The Year Ahead from Geoff Orton

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There’s a video on our about page of The Carpenter’s singing We’ve Only Just Begun. It’s been sitting there for about nine months. While it makes me laugh each time I see it, I still feel like the sentiment is true. Writers Bloc has had its biggest year by far and I feel like it really is just the beginning.

In February of 2014 we flicked the switch on the new website. We called it a beta-test, but really it was closer to a Mama Bird pushing her chick out of the nest. And while the functionality hasn’t changed a lot since then, we’ve gotten so much positive and constructive feedback on how to improve the experience of using the site (much like a good writers’ group should work, right?).

In the last nine months, we’ve had over 4000 registrations, hundreds of reviews and a plethora of excellent stories, poems and articles uploaded to our write section. It really is a hive of activity. Check out our best of 2014 wrap-up for some of the finest writing produced last year.

One of the things I’ve been most proud of has been the inclusion of a story from our community into our Bloc Features series. And the very first story Anna chose was from an unpublished high-school student from suburban Melbourne. This highlights exactly what excites me most about Writers Bloc - giving equal opportunities for emerging writers.

We’ve had some seriously talented folk join the team this year. Anna Spargo-Ryan is heading up the thrilling Bloc Features. Patricia Tobin has been ably captaining our social media, Emma Koehn has been heading up our reviews and piloting a very exciting radio story collaboration with FBi’s All The Best. And Amy Maynard launched an entirely new platform for visual storytellers at Hell Yeah Writers Bloc. Countless times this year I’ve had people come up to me and compliment each and every one of these talented so-and-sos and their work at Writers Bloc. I often joke to our editor Sam van Zweden that I get to be a fan of what we do, and it’s 100% true. And let’s be honest, the quality of what we do is largely down to the tireless work of Sam. As a team, we’ve kicked some serious goals this year and I feel really lucky to have such legends on board.

We’re massive festival fans and this year we were invited to be part of one our favourites. Seeing Sam chairing a Writers’ Other Jobs panel with a dude that might be going to Mars, well, that’s out of this world (Sorry, not sorry). Here’s to more festival fun times in 2015.

Speaking of this year, we’re going to be starting some seriously exciting projects this year. Bloc Features is getting a redux to include stories from overseas as well as exclusive extracts from debut novels coming out this year. We’re going to be getting back into having regular events around Australia and beefing up our Bloc Club for subscribers. And we’re always keen to hear from you about events, projects or ideas you have. We are more than happy to help you get your projects off the ground, so if you have something you’d like to pitch to us, let me know.

We really do have a lot going on at Writers Bloc and I’ve decided that 2015 is the Year of Sustainability. I’m not sure how many people are aware but Writers Bloc is entirely funded from my wage as a teacher. This year we’ll be looking for ways of making all these crazy ideas support themselves, be it through subscriptions to certain things, merch, donations or ticket sales. If you’ve got any experience fundraising or working for a business in the arts, we’d love to hear any ideas you might have as well. Because while WB is a labour of love, it would be wonderful to also pay our writers more.

One of the aces up our sleeve is something called School Bloc. I’ve been teaching for 10 years now and worked on the Younger Young Writers’ program so think it makes sense to play to my strengths as an educator. We’re building a place for students to improve their literacy while writing whatever they want - but more on this later in the year.

It’s going to be another massive year at Writers Bloc, and there’s always some wild idea kicking around in the background.  I’m just really thankful that other people are as excited as we are about what we do.

Here’s to a year of happy reading and writing. I look forward to seeing what we all come up with.

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Geoff Orton's picture

Geoff Orton

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