Towards the end of anything, routine actions take on great significance. This is exactly what’s happened as I’ve come to the end of my time with Writers Bloc.
This is the last piece I’ll publish on Writers Bloc.
This is the last piece I’ll edit.
This is the last time I’ll thank a writer for their hard work, and let them know who and how to invoice.
This is the last time I’ll search for a Creative Commons-licensed picture of disembodied hands writing.
It also means that there’s suddenly a narrative arc to my tenure: a beginning, middle and end. I can turn and look back at what’s been, and see it as a cohesive whole. In doing this I’m feeling grateful, and proud, and excited.
I’m grateful to Geoff Orton, Writers Bloc’s founder, for taking a chance on me. I’m grateful for his openness to ideas, and his unstoppable energy. Geoff puts so much of himself into Writers Bloc, including his kindness and generosity. So thanks, Geoff - I’m glad we got to work together. I’m also hugely grateful to the other Writers Bloc team members (past and present) for their support and dedication to making Writers Bloc the best it can be. There’s a formidable wealth of experience, creativity and drive among the people who make Writers Bloc happen.
I want to say thanks, too, to the many writers who’ve shared their words with me. Sharing your writing is always a risk, felt more keenly by some. I appreciate and have grown from every piece of writing that crossed my desk.
I’m both grateful and proud to have gathered so many fantastic contributors in one place. I’m proud to have worked with so many wonderful new voices and have published them alongside more established writers. I’m proud to have been part of a strong community whose boundaries seem to breathe - expanding and contracting all over the world. My role has been about facilitating and collaborating. It’s been about throwing around ideas and negotiating to make a piece of writing as strong as it can be. It’s been about searching out writers with unique and fresh ways of expressing what they have to say. At the same time, the vibrancy of Writers Bloc comes down to the community surrounding it. The work and the conversations, the good will and the connections – these things take on a life of their own. In the last two years, Writers Bloc has shown all the many things it can be beyond a website, and that’s been shaped by the community. It’s face-to-face book clubs, and writers’ festival events. It’s writers getting together regularly to work. I feel honoured to have been part of building that, and now to be handing the blog over to someone new.
I think I’ve most enjoyed the surprises. At times, receiving a piece of wonderful writing feels like being let in on a secret. Getting to share those pieces with the world is quite a privilege. Surprises have arrived in the form of falling in love with a book I’d never read (as in Amelia Marshall’s Bluets post), and looking at a familiar book through the prism of another person’s experience (as in Bethanie Blanchard’s ‘The Book that I Gave Him’, and Tom Doig’s ‘The Book That I Stole’). I’ve also been surprised by the extraordinary ‘other jobs’ that writers take on to keep their creativity afloat - the poignant and the hilarious. I’m always thrilled when a writer can dive into something they’re passionate about - whether it’s YA fiction, women in comedy, cover design, science or the graceful plesiosaurus.
Writers in our community are both wise and giving, and it’s been great to try and gather some of that wisdom on the Writers Bloc blog. We’ve shared advice and insight on topics like internships, feedback, publishers, tax and time management. I’m proud to have helped build a genuinely useful place for writers to connect and learn from each other.
Of course, any list I make here can’t be exhaustive, and will be missing so many wonderful pieces of writing. Just trust me - go digging in the vault for a while. It’s a treasure trove. I’m so grateful to have crossed paths with all those wonderful writers and their ideas.
The end of anything always brings along the requisite reflection on ‘lessons learned’. I have learned that it’s possible to have a geographically disparate team and still work cohesively. Google Hangouts is great. Trello is a game-changer. I’ve learned that the editorial relationship is collaborative - it’s about giving and taking, and as an editor I feel like I’ve learned just as much from editing as writers have from my feedback. I’ve learned technical things around style guides, digital strategies, budgeting and scheduling. But mostly, I’ve learned that if you provide space for it, there is a supportive and generous community just waiting to share and receive words. Take a risk; go for it.
This last point perhaps leads me to the ‘What next?’ part of this post. And to be honest, I have projects lined up (finishing a manuscript, a few essays on the go, a writing fellowship and an overseas trip in the next few months), but more than anything I feel confident that I’ll find my feet. When I started at Writers Bloc in September of 2013, with very little editorial experience and almost no idea of what I was doing, I walked into the dark and hoped for the best. And look at how that turned out.
I’m excited about what happens next. I’m excited for myself, because I feel like I’ve grown immeasurably as a writer and editor over the last two years. I’m more excited for Writers Bloc. I’m excited to see what’s next for the organisation – it’s bound to be great.
Sam van Zweden was Writers Bloc’s Online Editor from 2013 - 2015. A Melbourne-based writer and blogger, her work has appeared in The Big Issue, Voiceworks, Tincture Journal, Page seventeen, and others. She’s passionate about creative nonfiction and cross stitch. She tweets @samvanzweden.