I’ve known Samantha van Zweden for just under two years.

The first time we met was at the Wheeler Centre where we exchanged a kind of awkward, first-time-meeting-you hug and I was given a dinosaur. That’s unrelated to our story, but still pretty cool. Since then we’ve shared dumplings in various cities, rolled cigarettes in the beer gardens of Newcastle pubs and had countless Google Hangouts. Such is the nature of working together from different states. And yet she still hasn’t visited me in Sydney and taken me up on the offer of an extended stay on our blow-up mattress. Don’t worry Sam, it really is much nicer than it sounds.

But one thing really stood out during all our hanging out together. As Lawrence Leung and Ben McKenzie were entertaining the National Young Writers’ Festival’s word nerds at the Cambridge Hotel, Sam said how nice it was to not only work together but to be actual friends too. And it’s true, we are.

As many of you could relate to, every time I hang out with Sam, it’s been easy.

And as an editor, she’s worked with emerging writers with the same disarming charm. I haven’t ever had to ask anyone for feedback on Sam; people always glow. Her thoughtful advice and dedication to helping emerging writers develop their work has been outstanding. Sam’s a true professional and it will be hard to imagine Writers Bloc without her grit and enthusiasm holding it all together.

However, I’m thankful for everything we’ve been able to achieve. And there have been some real highlights.

  • Collaborations with so many wonderful orgs that have seen:
    • work translated into Mandarin
    • poetry in podcasts
    • panels and workshops at numerous writers’ festivals
    • beautiful Christmas songs
    • continually great memoir on the jobs, books and themes that have shaped us.
  • A Building Blocs series that offers practical advice for emerging writers.
  • Growing the blog from very humble beginnings to feature artists from around Australia and the world.
  • Unintentionally dominating the Emerging Writers’ Festival You Are Here panel.
  • Giving uncountable numbers of emerging writers their first shot at being published. 

I’m sure all of this gush has made Sam feel uncomfortable, after all, she’s one of the most humble people I know. But Sam, you are a true advocate for emerging writers and our community, and you’ve done an excellent job. I hope you have way more time now to write and do some puzzles.

Thank you. 

(I really wish I could find those pictures of our silly hats and beards from Google Hangouts)

Geoff Orton's picture

Geoff Orton

Geoff Orton is the founder of Writers Bloc. He's also a teacher and a Boston Celtics tragic.

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