Why Hello! I’m the new Content Director ofWriters Bloc.
In the proud tradition of the Australian democratic process, I’ve
ousted our long-serving and much-loved extant Editor Sam Van Zweden in a bloodless back-room coup taken the job with some big ol’ shoes to fill. You can read Sam's funny but very touching farewell here.
The very first thing I must do in this new gig is thank Sam for building Writers Bloc into a truly special place for writers. She will be missed, but, she is onto better and brighter things - including a longlist nod for the Scribe Nonfiction Prize for Young Writers. I would encourage any and all publishers watching to snap her up before the end of the disco.
My second act will be to figure out exactly what a Content Director does. I gather it is supposed to involve a great deal of consultation, networking and editing, but I’m a tertiary-educated white man, and so my default reaction to almost anything is a poorly conceived memoirish, Grampa Simpson, ‘I tied an Onion to me belt’ style think piece, so here we go:
When I was interviewing for this gig, I was asked why I wanted the job, and I said something along the lines of ‘I can say, without hyperbole, that learning to write saved my life.’
Yes, that does smack a little of bullsh*t, but hear me out.
When I was young, I was going through a bad time and had very little hope for the future, but I had an idea, more a dream, really, that I could be a writer. With that dream came a bunch of questions that nothing in my suburban existence could answer. Where were the other writers? How could I get published? Was I any good? The answer to that last part incidentally, is no, I was terrible, but I got a little better over the years.
The only reason I got any better at all is because of community. I sent one of my (not great) stories to the only avenue for aspiring writers that I knew of, Voiceworks Magazine and, foolishly, they asked me to be part of the editorial committee.
Every week I would catch the train an hour from my family home to a creaking building in town to read submissions and help to edit the magazine and I was surprised, and thrilled, to find myself surrounded by people who were just like me, if profoundly different in most major ways.
It was bit like The Breakfast Club. We had the The Brain, The Athlete, The Basket Case, The Princess, The Criminal. Well, that’s not entirely true, we had no Athlete, we were nerds - but nerds from disparate corners of the world, walks of life, and ways of being - the only thing we had in common was that we all loved reading, and all wanted to be writers.
There, on that editorial committee, under the guise of grossly unfair unpaid intern labour, we found a community of like-minded weirdos and together we set off on the poorly paid but spiritually nourishing adventure. We would become writers.
It took time for us to figure out what sort of writers we would become; some wrote short fiction, some long. One of us became a fashion writer, one a sports journalist. Some wrote comedy and some memoir; we wrote books, we won prizes, we won acclaim, but all of us took our time getting to where we wanted to be, partially because it took us a long time to work out what that was.
Community is one of the most important tools a writer can have, right up there with basic grammar and an inflated sense of the importance of books. Be it a university class, a writers group, or my old editorial committee, making friends and connections opens us to new worlds, new ways of writing, new ways of understanding how we read.
They help us handle the slippery elision of recreation and vocation, clique and community, industry and art, and most importantly they are very often keen for a drink right when you are.
When I was offered the chance to be part of Writers Bloc, I recognised all the stuff that was vital in my development happening, but online. Here is place where writers of every background, taste and style can help each other to grow, and a safe space to develop. A community.
So, as Content Director, I’m going to do my best to steer the good ship Writers Bloc through the choppy water of a healthy creative community. I’m going to be collecting the best in opportunities, advice, and inspiration for emerging writers that I can scoop out of the Internet’s gaping content maw. I’ll also share what I’ve learnt over the years through (long, painful, often quite silly) experience and generally continue Sam's work in making this website a place for writers to call home.
My reasons for doing so are entirely selfish. I love reading, and that means we need emerging writers, young and more experienced (one of the best writers I know only started to write in her 60s) to get the best resources, and a safe space to connect, to bounce off each other, to get better.
That’s what this website is for, a safe place for writers to work on their craft with their peers, receive professional feedback and editorial help, and to move from aspiring, to practicing, to published, to professional.
I’ll be working with our community members to find raw talent to publish (for sweet, sweet $$$) on our main page, so if you're not already part of our workshops, get amongst it. Otherwise, if you are keen to write for Writers Bloc, we would love to hear your pitches. Have at it: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Liam Pieper is the former Editor of Writers Bloc. His 2014 memoir, The Feel-Good Hit of The Year, was shortlisted for the National Biography Award and a Ned Kelly award. His most recent book is The Toymaker, which was long-listed for best debut fiction by the Indie Book Awards and won the Fellowship of Australian Writers Christina Stead Fiction Award. @liampieper