Skywriters Project

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LATEST NEWS: Skywriters’ Merrill Findlay will be speaking about this project at the Bathurst Writers and Readers Festival at the Bathurst Memorial Entertainment Centre, on Saturday 27 May. Please join her, if you can. More >>

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 has established a ‘constellation’ of Skywriters’ hubs in local libraries to support skywriters, 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.

UPDATE: 12 April 2017

We have now registered  105 creative writers and aspiring writers ranging in age from late teens to 90 years across a huge swathe of inland NSW.  We Skywriters live in or near 3 regional cities (Bathust, Orange and Dubbo), at least a dozen country towns (Blaney, Millthorpe, Cowra, Canowindra, Forbes, Grenfell, Condobolin, Parkes, Gilgandra, Coonabarabran, Warren, and Narrabri), and at least 13 townlets, villages and rural localities, including Neville, Quandialla, Bimbi, Lue, Robin Hill, Ravenswood, Nevertire, Bugaldie, Eumunggerie, Tooraweenah, Emu Swamp, Warroo and Gooloogong.

Members of this creative community also include a few outliers who live in the ACT and Sydney, of whom one is soon returning to Indonesia and plans to skywrite with us on-line.

We also have three new inland community writers groups, which emerged from our Skywriters launches in Condobolin, Forbes and Orange, to join the many pre-existing writers groups in inland NSW, including Dubbo’s Outback Writers, the Lambing Flat Writers Group in Young, Grenfell Writers, Bathurst Poets, Point Blank Writers Group in Gilgandra, and Author-ised in Parkes.

We have achieved all this in just one month (March/April 2017) by launching 12 Skywriters Hubs in regional and rural libraries and inviting local writers to join us. We’ve done it with the support of library staff; our partner organisation Arts OutWest and other Regional Arts Organisations, including Orana Arts, ArtsNorthwest, and Outback Arts; our funding body, Regional Arts NSW; Dubbo’s Outback Writers Centre; local radio stations and newspapers; our in-kind sponsors, including ANU’s Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics (with special thanks to Dr Brad Tucker for printing our Skywriters posters and postcards for smaller libraries); a very effective collaborative social media campaign by Skywriters and our supporters on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms; plus our great guest speakers. Oh, and, of course, all the amazing sponges, slices, biscuits, tarts, fairy cakes, sandwiches and savouries provided by our Skywriter librarians and their support crews!

Thank you to all of you.

In this past month, we’ve all been part of something we can be very proud of. We’ve co-created a community that will continue to deliver us both expected and serendipitous benefits over the next two years of our Skywriters Project’s existence and beyond. Again, congratulations! To all of us!

So what’s next? Now that Scarlet O’Barbara My Research Mobile and I have recovered from this past month, I’m adding all your contact details to a spreadsheet and a mailchimp list, and will start work on your first Skywriters newsletter soon. One of our Orange Skywriters has offered to set up our closed Skywriters FB group, and will, I expect, invite registered Skywriters to join it soon.

I’m also negotiating our next big gig … which will probably be held at Parkes. I’ll tell you about it as soon as a few more details are confirmed.

So again, congratulations. We now begin the next big challenge of creating a really solid and supportive inland Skywriters network, and producing some superlative skystories for publication in 2019!

Merrill Findlay, Forbes, 12 April, 2017

Skywriters hubs are hosted by public libraries in Narrabri, Coonabarabran, Gilgandra, Dubbo, Warren, Parkes, Condobolin, Forbes, Cowra, Orange, Bathurst, and Grenfell. We also hope to extend the project to Tuggeranong and/or Mount Stromlo, in the Australian Capital Territory. (See the map below.)

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

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 gatherings 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 and other researchers in our region, and, of course, with other writers.

Skywriters listening to guest speaker, cultural astronomer Trevor Leaman, at the launch of Central West Libraries Orange Skywriters Hub on 7 April, 2017. Photo by Merrill Findlay.

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? It might 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.
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.

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 13 April 2017.