Skywriters Project

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Our Big Skies Collaboration’s Skywriters Project invites writers and aspiring writers to author stories, in any genre, about their own or other people’s (or other beings’?) relationships with celestial phenomena in our Southern Sky, as experienced from within the fuzzy borders of southeastern Australia’s 700 Kilometre Array (700KA) of astronomical observatories. (See the map below).

To nurture and support these literary efforts, Big Skies Collaborator Merrill Findlay is working with local libraries to establish a ‘constellation’ of Skywriters’ hubs, where she will regularly meet with local skywriters to offer support and encouragement, as they develop their own skystories to publication quality. Finished works of up to 3,000 words – fiction, nonfiction, prose or poetry – will be published on the Big Skies Collaboration website, and may also be included in a Skywriters’ anthology to be published in 2019, the 50th anniversary of humanity’s first steps on Earth’s moon.

Astronomer Stuart Ryder, Head of International Telescopes Support, Australian Astronomical Observatory, and John Sarkissian, Operations Scientist at CSIRO’s Parkes Observatory, with our poster in front of The Dish before the March 2017 meeting of the Central West Astronomical Society. A few days after this quick snap was taken it became CSIRO’s ATNF Daily Astronomy Picture!  The poster was designed by Jo Dicksen from Arts OutWest. ANU’s Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics assisted with the printing of it. Our thanks to all our supporters.  Photo by Merrill Findlay, Friday 3 March 2017.

Skywriters hubs will be hosted by libraries at Narrabri, Coonabarabran, Gilgandra, Dubbo, Warren, Parkes, Condobolin, Forbes, Cowra, Orange, Bathurst, and Grenfell in inland NSW, and later at Tuggeranong and/or Mount Stromlo, in the Australian Capital Territory. (See the map below.) Please register your interest in becoming a Skywriter with the librarians in participating libraries, or email Merrill here.

To find your nearest Skywriters hub, click on the purple dots on the map below.

The Skywriters Project will be launched with special events in each of the participating libraries in March/April 2017. (Dates below.) Skywriters will have an opportunity to discuss their ideas for their writing projects with Merrill at these events, and to describe the kind of support they would need to enable them to achieve their writing goals.

Watch out for posters promoting the launches in shop windows in Skywriter towns, and/or check your local newspapers, your library’s notice board, web site or Facebook page, and/or your local radio for more news. Or visit this site or our Facebook page again soon.

Detail of our Launch poster by Jo Dicksen, our partner organisation Arts OutWest’s graphic designer. The poster is being printed by one of our in-kind sponsors, ANU’s Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, at Mt Stromlo, Canberra, for distribution to Skywriters libraries in rural NSW. Thank you ANU.

Bathurst – Saturday, 11 March, 11 am
Condobolin –  Wednesday, 15 March, 12 am-2 pm
Grenfell – Monday, 20 March, 12 am-2 pm
Parkes – Wednesday, 22 March, 12 am
Dubbo – Thursday, 23 March, 5.30 pm
Coonabarabran – Friday, 24 March, 12.30 pm
Gilgandra – Saturday, 25 March, 1 pm
Narrabri –  Monday, 27 March, 5.30 pm
Warren – Tuesday, 21 March, 12.30 pm
Forbes – Thursday, 6 April, 1 pm
Orange – Friday, 7 April, 12.30 pm
Cowra – Saturday, 8 April, 11 am

A global launch of the Skywriters Project will be held later in 2017, possibly at CSIRO’s Parkes Observatory in the middle of our 700KA, or at ANU’s Siding Spring Observatory near Coonabarabran. All registered Skywriters, the general public and rural and regional media will be invited to this special event.

Locals at the launch of the Skywriters Hub at the Condobolin Public Library, 15 March, 2017. The Condo writers established their own writers group at this gathering, one of the many unexpected outcomes of our Skywriters Project. Photo by Merrill Findlay.

As a registered Skywriter you will be able to attend regular workshops in your own or nearby communities; have access to the Skywriters Facebook group and other social media to connect with fellow Skywriters; email or sms Merrill for support and advice about your writing projects; and enjoy many opportunities to engage face-to-face with Skywriters, and with astronomers, researchers in other fields in our region, and with other writers.

By becoming a Skywriter you will not only be developing your own creative talents and research skills, you’ll also be co-creating an inspiring and inclusive literary community in inland NSW and the ACT … and who knows where this might lead? Could it even catalyse a literature-led renaissance in rural communities? An explosion of new ideas? Imagine …

Guest speakers at the Bathurst Skywriters Launch, novelist Tracy Sorensen, ‘space nerd’ Ray Pickard from Bathurst Observatory Research Facility, and amateur astornomer Niall MacNeill (centre three), at the Bathurst Library, with local skywriters and facilitator Merrill Findlay (left), Bathurst Library, 11 March, 2017. Photo by Jo Dicksen, Arts OutWest.

Outcomes of our Skywriters Project are expected to include:

  • a dispersed community of rural writers within our 700 Kilometre Array region
  • seminars, excursions and other opportunities for Skywriters to learn more about their craft, develop new skills, network, socialise and be astonished and inspired
  • dozens of new stories by rural people set in southeastern Australia’s rural inland and/or in the sky above
  • publication of Skywriters’ stories on this web site
  • a Skywriters anthology  published as an e-book and (possibly) in print form
  • links with other Big Skies Collaboration projects, and opportunities for Skywriters to contribute to them
  • ongoing support from local libraries, the NSW Writers Centre, and the ACT Writers Centre
  • interactive digital installations by composer Peter Kennard featuring Skywriters reading from their own works
  • and many new friendships and serendipitous happenings –  along with a great sense of achievement
  • an enduring support network for rural writers

Detail of a giant poster in the hall to the Grenfell Library. Photo by Merrill Findlay, 2 February 2017.

The stars quotation is from the first stanza of Henry Lawson‘s 1888 ballad, ‘A May Night On The Mountains’, as shown on a mural in the corridor of Weddin Shire Council’s Community Hub, in Grenfell, New South Wales. Lawson was born in Grenfell in 1867. Read his entire poem  here >>

Skywriters Project gratefully acknowledges the raflogo-combined-with-text1-e1439955311967financial support from the Regional Arts Fund, through project partner Arts OutWest, and in-kind support from ANU’s Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Mount Stromlo; libraries and local government authorities within the 700KA region, as listed above; Bathurst’s historic Lachlan Inn; and from other individuals, groups and institutions who are contributing to this project. Our combined efforts will work marvels!

Poster designed by Arts OutWest’s Jo Dicksen, featuring the ESA/Hubble Telescope’s 2004 image of the Pleiades star cluster, also known as The Seven Sisters, NGC 1432/35 and M45. ESA/Hubble images, videos and web texts are released under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.

Page created 3 February 2016. Last revised 19 March 2017, when the photos were added.