Are you an emerging Australian writer and have a non-fiction work in progress? Perhaps it is a biography of someone famous (or not so famous)? Or you have had an especially eventful life? Or there is a topic that you would love to explore for the benefit of others? How would you go about bringing your project to fruition? The ACT Writers Centre is here to help.
Since 2014, with funding from the Australia Council for the Arts, the ACT Writers Centre has been delivering HARDCOPY, a national professional development program for emerging Australian writers. HARDCOPY helps the participating writers prepare manuscripts of excellence (a three-day masterclass in May), as well as learn about how the publishing industry works, for example the role of an agent, what publishers are looking for, how books end up in bookstores, and how to use social media effectively (a series of presentations and panels across three days in September). Participants also have the opportunity to apply to hear industry-level feedback on their work from agents and publishers (two days in November). All sessions are held at the Gorman Arts Centre in Canberra.
HARDCOPY is based on the principle of pragmatic optimism: writers being aware of the challenges in a rapidly changing industry while remaining positive about the opportunities. The program also aims to help each participant have a long-term life as a writer. HARDCOPY is not a ‘fast track’ to publication but a solid—and supportive—place to start. Each year the program alternates between non-fiction and fiction; this year the focus will be non-fiction.
Thanks to the Australia Council funding, HARDCOPY is able to involve some of the most prominent agents and publishers. To date, agents have included Jenny Darling, Jacinta Di Mase, Gaby Naher, and Curtis Brown Australia. Publishers have included Allen & Unwin, Black Inc., Hachette, Penguin Random House, and Text Publishing.
One of the other benefits of HARDCOPY is being able to become a part of the HARDCOPY community. Since 2014, 86 emerging writers from around Australia have participated in the program, with most keeping in touch via the HARDCOPY Facebook page (which is set to private), and some meet regularly through writing groups in various cities.
Importantly, the program is collegiate rather than competitive.
While, as mentioned, HARDCOPY is not about immediate publication, the ACT Writers Centre has been thrilled with the publishing outcomes to date. Through the program, Jane Abbott (2014) met her agent Gaby Naher and then signed a two-novel deal with Penguin Random House, and Michelle Scott Tucker (2015) met her agent Jacinta Di Mase and then signed with Text Publishing for a biography of Elizabeth Macarthur. A range of publication outcomes are currently emerging from last year. We are equally thrilled that a number of HARDCOPY participants have become editors, bloggers, and festival producers, as well as advocates for Australian literature in general.
The program is currently open for applications and the Centre is eager to hear from First Nation writers and those from non-English-speaking backgrounds.
Applications close at 4pm on Friday 17 March 2017.
More about HARDCOPY 2017 can be found at http://www.actwriters.org.au/Programs/hardcopy/index.shtml
A personal reflection on HARDCOPY by Alex Fairhill, who participated in the program last year, can be found at http://alexfairhill.blogspot.com.au/2017/02/hardcopy-is-back.html
Nigel Featherstone is an author and coordinates HARDCOPY for the ACT Writers Centre.
The ACT Writers Centre is supported by the ACT Government. HARDCOPY is assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.