Skywriters Newsletter #3

Greetings dear Skywriters

Happy New Year – and a special welcome to members of our new partner organisation, New England Writers Centre.

Newsletter contents

Our growing network
Skywriters Anthology Update
– anthology budget
– publication timeline
– nominations for the working group
– submission criteria
New Creative Partnership with NEWC
– NEWC news and opportunities
Wiradjuri Skywriters Pilot Project
– Condo Skyfest
Inland Astro-Trail
Our next gatherings


Over the past year, the Skywriters Project‘s network has grown remarkably. It now consists of 110 registered Skywriters aged between 18 and 80, who live in or near five inland cities (Bathurst, Orange, Dubbo, Tamworth and Armidale), at least a dozen rural towns, and some 13 townlets, villages and rural localities; plus multiple project partners, including Interactive Publications P/L (IP), Red Room Poetry CompanyOutback Writers Centre, the Wiradjuri Study CentreArts OutWest and other regional arts development organisations in our region, including Orana ArtsOutback Arts and Arts NorthWest; plus the dozen inland libraries and their staff who co-hosted our Skywriters launches in March/April 2017; plus several shire councils; plus our most recent partner, New England Writers’ Centre (NEWC) and its 100 members.

All of us are united, I believe, by a common desire to nurture, support and participate in a lively, invigorating, inclusive and enduring literary culture in inland rural, regional and remote NSW.


Late last year, I applied for a Create NSW Arts and Cultural Projects grant on behalf of this entire network to fund the publication of our Skywriters Anthology in 2019, the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing.

The submission included a dozen support letters from Skywriters, project partners and in-kind sponsors, including NSW Writers Centre, the Mayor of Parkes, and ANU’s Research Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, for example, and, of course, from our publishing partner, David Reiter of Interactive Publications. Thank you for all those fantastic letters.

Now the long wait to find out whether or not our grant application was successful!

Anthology Budget

The requested funding was for a 60,000-word book with an initial print run of 500, plus conversion to three eBook formats, uploading to IP’s distributors, promotion, and, most importantly, fees for contributing authors and editors at rates recommended by the Australian Society of Authors.

The total budget came to a whopping $97,450 of which $70,000 (the maximum allowed) was requested from Create NSW. The gap will be covered by some of the Regional Arts Fund grant we received in late 2016 (which sort of covers my fees), plus some in-kind support, plus a bit of income from book sales. My thanks to Tracey Callinan at Arts OutWest and to IP’s David Reiter for all their help with this rather complicated submission.

And yes, we do have Plans B and C just in case the funding application is rejected! More on these if and when …

Publication timeline

Below is the publication timeline I developed for the grant application. How does it look to you? Can we meet all these deadlines? Let’s talk about it!

March 2018: Call for nominations for project Working Group to develop criteria for anthology submissions and to ‘blind’ select skystories for publication
April: Confirm Working Group members and criteria
May: Call for submissions
May/August: Skywriters to submit their final drafts to the working group
September: Collation of submissions for ‘blind’ selection and
selection of skystories for publication
October/Feb 2019: Editing of selected submissions. To include developmental and substantive editing, line editing, copy editing, and proofing as necessary by accredited editors
Feb/March 2019: Editing revisions and final copy sent to IP as single document for publication
March/April 2019: Formatting, design, typesetting
May/June: Printing and conversion to 3 e-book formats, uploading to distributors, media campaign
July 2019: Media campaign and launches at regional libraries

Working Group

Call for nominations: we need three or four Skywriters to work with me to co-develop and confirm the criteria for the anthology, and to then ‘blind’ select skystories for publication. Please let me know if you’d like to be part of this working group. We could discuss its role in our closed Facebook group and/or by email if you like.

Criteria for anthology submissions

At this stage, the criteria for anthology submissions are simple: skystories are to be about something to do with people’s relationship with cosmic phenomena as experienced from within our 700 Kilometre Array region, in any genre (fiction/nonfiction, prose/poetry), and up to around 3,000 words in length. Our working group, once it is established, will discuss and probably refine these criteria.

You can read a couple of pre-print skystories that fit the criteria on our website here.


Over the past twelve months, we’ve established creative partnerships with a range of other organisations, including Arts OutWest, Red Room Poetry, the Wiradjuri Study Centre, Parkes Shire Council, Interactive Publications, and, most recently, New England Writers Centre. All of these groups have made or will be making exciting contributions to our collaborative endeavours. Thank you for wanting to work with us.

New England Writers’ Centre

The NEWC partnership emerged serendipitously from a meeting with writer Sophie Masson, NEWC’s chairperson, at Regional Arts NSW’s ArtState mega-gig in Lismore last December. Sophie and I have since co-signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) confirming this relationship and its main goals: to greatly extend both organisations’ range and networks; and to offer more opportunities for members of both organisations and enable creative and professional collaborations.

This means that NEWC’s 100 members are now able to participate in all Skywriters Project activities and submit skystories for possible inclusion in our anthology; and that all registered Skywriters now have access to NEWC workshops and other events at reduced rates. I’ll endeavour to share NEWC news via Facebook and newsletters as regularly as possible.

 NEWC Writers’ Hub

NEWC member Kathy Ewers facilitates a free Writers Hub get-together at the Armidale Library on the last Saturday of every month. This year she’ll be drawing inspiration from the Iowa University’s International Writing Program‘s series, Identities and Social Issues in Fiction and Nonfiction. Skywriters will be very welcome. A great opportunity to meet other writers, learn more about our craft, and hone our skills.


The Inland Astro-Trail (IAT) proposal to link all the observatories within our 700KA region was discussed at our First Big Gig in Parkes last year — and, since then, the idea has taken flight. We now have an incorporated association, Inland Astro-Trail Inc.; a founding executive committee (see below); an Inland Astro-Trail Facebook page, a reserved URL for a dedicated website, and the beginnings of a business planWe’ve also met with Dubbo MP Troy Grant and with Tourism NSW to seek their advice.

IAT Inc’s future is now in the hands of the new organisation’s founding President, Dubbo Skywriter and journo Yvette Aubusson-Foley, Vice-Pres. Donna Burton (‘Donna The Astronomer’) from Coonabarabran, Secretary Margaret Jacovac-Paton, who’s a Skywriter and freelance journo from Blayney, and our treasurer Nathan Ryan from Molong. You’ll hear more from them soon, I expect.

The IAT concept has the potential to deliver many benefits to inland communities – and to Skywriters. There’s something in it for everyone!


Last year we also developed a pilot project with the Condobolin Wiradjuri Study Centre to support First Nations people in exploring and creatively interpreting their own skystories in ways that work for them.

This initiative was inspired by cultural astronomer Trevor Leaman’s Wiradjuri Astronomy Project and ‘Sauce’ Towney’s Wiradjuri constellation art and has now received seed funding from the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund. Other project partners include Callara Family History Group, Murie Elders Project, and Arts OutWest. Some really interesting plans for the year ahead.

Condo Skyfest2018: Celebrating our big dark sky

One of the Wiradjuri Skywriters Pilot Project’s key initiatives is a proposal for an annual community celebration of our big inland sky to be held at several locations in Condoblin in Spring. The Centre’s board voted to proceed with the concept and, since then, a delegation has met with the Rob Hunt, Lachlan Shire Council‘s General Manager, to seek Council’s support. An extremely positive meeting.

The Study Centre’s new cultural officer, Tennille Dunn, is now working with her Wiradjuri community, Lachlan Council, partner organisations and community groups to develop this concept further.  She hopes that SkyFest will unite the Condo community and produce some very positive outcomes for First Nations people, for rural and remote communities throughout the region, for Skywriters and other creatives, and for astronomers interested in community outreach.

My own role now is simply to mentor and support Tennille and to introduce her to others who can contribute to SkyFest in visionary ways.


I’m off to China very soon to do some research for my own skystory, a book tentatively called Skycountry. I’ll be back in March when Scarlet O’Barbara the Research Mobile and I will hit the road again to meet fellow Skywriters, hear about your own skywritings, offer support where I can, and gather your ideas for our next Big Gig.

I’m really looking forward to meeting up with as many of you as possible – but more about the itinerary etc soon. (Sounds like we’ll be starting with Orange Writers Group in March though.)

I hope 2018 will be a great one for you all, and for our Skywriters Project. We achieved so much in 2017, a lot of it unplanned and unexpected … so who knows what we’ll be doing this year!

Clear Skies!

Skywriters Project coordinator
Big Skies Collaboration

PS: if you need to contact me in February, best to use my personal email, merrill[at], because I might not be able to access the Gmail accounts in China with all the google politics going on there!


Newsletter sent to all registered skywriters and supporters 16 Jan. 2018 and posted on this site and our Facebook page the following day.


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