Cultural Soft Spot

The 2015 HARDCOPY* program began last week, with esteemed editor Nadine Davidoff directing a series of workshops with the successful non-fiction applicants for this year’s program.

In the same week, the e-journal Softcopy was launched, showcasing an anthology of fictional work from writers who participated in 2014’s inaugural HARDCOPY program.

The Cringe spoke to the editors of Softcopy about their vision for the e-journal and how both HARDCOPY and Softcopy are opening up further avenues for emerging Australian writers to develop and promote their work.

Softcopy picLiterary magazines have provided an outlet for Australian writing since 1821 when the Australian Magazine, printed by Robert Howe, debuted in Sydney. Today, publications such as Meanjin, Overland and Southerly are the bastions of this literary tradition, but increasingly, Australians are turning to digital offerings to satisfy their cultural curiosity.

The new e-journal, Softcopy, taps into this growing trend. With around 15 million Australians accessing the internet at home on a regular basis, creating an online opportunity for emerging writers to showcase their work seemed the natural choice for the creative team behind Softcopy.

Softcopy is the brainchild of founding editor, Christine McPaul, a Canberra-based writer/editor and participant in the HARDCOPY 2014 program conducted by the ACT Writers Centre, and funded by the Australia Council for the Arts. Along with fellow HARDCOPIERS Lesley Boland (Blemish Publishing) and George Dunford (Canberra-based writer/editor) they saw an opportunity to harness and display the range of talent brought together by the program.

‘We are excited to launch Softcopy as a vehicle for emerging writers,’ said Christine. ‘The online option is an easy and cost effective way to provide readers access to new writing and to support cultural production in Australia.’

Lesley Boland agrees that the decision to make Softcopy an e-journal was a deliberate choice. ‘We wanted to be able to have our work available to the widest possible audience,’ Lesley said. ‘As emerging writers, being able to build an online profile is a prime consideration.’

Whether you are interested in Poland or parrots, bullies or blind dates, murder or mercy, coaching or cricket, torture or tumbling, diplomacy or dancing, fire or friendship, ambition or adultery, the first edition has something for you.

‘Our aim is to broaden the range of contributors for future editions,’ George said. ‘We hope that over time Softcopy will become a vibrant place where many emerging writers can present their work.’

Softcopy will be produced regularly. Keep an eye out for the next call for submissions when emerging writers will be invited to submit a previously unpublished 500-1000 piece.

Explore Softcopy

*HARDCOPY is a professional development program for emerging writers run by the ACT Writer’s Centre with support from the ACT Government and the Australia Council, the Australian Government’s arts funding and advisory body.

So you have this idea, this amazing idea

coolgrassnaturewritingvintagelovely-b141dfdd83bf6d3a1af736d1d5f680f1_hIt’s the first thing you think about when you wake in the morning. It’s the last thing you think about when you’re falling asleep at night.

You find yourself (lose yourself?) thinking about it in the lift between work meetings. Even in those most intimate moments, the ones in the bedroom with your partner, there it is, the idea, it just won’t leave you alone. Worse, it’s not an idea for a holiday or some home renovations. It’s an idea for a nonfiction book. And it’s an excellent idea, you know that, because it makes your gut ache as though you’re in love – there are times when you feel drunk because of it.

So you put a plan into action. You start writing notes. You visit the library. You even make phone calls and arrange to meet people.

Now this whole book thing is becoming more exciting than ever.

Teasingly, you write a creative essay for a literary journal, which causes a bunch of emails to come your way – there are people who love your nonfiction project so much they want to share information with you.

You begin to think that maybe you should approach some agents and publishers. But how to do that without embarrassing yourself? On the internet you find what appears to be a reputable site about how to prepare a kick-arse non-fiction book proposal, and you spend your evenings and weekends getting a package together. But still you’re not quite sure. Am I really ready for this? That’s your question.

You might be ready. You might not be. Which is okay, because there are thousands of other non-fiction writers out there just like you (except that’s a thought that gives you shivers – all that competition.)

Thankfully, courtesy of the ACT Writers Centre and the Australia Council for the Arts, there’s a program called HARDCOPY.

According to the ACT Writers Centre, HARDCOPY is a professional development program that builds the capacities, resources and aptitudes committed emerging Australian writers need to reach their potential. By creating an environment that is educative, vigorous and nurturing, the program: helps writers develop their projects towards full-length-manuscript status; significantly increases industry knowledge; facilitates relationships between writers and literary professionals; and breaks down the barriers of location and geography.

Last year’s focus was fiction; this year’s is nonfiction. Which pleases you no end.

What actually happens in HARDCOPY?

There are three main stages. The first, Towards the Best MS, involves the 30 participating writers – they can be from anywhere in Australia – attending a three-day project/manuscript development masterclass in May 2015 in Canberra with professional editor Nadine Davidoff. Writers will discover how to put together best-practice non-fiction book proposals, but also learn about how prose works, especially in terms of illuminating a project’s themes to engage readers.

HARDCOPY+tag_CMYK_workingThe selection panel for the first round is Paul Daley (journalist and author of Beersheba: A Journey Through Australia’s Forgotten War, MUP 2009, Canberra, New South 2013, and the novel Challenge, MUP 2014); Dr Jen Webb (University of Canberra, co-editor of Axon: Creative Explorations, and, with Tony Schirato, author of the Sage book series Understanding Contemporary Culture); Dr Frank Bongiorno (Australian National University, author of The Sex Life of Australians, Black Inc, 2012), and Biff Ward (author of In My Mother’s Hands, Allen & Unwin 2014, which has been long-listed for the 2015 Stellar Prize).

HARDCOPY participants then return to their home states and territories to progress their projects/manuscripts.

All writers come back to Canberra in September to attend Intro2Industry, which involves three days of presentations and seminars that cover all the ‘industry’ side of nonfiction writing: the role of agents; what publishers are looking for; future directions for the book as a concept; navigating the minefield of contracts; and the importance of using social media and other elements of the online environment to engage with readers. Intro2Industry also includes panels with prominent, published non-fiction writers, who will discuss what they wished they knew before they were published, and also other topics such as how to give presentations that engage audiences.

HARDCOPY participants then apply to the final stage, which will give ten the opportunity to meet with agents and publishers to gain industry-level feedback. Highly regarded publishing professional Mary Cunnane will select this final round of participants. The purpose of this final session, called Going Public and to be held in November, 2015, is not about achieving publication per se, but enabling writers to hear what agents and publishers think of the proposals submitted.

In short, if you’re a non-fiction writer with an idea that just won’t go away, it’s an opportunity like no other.

 

Applications close Friday 13 March 2015.

For more information, visit the ACT Writers Centre at http://actwritersblog.com/2015/02/18/2015-hardcopy-development-program-applications-open/. HARDCOPY is an initiative of the ACT Writers Centre and is funded by the Australia Council for the Arts.

 

Nigel Featherstone

 

Nigel Featherstone’s latest work is the novella The Beach Volcano (Blemish Books, 2014). He is a longstanding freelance writer for Fairfax Media and other publications, and, on a contract basis, is currently assisting the ACT Writers Centre with the delivery of HARDCOPY. For more information about Nigel, visit www.opentopublic.com.au