make these children’s aspirations seem more real, more professional, and more achievable.

Redlands Mayor (far right), councilor, judges and Junior Redlitzer winners

I remember distinctly what it was like as a child and then a teen who knew she wanted to be a writer but wasn’t sure how to go about it. I wanted to be taken seriously, and for those around me to understand that this was a passion and a calling, and that there was money to be made despite all the ‘starving in a garret’ stereotypes. I didn’t want to be ridiculed or have my dreams diminished. Instead I wanted writing and reading to be celebrated, to be encouraged, and to be valued. At the Redlitzer Awards last Saturday night I saw that in spades. The detail and expense in preparing the venue (Victoria Point Library) was impressive, and the fact that the Mayor and two of her councilors attended, and stayed all night, spoke volumes about their commitment to the arts. You won’t believe the number of functions I go to where politicians turn up for photos and then leave. I was also impressed with the respect and encouragement the young (and not so young) writers received at the presentations and at the signing tables. I’m betting that for the first time in their lives, those thirty writers felt like authors, and that’s such a motivating factor.

Me getting my copy signed at the Junior signing table

Writing is a mostly solitary profession, and it’s often difficult to be objective about your writing and to value your own talent. Yet somehow we’re expected to be our own cheer squad, to pick ourselves up when we get rejected, dust ourselves off, remind ourselves that we can do this writing thing, and get back at the keyboard. A little inspiration can go a long way towards motivating us to keep at it, and I’m thrilled that at least one local council in Australia takes literary endeavor seriously and puts time and dollars into encouraging local writers.

Big thank you to Jann Webb at Redlands Libraries who I’ve worked with for the last five years helping tailor their writing program to meet the needs of local writers. Her vision of what can be is inspiring, and her ability to create miracles within a limited budget continues to astound me. In the time she’s been at the helm, three local writers who’ve attended Redlitzer writing workshops have become published novelists:

 

Rowena, Jann Webb, Marianne, Anne Reid and myself.

We all know it’s a long haul from ideas, to drafting a whole novel, editing it and then having the wherewithal to submit, be rejected and submit again. I can’t thank Redlands, and Jann, enough for sticking with their local writers, encouraging, teaching, inspiring and then celebrating their successes. To say there should be more of it is an understatement. Other local councils please take note! If you want your unique culture and your stories to be remembered and shared, this is how you do it. And for anyone who wants to encourage Redlands to keep on with their writing program, feel free to email the Mayor here (her email details are on this page) with some well deserved praise for Jann and her team. Cheers!