Western NSW is a broad expanse of fertile plains littered with beautiful towns. So using the triple j One Night Stand as an excuse for a road trip, I explored some of the wonderful places for writers west of the divide.
The Blue Mountains have always held a mythical quality to me. Road trips with family under a blanket of fog were my first experience of Katoomba and surrounds. So, returning for the first time in a few years, I was delighted by the resources for writers in the area as well as finding loads of places to pick up great books.
The Turning Page is flat-out an excellent independent bookshop. It’s well-stocked, has engaged and informative staff with an area at the back of the shop for little literature fans. TTP is obviously a hub for creatives as window space was at a premium with notices for local plays and poetry nights happening in the area. They also gave me the heads up about a radio show they do with Gareth Wilding-Forbes on Radio Blue Mountains but one of the most exciting things they told me about was Publish Blue Mountains. They aim to promote the region’s talent to the world and to provide business owners with an easy, quality-assured resource for all their creative needs and should expect a call from me this week.
Further down the mall was the lovely Brown Books. Staffed by the welcoming Kristine, I shared a cup of tea over chats about writers groups in the area, the pulling power of Varuna and retro Penguin classic covers. Kristine offered me some of these lovely postcards designed by her son and mentioned their Brown Books tumblr dedicated to classic covers.
Megalong was further up the mountain in the buzzing Leura. Populated with locals and Saturday tourists, this nook was packed and I could easily see why. The electric babble between the two staff at the front of the shop highlighted an enthusiasm for books and the town. Again, a wonderfully stocked independent bookstore.
As mentioned earlier, Varuna is the major literary drawcard of the area. It’s quite simply one of the most beautiful places to write and meet other writers in Australia. If you can’t get in to one of their prestigious programs, you can always check out the the refurbed library and cultural centre in town.
Gleebooks has a branch in Blackheath and all the excellence you can expect from the chain is here. After seeing a display on The Stella Prize, I picked up a copy of Mateship with Birds in their excellent Australian fiction section. Literary journals from Australia and around the world are also a highlight as well as a section dedicated to secondhand books.
However, with all the wonderful bookshops in the area, I was unable to find a writers group in area. If you’re interested in starting your own or getting involved in one of ours, check out http://beta.thewritersbloc.net/wpblog/forums/
What Bathurst lacked in terms of indie bookshops, it made up with engaged writing community. Jeff and David organise Saturday meetings at Bathurst Library for people looking to get constructive feedback on their prose. For more information, see their details here and get in touch if you’d like to be part of their group.
Ah, Orange in Autumn. It may have been a coincidence that I happened to be in Orange at the same time as Orange Food Week. I was really looking forward to stopping by at the Hardback Cafe. It looked like the perfect place to rest up with a cup of coffee and paperback. Unfortunately, I arrived in town in that witching hour of 3pm on a Sunday and they were closed. Such a shame because it looked fantastic.
One of the most impressive institutions for writers in the west is Words Out West. Situated on Byne street in the heart of town, they offer “development and promotion services for literary activity in rural Australia in the Central West of New South Wales.” Check out their events page for things happening from Lithgow to Dubbo.
Speaking of Club Dub, the Outback Writers Centre is a wonderful resource for writers in the area. Their mission is to inpsire and mentor emerging writers, provide networking opportunities and encourage feedback and skills development via monthly Saturday meetings. For more information, get in contact with Val
All in all, a wonderful weekend in the Central West. It was good to catch up with this guy and talk Sydney Writers Festival.
Central West Highlights:
The Turning Page – http://www.theturningpagebookshop.com.au/
Brown Books – http://www.brownbooks.com.au/
Megalong Books – http://www.megalongbooks.com.au/
Publish Blue Mountains – http://publishbluemountains.com.au/
Varuna – http://www.varuna.com.au/
Blue Mountains Library – http://www.bmcc.nsw.gov.au/yourcommunity/library
Gleebooks – http://www.gleebooks.com.au
Bathurst Writers Group – https://sites.google.com/site/bathurstwritersgroup/
Hardback café – http://hardbackcafe.com.au/
Words Out West – http://www.wordsoutwest.com.au/
Outback Writers Centre – http://www.dubboartz.org.au/press/?page_id=120
Geoff Orton is a teacher and founder of Writers Bloc. He writes short fiction, poetry and the occasional recipe for his friends.