Q&A

Taking Five with Sarah St Vincent Welch

 

Taking Five

Sarah St Vincent Welch is running a workshop Writing on the Body Saturday 15 November, 12–5pm at CMAG. Bookings essential through ACTWC on 6262 9191 or online here.

1. Tell us a little bit about your writing background and interests.

I have written seriously for a long time now. But before that I also wrote just for fun and I still do. When my best friend went to another school we wrote letters to each other and our friends delivered the letters hand to hand, school bus to school bus, as we were heading in our different directions. We illustrated the letters as well. My friend’s mum found them, read them, and said they were the funniest things she had ever read. We are still friends and I think she is the wittiest person I have ever met; I get laughter hangovers after I have seen her. I suspect I was (and still am) her straight man.

Writing is about communication and emotion, laughter and longing and contemplation, through it we learn the art of persuasion, and reading teaches us (in my opinion) aspects of compassion. We read to experience things we might not otherwise experience, it also prepares us for possible future experiences, and it helps us escape. Letters, poems, essays, emails, stories, novels, scripts, films, games; there are so many ways to write.

I just love writing and reading. They opened a magic world for me as a child that I have happily never completely left. A house full of ancestor’s odd and beautiful books was a portal to other worlds in those long, hot and what might have been lonely, Sydney summers. I was on a magic carpet, for sure. A merry-go-round. A space rocket. A dragon. I was lost with Robinson Crusoe and Friday, and The Swiss Family Robinson, and enveloped in the myths and fables and fairytales of the world. I see writing and reading and literature as a great big conversation, and I have always wanted to be a part of it.

I had wonderful English teachers. These great young women in minis, with long hippy hair and beehives and white lipstick, infused me with a love of literature, of story, poetry and theatre. I studied as much English literature as I could at uni, and regularly put myself to bed for weekends with nineteenth century tomes. (It was the only way for me to finish them in time to write the essay!)

I became involved in The Poets Union in Sydney, helped run poetry readings at Newtown Town Hall, joined No Regrets Women Writers Workshop, and then moved to Canberra to study Media at Canberra College of Advanced Education. I mainly write fiction, but also some poetry, and prose poetry, and non-fiction. I worked in film preservation at the National Film and Sound archive for a decade, mainly with the old silver nitrate films. All the while I was writing away in the background, and I began to teach creative writing in the community, and later at university. I wanted to share something more personal in this blog post than a CV. Anyone aspiring to write as well as they can is on a long and rewarding journey that is more than their publications. You can taste more of what I have done in my blog sarahstvincentwelch.com or at the ACT Writers Showcase.

2. If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring writer, what would it be?

Read, and read in many ways, (including viewing, and listening).

3. What is that you love about teaching?

I love hearing other people’s stories and sharing in their imaginative lives. I am amazed at how generous people are with their stories and imaginations. We are storytelling creatures. I love witnessing and being part of a writer’s progress, helping them find the best way to tell the stories inside them, to improve their craft and skills, and to find the stories that are growing within them.

4. You’re holding an upcoming workshop shortly (November 15) ‘Writing on the Body’ at CMAG, is there something in particular about this subject that appeals to you?

I have noticed over my years of teaching and facilitating that sometimes we lose a sense of our character’s bodies or even our own bodies, or bodies in general, when writing. I think it is because we feel so inside our minds, when imagining these fictional worlds made of words. (I also like to challenge these sorts of oppositions, like the mind/body split. It is eternally fascinating and perplexing.) Getting a sense of the body back into the writing often lifts it to a new level. It helps to make the reader feel and imagine. It is a way of connecting; ‘the body’ is something we all have in common, whatever else seems to divide us.

Pulse: reflections on the body at Canberra Museum and Gallery, is an astonishing exhibition, and so inspiring, and makes us think about our bodies and how we understand ‘the body’ now. I am interested in the writing practice called ekphrasis, which is about describing a work of art, invoking it. But I want the workshop to be more than ekphrasis as well, I want it to be a creative space in which we can write together and explore what the exhibition brings up for each writer. It has also occurred to me that writing is a bit like being a curator bringing together an exhibition, or a collector developing a collection; it has elements that are very similar in terms of selection, arrangement, and developing a narrative, deciding what will stay in and also stay out. This is something I want to explore with a group. There are interesting parallels.

5. What can participants expect to take away from the workshop?

I hope workshop participants will come away with good drafts of new writing and with inspiration to write more. I hope they will meet other writers who could be future writing friends and colleagues. They will learn some new writing techniques. My workshops are also quite playful, so I aim for them to have a very good time. I will also provide extra resources for their future writing and a moodle (online) site. devoted to the workshop. I intend to run more guided writing workshops related to exhibitions and collections in Canberra, so this could be the first of a series. I am so looking forward to this first one.

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Sarah St Vincent Welch Sarah St Vincent Welch is a creative writing facilitator with over fifteen years of experience. She received a citation from the Australian Learning and Teaching Council for ‘devising playful writing spaces that surprise, stimulate and support creative writing students to write and keep writing.’ Her short fiction has been published and anthologised, and has won the Marjorie-Graber McInnes Short Story Award twice. She won the inaugural Marian Eldridge Award, and The Jessie Litchfield Award. Sarah is interested in leading a continuing guided writing workshop that responds to exhibitions and collections.

2 thoughts on “Taking Five with Sarah St Vincent Welch

  1. Fascinating, Sarah.

    I sometimes think that really bad descriptions of sex in novels come from the fact that the characters have had no bodily existence before they find themselves in bed. Ew.

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